S5E17: Well, they’ve done it. Here we have an episode of 30 Rock that actually makes me want to groan. Let me couple that with the fact that I’ve removed the Live Show disaster from my memory, so I’m not counting it in this assessment. Granted, it was not a horrible episode of the show. The jokes were on-point, the gags were set up well and nothing was really out of place; the real problem I had with this episode was the gimmick that overtook the whole episode. “It’s a 30 Rock reality show!” Oh yay. Considering the annoying format they decided to throw the show into, they handled it fairly well, but it just wasn’t that enjoyable. This show is best when it’s doing its own style and using that to comment on whatever Tina Fey and the writers have beef with this week. Taking on the Real Housewives-style format really has less strength as a parody than those last 60 seconds of “Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning” back in January.
“My single, 'My Single is Dropping' is dropping." –Angie
The entire episode played out like an episode of Angie’s Bravo reality show, Queen of Jordan, complete with the opening sequence, shots of big, fancy houses, cuts of Angie and friends in ridiculous poses on colorful backgrounds, and of course, nonsensical catch phrases. First off, Angie is blowing up now that Tracy is out of the picture for a bit and we’re just as anxious to get him back to TGS as Liz “Another Person” Lemon is. Jack enlists Lemon to help Angie get set up to perform her new 15-second single, “My Single is Dropping” (which is probably better than “Tardy to the Party” or “Money Can’t Buy You Class” simply because it’s shorter and we never have to hear it), because he’s hoping Liz can convince Angie that she misses Tracy and get him back to the show.
This portion of the episode was a little tired, mostly because we already had this dynamic play out when Angie became Liz’s intern and the idea for this awful show was born. I did enjoy the fake email Liz drafted for Angie (“all the sex things you like”), but for the most part, it really just served as a vehicle and excuse for more Lemony digs at NBC and Bravo – “Legal says we can’t use the word ‘best’” to describe the TGS “Best of” show. We eventually find that Angie does want Tracy back but that he won’t listen – but not before we see Liz dress her up in an Amy Grant outfit. She would.
And as much as Angie’s little minions needed to be a part of the show, they were annoying without adding much humor. They were really just cartoon versions of all the people I can’t stand on every reality show and frankly I don’t want to see any versions of those people on a show I actually like, ever.
“I only pass gas once a year atop a mountain in Switzerland.” -Jack
The one great thing about this reality show format was how quickly it unraveled Jack’s reputation and how upset he got about it. He’s the one person who should be above all of this, but by the end of the episode he’s made a complete fool out of himself – falling on camera, making Grizz and Dotcom think he’s in the closet, and of course the fart noise on the chair. It’s always hilarious to see Jack get swept up in situations he should by all rights be immune to and of course, it’s a dig at the reality format because it make anyone look like a douchebag.
“Drunk Actress Brainstorm.” –Jenna
Jenna’s character is one that’s perfect for this episode’s gimmick. Not only does she use the cam-er-ahs as an opportunity to promote her new Goop-ish website, Jennas-Side.net (kudos on that one, writers), but she’s constantly carrying around a glass of wine in hopes of throwing it at someone (at least without them dodging it like Liz did). This whole plot was the perfect home for Jenna’s crazy and for once, she didn’t bother me; it was actually hilarious.
When she coerces Pete into throwing her an intervention, it was getting a little annoying but Pete, wonderful Pete, comes up with the perfect ending: sending her to a rehab in Minnesota. Genius. Of course she doesn’t go because she knocks her escort out with a wrench, but it was about time they put all that Jenna crazy to really good use instead of giving her a two-bit unfunny side story.
“Skeletor's not my favorite. You are.” –Frank
I miss seeing Frank on this show, I really do; and while this storyline made me uncomfortable, I was definitely giggling under my furrowed brow. Guest star Susan Sarandon plays the Mary Kay Letourneau to Frank’s Vili Fualaau. If that was lost on you, basically he had an affair with his 8th grade teacher, who went to prison and came out as Susan Sarandon with Frank-style glasses. This was really the perfect back story for Frank; it explains why he’s a man-child, we get to see his comic book and action figure collection, and it all ends in pure Frank Rossitano-brand awkwardness when he fries his Skeletor action figure at the fast food joint where his former teacher/ex-con/lover now works in order to prove his love to her. This is the 30 Rock we love, that awkward, taboo show that makes us laugh at things we shouldn’t – like when Pete says it’s creepy when male teachers hit on girls but what happened to Frank was “AWESOME.” It's hilarious, but those of us who laughed may be going to hell for it.
All in all, like I said up top, this episode wasn’t terrible. It still relied on the writing that makes the show great. The problem is that the package they delivered the story in was just too obnoxious to full enjoy the quality of the jokes themselves. While I liked the titles they gave each character at the bottom of the screen ("Tracy's Gay Boss"), I really would have preferred if the actual reality show element stayed in the hilarious tag (keep an eye out for Dotcom’s little tiff was a dog – golden) and was left out of the rest of the episode.