’30 Rock’ Recap: Diversity

S5: E3 Nerds. Liz Lemon can’t get no…isn’t able to…okay people are mean to her. The writers or “douche-Bs” have been putting false name plaques on her door; things like F. Kruger (Freddy to his friends), Lez Lemon, Fart Barfunkel, and Paul Simon. Jack tells her to deal with it, he’s off to Washington to help convince Congress to allow vertical integration – or evil corporations owning all of the pieces of a process, like manufacturing junk food and then providing diarrhea medicine for it…but wait does that mean the junk food makes you sick on purpose? (Gasp.) Perhaps, Miss Lemon, perhaps. It was a pretty lackluster cold open, but my staunch regard for Tina Fey will let it slide.

Kenneth is back! (But not really. Sorry for the psych-out, I couldn’t resist.) Jenna catches him caressing the NBC Universal sign and he tells her that he can’t get rehired because the NBC Page program has become too competitive. Cut to a young guy stationed at an electric keyboard singing a wannabe NBC-centric version of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” naming all their worst shows and throwing in a line touting “Outsourced is the new Friends.” (Way to take a jab at show that shares your Thursday night prime time block on your own channel. Bravo, writers – that show is awful.) Kenneth worries that the program has lost its dignity, but Jenna’s already got stars (well, okay, bigger stars) in her eyes and she vows to coach Kenneth in the ways of pageantry so he can get his job back.

Jack has reached Washington and is at the hearing with a committee led by Rob Reiner, who’s ditched “Hollyweird” to be a congressman. (Really Rob? Hollyweird? How old are you?) Jack pulls a move that he seems to have ripped right from Glenn Beck himself, connecting vertical integration (V.I.) to a simple American farmer who takes care of all the steps in the farming process. He appeals to the committee with a hyperbolic image of cutting off the American farmer’s head – yup, Beck’s all over that. Of course, the committee and its head , the self-professed “acclaimed director of When Harry Met Sally,” are spooked and allow V.I. to continue until Rep. Regina Bookman (Queen Latifah) tells Jack that she won’t allow it because NBC is racist. TV’s really going for all the big issues this week, apparently.

Kenneth’s working his darnedest to try and prove his showmanship to Jenna – he even wrote a song: “Ohhhhh, everyone born before Jesus is in Hell…” Yeah, that’ll get him hired. Jenna is determined to break him down and build him back up to be a great performer (but not before making another reference to the fact that she had sex with Mickey Rourke – seriously, how does he get women to sleep with him?!).

Back in congress, Bookman accuses NBC of being as “diverse as a Wilco concert.” That’s a reference you can’t really argue with. Jack tries to use Sunday Night Football (there are black football players!) and Anthony Anderson being on Law and Order as a defense – but Jonathan informs him that they cancelled Law and Order. “Why would they do that?!” Bookman isn’t buying it and tells him if NBC doesn’t make an effort to increase diversity, V.I. will not happen. Well this is going to be good.

Jack brings in DotCom and Tracy to ask them to use Tracy’s production company “Dotcom Productions” (“It’s Tracy spelled backwards!”) to create programming that is more diverse. Lemon fields Jack’s complaints about Bookman using the hearings as a soapbox, saying she “grandstanded” him before he could give his “Diversity means hope” speech. Plus, he was trying to remember the name of the black kid on Community to prove NBC is diverse. Liz helps him out, “Dannal Glover.” (In case you didn’t know his name is actually Donald and he used to write for 30 Rock. It’s a shout-out!) Liz needs to make TGS more diverse or figure out how to make it look that way. Despite Lutz’s claim to be an Inuit, Jack and Liz decide to promote Toofer to co-head writer because he’s black and he’ll be able to replace Liz when she “dies at her desk.” Hey, they don’t call her Lemon because of her sunny disposition folks.

Tracy and DotCom are hard at work creating new content to help NBC be more diverse. Tracy says he likes cop shows and that he’s excited for Law and Order to come back. (“Canceled? BUT WHY?”) To be honest, I don’t understand why it was canceled either, guys. Finally, DotCom shares his pilot idea: a show about a family in Detroit in the 70s with a Motown soundtrack. Grizz and Tracy want something more…a talking dog! And we’re back to square one.

Kenneth finally goes to his interview looking like a love child of Brigitte Neilsen and a Radio City Rockette and performs his song and dance while Jenna watches from the office door like a nervous stage mom. When Kenneth gets rejected despite that “stellar” performance Jenna reaches a boiling point. With an unstoppable stream of wordvomit, Jenna bursts into a speech calling Kenneth a brat before calling him “Jenna” and slipping into an Appalachian accent (and we find out that Jenna was born in a parking lot – yikes). Yup, she’s become her mother. To make up for it, Jenna promises to get Kenneth’s job back.

Liz gets back to the writers’ room where Toofer has given himself a “Head Writer” plaque on his door, while Liz’s says “El Tejon” or “badger” in Spanish. Nerds. Liz complains to Pete and he spills the beans about Toofer’s TV interview, and before even asking about it, Liz declares that she’s going to the interview too. This is not going to be good. The TV show, called Right On, is about celebrating prominent African Americans in the community and they want to honor Toofer for being a head writer at a TV show. Liz attempts to participate adding in that, “TV is more of a boys club, than a white club.” Blerg. S that D, Liz Lemon, shut it down. When they say they are honoring Toofer for all his hard work (for one whole day as head writer), she can’t take it anymore and gets thrown off-set. Oh, Lemon.

After meeting with a few Wall Street fat cats and taking Rob Reiner on a Sex and the City Tour, Bookman makes her way to NBC. Jack tells his assistant to feign an Indian accent to make the office seem diverse (another dig at Outsourced, perhaps?) and Bookman arrives at Studio 6. Of course as soon as she gets there, everything goes wrong. Lutz yells at Tracy for eating “our food” and though he means the writers’ food, Tracy runs after him screaming, “WHITE DEVIL!” Uh…that can’t be good. Jack takes Bookman in the opposite direction just as the janitor removes the paper recycling bin outside of the bathrooms, leaving just the signs delineating “colored” and “white” (paper), but because they’re next to the bathrooms it looks like segregation. But it doesn’t stop there. The HR guy approaches Jack and says he made him hire Kenneth instead of filling the diversity quota with a Native American. Crap. Just then, Jack sees Toofer (who he calls ‘James’ in front of the congresswoman) and opts to give him an impromptu award to remedy all those racial mishaps. Bookman isn’t buying it and asks Toofer how long he’s been head writer; “One day.” She calls out for the real head writer, and finally gives Liz the recognition she deserves, saying she’s the only person at NBC she can respect. As a reward, Bookman gives her an “I Met A Congresswoman” sticker which Liz happily sticks to her sweater like a proud 7 year old (I think the only thing that would have made her happier was if it came with some Cheesy Blasters). Bookman grandstands again, America was built on “Freedom, Troops, America, and Flour! I don’t know where I’m going with this, but together we’ll get there!” Okay, Queen Latifah, you’re not all that bad, that was pretty funny.

Jack pulls Bookman aside and berates her for railroading him. He makes a case for diversity working its way up through the generations – first generation works their fingers to the bone, the third generation goes to improv classes. (Oh, you mean like all of the 30 Rock writers? Teehee.) Bookman gives Jack three months to implement a better diversity program. Whew. (So more shows like Outsourced, right? Making fun of someone’s culture is diversity, right?)

Before they leave us, we get to see the pilot for Tracy’s new Detroit-family-with-talking-dog show. I guess Rob Reiner had some fun voicing the rascally canine (yes, we all knew it was you, old man), but it was a pretty lackluster closing for a show that has so much potential for general awesomeness.