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30 Rock Fodder

30 Rock: "Cutbacks"


Note to Self: Watch the Pelican Brief.

One of the best parts of 30 Rock is also one of the most frustrating. Much like The Simpsons and, to a lesser extent, Seinfeld, 30 Rock derives a lot of its humor from making subtle references to other bits of pop culture, and sometimes that culture isn't even current. Two weeks ago, the episode "The Bubble" briefly used the theme song from A Summer Place (cryptically entitled, "Theme from A Summer Place"). The 1959 film, like the episode it was referenced in, dealt with two lovers from different social classes. My point is, this is a show that, in order to really get all of the jokes, you have to be pretty knowledgeable of all things filmic, literary, musical, and newsworthy of the past 50 or so years. Or, if you're like me, you have to have a good internet connection and patience to at least skim a Wikipedia article or two. This week's episode featured several references to The Pelican Brief, the 1993 film based on the novel by screenwriter--er, I mean author--John Grisham. Guess what just got bumped to the top of my Blockbuster queue? (Sorry HSM.) Hmm, or maybe I should just get Showtime...

But the episode wasn't all espionage and intrigue. NBC was making massive cutbacks and it was up to Liz to determine where she could trim the fat from TGS. Meanwhile, Jack had his own cuts to make. First to go: Jonathan. (Is that permanent? I really hope not. But if it is, at least he went out with a song.) Jack also had to let go veteran actor Todd Davis (General Hospital). Here, he was playing the head of GM's Boombox division. Sadly, they were apparently behind the times.

Liz couldn't be as detached about it all as Jack could, and she was trying to do everything she could do avoid actually firing anybody. When a corporate consultant named Hollster, played by the creepy/funny Roger Bart (Desperate Housewives), comes in to make his own recommendations, Liz even puts on a Steve-Jobs-style multimedia presentation in order to win his sympathies. When that doesn't work, she bitterly takes it to the next level and makes out with the consultant in order to save her employees. Spoiler alert: That doesn't work, either. Liz comes to work the next day to find Hollster has started clearing the place out. Everything from equipment to craft services to TGS's long-time announcer Sid (actually long-time NBC announcer Don Pardo) is getting sent out the door. Judging from his blank red hat, even Frank's hat messages have apparently suffered the cutbacks. When Liz confronts the sinister Hollster about it ("You got your quid, Hollster. Now where's my quo?"), Bart gives us a Tony-award worthy performance full of tears and anger. Turns out he didn't think it was all business between them.

Once again, Liz tried to do the right thing and ends up being hated for it. But, as is the way in TV land, things work out anyway. There is a great moment at the end, in Jack's office, where she finds out that Hollster has been transferred to another assignment, and further cutbacks will be overseen by Jack himself. I've said before that some of the best scenes in the show take place between Jack and Liz, and this is doubly true for endings. Sure, they may not be the punchiest gags, but the semi-sweet, slightly-sentimental endings between those two for some reason always leave me with the best feeling. Do I want to see them end up together? Kind of, yes. Do I think they should? Absolutely not. Frankly I don't think the show would survive after that. So instead I just enjoy the subtle, comfortable understanding they have with each other. It's like a calm little island of sanity in a sea full of crazy.

Things You May Have Missed (The Kenneth Parcell Edition):
Speaking of crazy, the main subplot this week revolved around Tracy and Jenna (Stupidity's power couple) thinking that Kenneth is a mass murderer. (Spoiler alert: he...oh, I don't want to give it away.) While Kenneth's role wasn't exactly huge in this episode, some of the show's funniest moments involved him. Here's what you might have missed:

  • Kenneth scolds Tracy and Jenna for killing his pet bird, which he's had "almost 60 years."

  • Kenneth naming his new, replacement birds: Pat (Boone or Sajak? Neither would surprise me, really.); Donna (Reed, I presume?); Balthazar (one of the Three Wise Men, or the 17th Century Dutch philosopher Balthasar Bekker? Again, neither would surprise me.); and finally Lorne and Michael. (As in, Executive Producer Lorne Michaels, creator of Saturday Night Live and first name in the closing credits every week.)

  • Items in Kenneth's apartment: Tons of old time radios, microphones, and other broadcast antiques; A framed poster of the Golden Girls; and a Dwight Schrute bobble head. No, I'm not kidding. It's there.

Posted by Bobby Bierley on April 11, 2009 4:56 PM
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