After such a rough year with so little Lemon in it, I’m sure we were all happy to find that this week we were given two brand new episodes of 30 Rock. When I say that I was happy, I am really understating it. I screamed with excitement like a little girl when I realized we were going to get to see a full hour. Sadly, I felt a bit disappointed, but we will address that soon.
The first episode, “Idiots Are People Three,” was a continuation of last week’s show. We left off with Tracy fighting with Liz because she called him an idiot after his homophobic slurs (sounds like real life Tracy, right?); Liz is trying to hide her boyfriend from Jack; and Kenneth and Jenna have enlisted Kelsey Grammer to help them hide Pete’s body after a mercury-related accident. It was a busy episode.
We collectively jump with joy to see Devon Banks (Will Arnett) represented on a news channel as a gay rights activist who is expressing displeasure at Tracy’s comments. Of course, he’s got an evil motive: Blackmail. Banks wants Jack to help get his triplets into an elite preschool or else he’s going to release video of Tracy’s other stand-up, which is, apparently, more offensive than what got him into trouble in the first place. Of course, Jack makes it happen more quickly than anyone should, but that is because he is white and rich and … you know … fictional.
At the same time, Jack has officially disapproved of Lemon’s new boyfriend Criss (James Marsden) and this has created a rift between the two lovers. Liz is acting more like herself in this episode, as she realizes that Jack’s opinion will always be in her head. And Jack explains to Criss that Lemon is his “subordofriend” and that means his opinion carries weight. This is a bit grim, since it implies that Liz will never really be happy with anyone Jack doesn’t love.
While trying to distract everyone from the movement of Pete’s unconscious body, Grammer performs a one-man show about Abraham Lincoln (Totally free! And mandatory!) to the TGS staff so they won’t be wandering around the stage. Though he got stuck using a chimney sweep hat rather than a Lincoln hat, he blows everyone’s mind and even has time to set up an auto-erotic asphyxiation scene in Pete’s office during his intermission.
Tracy and his dear friend Denise Richards come back to Liz with an apology letter they’ve written for her to read to the idiots of the world. She has offended them and this is the only way to stop the strike. They wrote it on an Etch-A-Sketch and that was clever and small and awesome. While reading the apology letter, Liz realizes how great Criss is and goes to his hot dog van (creepy!) to apologize. Jack sees the two of them together and, after realizing that no matter where you come from, you can be an idiot or a success, he decides to give Criss a three month trial approval period.
Of course, we see The Best Friends Gang (Kenneth, Jenna and Grammer) toasting to their success, which we find out, was totally unnecessary. I must admit this was a let down. Toward the end of last season, and now during this one, I feel like there are more throwaway comments, plot lines and characters that get abandoned. If you take the audience with you somewhere, shouldn’t there be a better pay off? Don’t you owe us that? Perhaps with the uncertainty of the season’s end, the writers feel checked out; but there’s no doubt that a lot of us are noticing.
The second of Thursday’s two 30 Rock episodes was titled “The Ballad of Kenneth Parcell” which, in my opinion, had far too little Kenneth in it considering his name is featured in the title. The opening was, however, one of my favorite openings in recent years. We see Jenna starring in a new hit film starring every-actor-in-Hollywood (a la Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve) called Martin Luther King Day. It becomes immediately apparent that Jenna’s recent growth in fame has changed the dynamics in her relationship with Liz (Gasp!).
Liz wants someone who will listen to her complain while Jenna wants someone who will tell her how wonderful she is all the time. After 15 years of friendship, the two get into a huge fight and search for replacements: Liz, after running into a weird (outdated?) group of women set up to look like the cast of Sex & The City, she heads to the bookstore bathroom to find a new BFF who has interests like hers. Jenna finds a castaway Kardashian, the kid from “Charlie Bit My Finger” and famous wrestler Mankind. Famous friends get her!
Jack tries to do some replacing of his own, by getting rid of the NBC Page Program and utilizing a new machine called NK (Not Kenneth) — check out the last video — that gives tours and does page duties. He’s worked for Hank Hooper for a year now, since the Kabletown merger, and he wants to make some big changes. He promises Kenneth a new gig, but it’s obvious early on that this won’t work out.
Since this is a theme of the show, Tracy decides that he has no reason to live because he has everything he could ever want and there’s nothing to replace. What I couldn’t help but notice was that these are all themes we’ve covered on the show plenty of times, stemming from the first season: Jack needing someone to dump on, Jenna and Liz failing to appreciate one another, Tracy being crazy and overly dramatic in his search of bliss. And like I said before, where the hell was all the Kenneth? Sure we saw him in a sweater, but I want to see what his day is like or what he does at home when he’s not doing page-related things? Don’t put the man’s name in the title if he’s not the focus.
Also – there was absolutely no mention of Criss. Not one. Anywhere. And after the first episode of the night was a continuation of last week’s, this seemed odd. Why end the last episode with Jack giving Criss a temporary approval without seeing what that looks like right away? Though it was a solid show, it was a confusing presentation (Which has nothing to do with the writers, but with the NBC Fancy People who decide when things air) and I’m not really sure how I feel.
If past episodes with these themes are any indication, everyone will be back to their old ways next week and that makes me sad. If the show itself is uncertain, couldn’t we at least move these people forward a bit? Sigh. Maybe not. Fine. Can we just have Liz eating cheese next week? That would make me feel safe.