S6E1: I was really hard on 30 Rock last season, but I take it all back. Maybe it’s just that whole distance makes the heart grow fonder concept, but I’m overjoyed that TGS and crew are back. I’ve accepted that it’s not the same show we fell in love with in Season One or even Season Three, but it seems that with this sweet Season Six premiere, 30 Rock may have found its maturing series niche. Just maybe.
“She’s like a little human tumbler of scotch.” –Jack
Yes, I’m sure I used the right word when I called this episode sweet. It gets there, I promise. But first, it starts with evil comments so terrible they actually made me uncomfortable – and not the good Tracy’s-waving-a-lightsaber-on-the-Manhattan-Bridge-naked sort of uncomfortable. Jenna is the Simon to D-fwan and John McEnroe’s Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul on NBC’s latest singing competition, America’s Kidz Got Singing. For once, Jenna is actually famous (enough to show up first when she Googles her own name), but it comes at a cost: Jenna is so mean that the most well-known derogatory terms for awful women are not sufficient to describe her. Her gig is making 6-year-olds cry. Jack is fine with this because it’s raking in money, but then his new fatherly affliction sets in. He witnesses Jenna berating a little girl named Liddy and he decides to change the show so Jenna is nice.
Well, that won’t work, because Americans need a mean guy. So Jenna gets to be mean, but Jack is still debating pulling the plug to protect the children – especially the adorable little girl bawling her eyes out in a fluffy pink dress. I love that Jack “calls a meeting” with Liddy to discuss the series - and hearing him say that he knows she needs to read her books with “Sleepy Bear” was such a perfectly adorably, hilarious moment. It’s just so Jack. Of course, it’s also so Jack that Liddy says her first word, “mommy,” but he’s Jack so he thinks she says “money” and he decides to keep the show. I really enjoy that they decided to go full force into the Jack as a father storyline instead of inserting some storyline about Jack sending her to an island only rich babies can find so he can date a character played by Scarlet Johansson.
“Reverend Gary says Super Gay horses are the sure sign of the apocalypse.” –Kenneth
The show missed quite a few curent while it was on hiatus, so to make up for lost time, we find Kenneth awaiting the rapture. It’s pretty clear the writers had these jokes pent up for ages because they come flying out of Kenneth’s mouth. Frank, Lutz, and Two-fer decide to egg Kenneth on which of course only increases the number of one-liners. Pete, however, is concerned about Kenneth when he notices that he’s spending what he thinks is his last day on Earth doing his “dream chores” like scraping banana stickers off the ceiling. He tries to encourage Kenneth to do something like get on a plane for the first time or watch the sunrise or see the ocean – because Kenneth is not an actual human being. Kenneth continues checking off his list – including “cheer Miss Lemon up,” aww - until the time of the rapture comes and goes and nothing happens. Just then, Pete finds Kenneth and Lutz descends dressed as the devil while Frank and Two-fer hang out in the dumpster dressed as Santa and Jesus – which is a pretty hilarious image. From there, Pete takes Kenneth out to see his first sunrise over the ocean at Coney Island. And while the sun does its thing, we see the five of them standing on the beach like the Nathan’s Hot Dogs Presents the Coney Island production of Ocean’s 11 gang, making for a ridiculous, laugh-worthy, and touching little moment.
“Did we switch brains? Why am I not feeling your boobs?” –Tracy
Meanwhile, Liz is acting like a new person. She’s happy, she’s exuberant, she doesn’t care about work, she’s dancing down the sidewalk and showing Jack her bra? How? That’s the question on everyone’s mind. I love that her explanation at first was that she read a quote from a tampon box with that typical “dance like no one’s watching” bit. But when she tells Tracy she’s not going to babysit him anymore, he suspects that something else is going on. When he rules out the possibility that they switched brains, he starts following her and going through her trash and it seems for a moment that she’s buying pills from a drug dealer near Penn Station – those cartoon birds certainly didn’t egg that assumption on. His rational Tracy reaction: Liz Lemon is a crack whore.
Jack, proving that he knows Lemon better than she knows herself, figures out what she’s really up to. The medication she’s taking is for joint pain, she had a jazz dance scholarship and she was spotted near Penn Station: she’s a middle aged cheerleader for New York’s WNBA team. It’s a ridiculous scene (made more bearable by Tracy saying "Oh God, someone's grapevining!"), but then again, so is Liz being this happy. Jack seems pleased to have figured her out, even down to the movie he drops her off to watch at the closest Loews. But in the final seconds, we see he gets one thing wrong: she isn't seeing it alone. Old LL gives a young, James Marsden-shaped man a very passionate kiss before they walk into the theater together.
Now, why did I like this schmaltzy little ending? Because now that the series has lost some of its punch and incredible pace, the things that really bring it home are the one-liners and the relationships between characters like Kenneth and Pete, and especially Liz and Jack. These relationships are what allow for more comedy to build, but we’ve also come to know and love these fictional people. Seeing the beach scene with Kenneth or Jack’s adoring facial expressions when looking at Liddy or Liz’s uncannily happy grin when she meets her new boyfriend have to make you smile at least a little – or at least in anticipation of all the ridiculous things that are going to inevitably (and hilariously) screw up all these relationships.
Did you like the season premiere? Or are you done with 30 Rock? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter! @KelseaStahler