TV in Review: 30 Rock in January
February 7, 2012 7 Comments
The ratings for 30 Rock (NBC) are down, with many news reports blaming the dominance of American Idol (Fox) and Big Bang Theory (CBS). I had forgotten that 30 Rock was back on the air, delayed until midseason due to Tina Fey’s pregnancy. I just watched the four episodes that aired during January and I have to ask, are the ratings down because of the quality?
Episode 1 (aired January 12)
And here my resistance began. It was nice to have the 30 Rock characters return because I’m fond of them, but the show felt lazy. Rather than being a flight of fancy, the meta-comedy of having Liz Lemon refuse to parent Tracy Jordan felt like a sign of show-tiredness. It’s like when The Simpsons started making jokes about how we all know that Homer is fat. Yes, we’re all familiar with their comic flaws — now could you do something with those flaws?
Admittedly, it was humorous seeing a kid contestant sing “Turkey in the Straw.” (First made popular by blackface minstrels, by the way.) It was on this fake reality show, America’s Kids Got Singing, that Jenna Moroney delivered a line designed to puncture the saccharine.
Jason, have you every put out a cigar on Gilbert Gottfried’s neck? Because I have, and his screams were the worst thing I ever heard…until tonight. Congratulations, you’re a disgrace.
Speaking of sweets, Alec Baldwin has lost some weight, apparently due to lifestyle changes after being diagnosed with diabetes last May.
Episode 2 (aired January 19)
It’s the job of comedy to trouble taboos. 30 Rock decided to address cast member Tracy Morgan’s horrific homophobic remarks by having a two-part episode in which his character Tracy Jordan stirs up matters with his own bigoted comments. The reaction to Jordan’s behavior is no better than the original:
Liz: Why did you have to offend the gay community? It’s the most organized of all the communities? They make the Japanese look like Greeks.
Tracy: How is what I said offensive and that’s not?
Liz: Because no one heard me say it!
I don’t expect the eloquence with which Tina Fey began her real life response…
I’m glad to hear that Tracy apologized for his comments. Stand-up comics may have the right to “work out” their material in its ugliest and rawest form in front of an audience, but the violent imagery of Tracy’s rant was disturbing to me at a time when homophobic hate crimes continue to be a life-threatening issue for the GLBT Community.
…but it felt lazy rather than ingenious to equate homophobia with calling people idiots.
Although Denise Richards was fairly adept at playing the role of herself-as-an-idiot.
That’s right, I’m an idiot. Surprised? Well I am, for all intensive purposes.
Seriously, I thought Richards’ delivery was strong.
Episode 3 (aired January 26)
My attention level really starts to drop, although Kelsey Grammer putting on a one-man Abraham Lincoln show is amusing — speaking of comic chops, Grammer has always had those to spare.
Episode 4 (aired January 26)
There were three highlights.
Highlight #1, after Jack Donaghy is caught making a mistake:
Frank: Guys, Jack makes dumb mistakes! He’s just like us!
Lutz: He’s no better than I am! He’s just got a suit!
Highlight #2, when Jenna and Liz reconcile after a spat:
Jenna: I need someone who has so little going on in her life she lets me get all the attention.
Liz: And I need someone in my life who doesn’t listen to a word I say.
Jenna: Thank you, I just got it cut!
Highlight #3, when Jack and Kenneth reconcile after a spat:
Jack: I was wrong. I do need you!
Kenneth: You had me at “I was wrong, I do need.”
Perhaps I’m just jaded — feel free to point out what I’m missing — but I think that’s enough sixth season 30 Rock for me. It no longer surprises me, and that unexpected whimsy used to be its strength.