S5E20: 30 Rock finally made it to its 100th episode. The diehard fans always knew they could do it and we’re happy to see that day finally come, it’s just too bad they decided to give themselves an hour and very unlucky that it aired after Community riffed on clip shows during its 8 p.m. timeslot. Maybe it was just that I’d more than had my fill of nostalgia by the time we hit the half hour mark on 30 Rock’s super-sized episode, but it simply felt way too long. By the end of the episode, I was pretty sure my house was the place with the never-ending gas leak.
This isn’t to say that there weren’t hilarious moments, because the episode was full of them. As a whole, it was just a little haphazard. It seems that they weren’t quite sure if they wanted to do a clip show or just a whole new episode so they just did both. Frankly, it was all just a little too much.
“I’m getting too old for this ssshhhh….sound that comes from this gas pipe!” –Michael Keaton as a Janitor
Just as 30 Rock has reached its 100th episode, so has TGS. Unfortunately, Hank Hooper’s got some bad news for Liz: the show is canceled without Tracy. Of course they vow to get Tracy back for the 100th episode so they can save the show from cancellation, but there are two small problems: Tracy isn’t back because people respect him too much and there’s a giant gas leak in the building that manages to recur throughout the entire episode.
“It's called power clashing.” -Alternate Jack
First, we’ll deal with Jack. With all this news from Hank, he’s starting to worry about his own career and how it’s not what he hoped it would be. Add a gas leak and we get past, alternate and future Jack all duking it out to help him make a decision. Alternate reality Jack is a lonely, mega billionaire, past Jack is a young republican with an attitude and a walkman, and future Jack looks like he’s trying to steal Jeff Bridges’ look from Tron: Legacy. While I’m pretty sure they broke every rule of time travel and versions of past selves, it’s okay because it was all just Jack’s imagination anyway.
This bit was pretty funny, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t need to go on as long as it did. They resurrected Jack’s original dilemma from the pilot: should he keep or fire Lemon? And he of course comes to the same conclusion as before: she’s sticking around.
“Eff you L.L. spells ‘full’ because you’re full of BS, Liz Lemon.” –Tracy
Tracy is TGS’ patron saint, but until he can ruin his reputation as an A-list Oscar-winner, he feels that he can’t return to the show. This means he goes on a tour of all the morning talk shows to try to make an ass of himself (which was one of the best parts of the show) and of course everyone thinks it’s just him being a genius. Is this a dig at James Franco? It kind of seems that way.
He even goes to Brooklyn to recreate his “I AM A JEDI” moment from the first episode (woo!) except that he’s foiled by hipsters who find some ridiculous meaning in it right before he has to save a drowning man and become a hero. No matter what he does, he can’t regain his disrespect and as Liz is desperately trying to get him back, Jenna tells him he has to shoot someone. Great. Of course, with all the gas swirling around, he and Kenneth decide this is a good idea and go up to the roof. Jack and Liz stop them just in time and Jack gives a speech about the perfect way to lose respect: be an acclaimed actor and join a show on network television. This was pretty funny because, hello, that’s what Alec Baldwin did.
“It’s not rape if neither party really wants it!” –Jenna
While all that’s going on, Jenna is working on her backup plan in case TGS gets canceled: she’s going to be a mother. This comes from a promise she made to Kenneth that she didn’t remember about the two of them having a baby if the show ever made it to 100 episodes. Kenneth remembers and starts this whole mess, which leads Jenna to ask everyone she can think of if she’d be a good mother. They of course all say no, so she tries to seduce Kenneth, which was gross and not as funny as it should have been.
Of course because Jane Krakowski was actually pregnant when they filmed the episode, Jenna ends up having a “hysterical pregnancy” in the midst of the gas, which explains her sudden baby bump. There were funny moments here and there, but this plot was all just a little too convenient without much of a payoff.
“I miss you, dummy.” –Liz high on fumes
With all this gassy mess, Liz calls up Dennis because she misses her life from five years ago. Yeah a potential cancellation and a gas leak will do that to you. Of course Dennis comes running, and this time he has a CELL PHONE. Except it looks like it came from 1989, but hey, give him a break. At least it’s not a beeper. Eventually, Dennis figures out that the only reason Liz misses him is because she’s high so he ruptures the gasline once again. (He’s unaffected because of some childhood incident that left him immune, which was pretty funny.)
It comes down to the wire when he gets Liz to sign a lease with his name on it because it will be much harder to get rid of him that way. Dennis is hilarious, but he’s one-episode-hilarious, not back on the show hilarious. This is where Jack’s dilemma comes back in, he rushes downstairs because his future self also knows what’s happening in real life and tells him to save Liz. It’s weird, but we’ll forgive it. He stops her from signing the lease, they find Tracy, and the show begins.
There’s just one small problem: during the gas leak, the writers didn’t actually accomplish anything. Finally, the gas leak joke paid off when Liz broke the line once again and it didn’t matter whether the show was good or not, because Hooper was high and he loved it.
Lastly, we got that Tom Hanks cameo we were promised. We’ve heard about the secret actor’s league before in other comedy routines, but this worked. Plus it was great seeing him rail against network television while humming the theme to Bosom Buddies. Yeah, we remember that.
It wasn’t the best episode, but we’ll give 30 Rock a pass. Expecting this to be perfect is like expecting to have a 21st birthday party without waking up and realizing you drunk dialed all your ex-boyfriends. It’s weird, a little uncomfortable at times, but it was fun and it’s great to laugh at now.