“Klaus and Greta” and “Black Light Attack!”
January 14th, 2010
When you double up two episodes of 30 Rock, you get a really skewed perception of the series. In some ways, the two hours offers that many more memorable lines, so if you are judging purely based on the sheer volume of laughs chances are that two is, in fact, going to be better than one. However, at the same time, there are two separate episodes which could go wrong at a story level, and the show is not as consistent as it has been at its finest over its four seasons. (You also get the show’s lowest ratings in a very long time, since the show was running without a lead-in from The Office).
The actual content of “Klaus and Greta” and “Black Light Attack” offered a particularly intriguing double dose of comedy, as the character of Liz Lemon went through what seemed like a sudden sexual transformation while normally overtly sexual Tracy Jordan went through a personal transformation in light of his newly conceived daughter. Both episodes were actually quite consistently funny, and the double dose managed to actually feel more strange for Liz than it did for the usually one-dimensional Jenna, creating a sort of fun bizarro world as opposed to a problematic hour of comedy.
“Klaus and Greta” was a lot of fun because all of its storylines but one resisted going to the most sensational of places. There was every chance that Jack and Kenneth’s burglary was going to lead to some sort of broad altercation, but instead the bungling led only to Jack’s self-realization of what he was doing there and what it all meant. Similarly, Jenna’s fake relationship with James Franco allowed the show to make some fun gags and for Franco to be entirely up for self-deprecation, but it ended with Jenna realizing the pain of a fake relationship as opposed to Jenna ruining it in some broad gesture. The only story that gets taken to such a place is Liz’s interactions with her cousin Randy, who she drunkenly outed to his extended family, and this weekend in New York, which ends with Liz and James Franco having a three-way with his body-pillow lover, Kamiko.
If you had guessed that ahead of time, the story which would end in the most shocking fashion would be the one involving Liz Lemon, hats off to you. I don’t mean to suggest that Liz isn’t allowed to have three-ways, but the show so rarely depicts Liz as that type of character, and even if it is simply a hyper-sensationalized demonstration of the perils of New York night life which forces Randy back to his rural upbringing it felt particularly sudden. For the show to then do an episode like “Black Light Attack!” where Liz turns out to be having a casual fling with new cast member Danny only adds to the sense that the usually quite conservative Liz, who only really engages with sex in the context of awkward relationships, is somewhat out of character here. I’m not saying that this is incongruous with her character, as we know what happened at Kenneth’s Halloween party, but I am saying that the two episodes airing together creates a very different image of Liz Lemon than I would have anticipated.
Overall, though, I thought there was some nice stuff in both episodes for Jenna (confronting her desire for a real relationship and coming to terms with her age as it fits within the Gossip Girl universe) and Tracy (testing out to see what it might be like having a daughter as opposed to a son) that went beyond what the show usually gives them. In fact, it was almost bizarre to see Liz largely the focus of ridicule and sexual promiscuity while Jenna and Tracy confront real life issues, so props to Tina Fey for allowing that to happen. There were still plenty of simple funny lines from the two characters, but the episodes (especially for Tracy) felt like the characters experiencing some level of actual growth – it will surely be undone in the episodes ahead, but it was nice to see the characters maturing at least somewhat, and they didn’t stop being funny in order for it to happen.
I don’t really have that much more to say: Alec Baldwin’s descriptions of CHiPS was great, the black light gag went over all, and Tina Fey’s acting during the “Jack tries to explain why he’s in love with Liz” scene totally sold the gag. A fun hour of television, which considering the likely result of mashing two less successful 30 Rock episodes together is quite an accomplishment.
- As did pretty much everyone else in the audience, agreed with Toofer on the subject of Quidditch: why does the quaffle even exist if it’s never going to matter?
- I’m curious if that was actually the Gossip Girl set – it looked like it from the angle we saw (it appeared to be the Waldorf apartment), but it might have just been a shrewd reconstruction of the set. They’re both filmed in New York, so it’s entirely possible that the other series was in on the joke.
- “You’re being such a non-pillow right now!” will some day be part of my everyday banter. You watch.