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30 Rock Fodder

30 Rock: "Mama Mia"

Alan-Alda.jpgWho wouldn't want Alan Alda for a dad? I mean, c'mon. The guy just smiles and you want to give him a hug. I am both proud and ashamed to say that I have managed to never see a single episode of M*A*S*H, but I used to watch Scientific American, like, all the time. And I may have never watched The West Wing, sure, but I did see Mr. Alda take a political role in the classic John Candy film, Canadian Bacon. And...wait, what? A quick perusal through Alda's credits on IMDB and it looks like I haven't actually seen him act in almost anything. Fifty-four movie and TV credits and I have seen maybe three of them. So how is it that I have grown to love him so? He just makes me feel all warm and comfortable inside, like just having him in the world means everything is going to be alright.

Gasp. Does this mean...that Alan Alda is my real dad?

Oh, wait, I know why. Seventy-four credits on IMDB for appearing as himself. The man has been in more things as himself than as someone else. That explains why I find him so genuine and personable. Well, better cancel that bouquet of flowers and father's day card I sent him. Eh, on second thought I'll just cancel the card. I still somehow feel compelled to give him the flowers. He may not be my real dad, but that isn't a deal breaker, ladies.

Did you see that? That was a segue.

You see, "That's a deal breaker, ladies" is the new catchphrase that Liz came up with for Jenna, who has then taken those words and made them a new national sensation. Jenna, of course, is getting all the credit for the phrase and Liz is feeling a bit underappreciated.

It's not often that we get a sense of what Liz actually does for TGS. Oh, sure, we see her running around, meddling in other people's personal problems and creating some of her own. We've even seen her sleep with an executive consultant in order to save the jobs of everyone on the show. But in this episode, finding out that she wrote some words that Jenna spoke, we got a small glimpse at Liz Lemon, professional writer. It's a nice reminder, as the job of a writer is apparently something that Jenna, Jack, and the rest of the general public have forgotten. One of the best lines in the episode was when Pete told Liz that Time Out magazine was doing a photo shoot with Jenna, as they were going to name her the Funniest Woman in New York. Liz retorted, "Oh, what time do they need me there to make her seem funny?" Zing!

But while Liz is trying to remind everyone that she was the real creator of Jenna's hit phrase, Jack was attempting to find out who his own real creator was. His personal private eye (Steve Buscemi once again cramming a lot of funny into a too-brief cameo appearance) brings him three names; three men who could possibly be Jack's dear old dad. When he shows the list to Liz (Why does everyone come to her with their problems? Don't they watch this show? She's not exactly good at solving problems.) she gets giddy with excitement. "It's a Mama Mia," she squeaks. Jack, too good for pop culture, doesn't have any idea what she's talking about. The rest of us do, though, because, coincidentally, "Mama Mia" the movie is about to come out on DVD. The play got rave reviews, but I remember the movie being received as decidedly less-than-stellar. But, gosh darn it, when Lemon's excited about something it's contagious!

So Liz sets up a meeting between Jack and the three potential papas: a fake contest that they all won. Two of the men are obviously out of the running. One is Korean, the other lost his ability to reproduce in World War II. "Looks like a bowl of Spaghetti-O's down there."

However the third man, played by Alan Alda, is a good candidate. After some surreptitious interrogating by Jack, and a fight over the merits of former House Majority leader Tom Delay, Jack discovers that Alda is, in fact, his real father. Lucky! (Sorry, dad.) And it turns out to be a lucky break for Alda, too. "You have no idea," he says, during a tearful, joyful embrace with his new-found son. "I need a kidney!" Next week's episode, entitled "Kidney Now!", no doubt promises to continue this plot line.

I suppose, since Liz was the one who set up the "mama mia" reunion with Jack's dad, it can be said that she actually solved this problem. One problem she couldn't solve in this episode was Tracy's getting duped by a man who claimed to be his illegitimate son. Apparently three years ago a man came to him, claimed to be his offspring, and Tracy has been supporting him financially ever since. When the "boy" comes to visit at the office, Liz and Pete decide he looks way too old to be Tracy's kid, and they set out to prove that he's taking Tracy for a ride.

There's a lesson to learn here, though. When they finally confront Tracy with the truth, he tells them that he already knew it. He says that it doesn't matter to him. Sure, the kid isn't his real son, but that doesn't mean he didn't need the money. In the three years that he's been supporting the little grifter, he's seen the man go from a fast-talking con artist from the wrong side of the tracks to a selfless, good-hearted small-business owner. You know, it's amazing how Zen Tracy can be sometimes. I once heard a Buddhist teacher say that when someone takes something of yours, be it money, your car, a taxi you were waiting for, instead of being angry about what you lost, be happy for whoever took it. Perhaps they needed the thing more than you did. Sure, it can be a tough pill to swallow, but if Tracy can do it so can the rest of us.

So does that mean Liz should just be happy about Jenna's sudden fame? Should Jack gladly give over his kidney to his new dad? (And how much good could an Irish kidney be, anyway?) I doubt that either of them will follow Tracy's advice, but I suppose a show without conflict is a show without humor. (Or drama, or suspense, or really any point at all.) But as for the rest of us, I think we could all take a page from the Tracy Jordan rulebook. In fact, I think I'm going to forgive 30 Rock for giving me such a terrible episode last week. Maybe someone got something out of it that I didn't, and that makes me happy I guess. Not as happy as Alan Alda makes me, but since he's going to be in next week's episode, too, my happiness looks like it will only improve from here.

In fact, I think I'll amend that flower order. I wonder if they'd deliver a kidney, too?

Funny things you might have missed:


  • Liz telling Jack to just be "Italian" for once: "I'm-a Jack. I-ah don't know-a who my father is. I'm-a so emotional, I'm-a gonna smash deez barrels!" Ten points to the first person to tell me what that's a reference to.

  • Jack enters Tracy's dressing room to talk about his problem: "Come on in, Jack. I'm just practicing sitting."

  • Jenna, about Brett Michael's loving her "deal breaker" catchphrase: "We have the same publicist, and she says he would love to come here and dress in the same outfit and do it with me. And also he wants to be on the show."

Next week: In "Kidney Now!", Jack will try to bond with his real father, and Liz starts getting requests for relationship advice. (Argh, when will people learn!?) Meanwhile, Kenneth will help Tracy get over some past embarrassments. (Tracy is embarrassed about something? I'll believe it when I see it.


Posted by Bobby Bierley on May 10, 2009 9:56 PM
Permalink |






Donkey Kong (that's a barrel breaker, ladies!)...the show has gotten more and more clever. Can't believe you didn't like the beginning of the last episode with the jokes about people shutting up faster than...

-- Posted by: Joey at May 12, 2009 3:09 PM

My bad...that was two(!) episodes ago (but still funny). I agree that last week's was not as funny; so much so that I apparently forgot about it...

-- Posted by: Joey at May 12, 2009 3:15 PM

Wow! I could not even guess about it)) Not bad.

-- Posted by: Rachel at January 30, 2013 8:36 PM

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