“Don Geiss, America and Hope”
March 18th, 2010
I don’t think that “Don Geiss, America and Hope” was a particularly strong 30 Rock episode, but I do think that it was a particularly interesting one. You see, the show displayed three different storytelling methods that it does quite often, each shows both the strengths and weaknesses of the show’s current story model. You have your industry parody (the Comcast buyout of NBC becoming the Kabletown buyout of NBC), you have your celebrity parody (Tracy becoming embroiled in a sex scandal ala Tiger Woods), and then you have the deromanticizing of romantic comedy tropes (Liz’s non-relationship with Wesley Snipes).
In all cases, the show is running into a distinct problem: all of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again, and the show is starting to become weighed down by this fact. There’s plenty of nice one-liners, and I thought all three of the stories worked sort of well at the end of the day, but these are the same types of stories we’ve seen in the past, and when none of them feel particularly revolutionary and they all appear in the same episode, the show becomes messy more than chaotic, which does little to help the show’s consistency problems.
I think that, if we were to line up tonight’s stories with past stories, they’d probably come in around the average. I thought “Tracy as anti-Tiger Woods,” where his sex scandal was that he was actually not an adulterer, rendering many of his endorsements (including his Ben and Jerry’s Falvour, Adulteraisin) a lie, was actually really clever, and there were enough great Tracy lines in the episode (like finding Episcopal crazier than Cryogenic freezing ceremonies, or being addicted to Prescription glasses) to sell it. Similarly, compared to last week, I thought the “Future Husband/Future Wife” story came together, with Michael Seen able to delve further into Wesley’s terrifyingly boring existence and Tina Fey having some fun with Liz’s disgust at the idea of Settling Soulmates. And I always enjoy stories where Jack defends his way of doing business, so the idea of him shifting some paradigms over at Kabletown was a step in the right direction.
However, on an execution level, things sort of got lazy after that. The opening Town Hall Meeting never really went anywhere (“Dan Goose” got a laugh, albeit a cheap one), Jack’s story never got beyond humorous porn movie puns (although “Fresh Ass: Based on the novel ‘Tush’ by Assphire” was a stroke of genius), and Liz’s story never seemed like it raised any questions about where she is as a character once it sort of veered into a bizarre conclusion to Tracy’s story (in that he wanted to sleep with her, a scene that just didn’t work) and in terms of providing Jack with the inspiration for his new “Porn for Women” where handsome people listen patiently while women talk. While there are individual jokes that show signs of cleverness, and the tropes the show works with are still compatible with the characters, at the core of each story was a sense of laziness, a lack of drive and initiative that made the show so endearing early on.
The show used to be scrappy, but it’s become extremely complacent, and I don’t quite know how to fix that. I don’t think the show has actually changed all that much, but its flaws seem far more apparent than they were before. I laugh when Wesley Snipes was confused about the Hot Tub-related science in the Hot Tub Time Machine, and I laugh when he calls a bike a foot cycle, but it seems like everything but stories involving Jack and employment opportunities or love interests are just entirely disposable right now. And while Community is telling disposable stories to some degree, it’s using them to demonstrate a sense of camaraderie amongst its cast, and 30 Rock has never been strong on that front once things shifted pretty heavily to Liz/Jack (which remains the show’s best dynamic).
I laughed enough to make me think that this remains an above average 30 Rock for the season, but that our standards have dropped so low is sort of concerning.
- The show is still going to be dominant at the Emmys this year, so I’m guessing the voters will chuckle at the ribbing given to Los Angeles during the opening – only 30 Rock could get away with bashing LA and even turn it into a point of endearment with voters.
- Only Alec Baldwin could make dying in a violent casino orgy sound dignified.
- Thought the show got a little bit too Frank Grimes-y with Wesley’s character at points: drawing attention to the Cathy comparisons and the food obsession seemed a bit on the nose with what we’ve seen of the character in the past.
- Not much Kenneth this week, but another indication that he’s unrealistically old for his age, which has been confirmed through his appearance in various pieces of stock footage this season. Not sure how I feel about a joke that broad being confirmed (as Kenneth worries about Kabletown age verifications), but we’ll see if it ever plays out.