30 Rock – “Succession”


April 24th, 2008

I’ll be getting to Office and Grey’s Anatomy in the morning (Depending on how the last one strikes my fancy, same goes with Ugly Betty for that matter), but on this ridiculously busy night of television I certainly think that 30 Rock wasn’t on its game all the way through. I admittedly was a bit distracted by the thrilling conclusion to the Montreal Canadiens game, but something about “Succession” didn’t, quite, succeed.

The return of Will Arnett is certainly a strong development, and he was delightful as usual, but the storylines never quite clicked in this one: Tracy had nothing to do, Liz was totally out of character (And slightly too far for it to remain funny throughout), and the succession storyline was too predictable by half. And yet, then someone saved the day in a billowing cape.

It was Dr. Spaceman in a brilliant scene (And apparently a sendoff of Amadeus, I hear?)

If last week was Dennis’ time to shine, this week saw Chris Parnell’s Dr. Leo Spaceman rise to the occasion with the best lines of the episode bar none. It wasn’t a horrible episode from a comic perspective, but Spaceman got all of the great laughs: whether it was his superhero entrance, his cape, his hilarious lack of medical knowledge (Including believing that a diabetic coma was a psychological condition, that the human heart is in a different location in every person, and thinking it was 411 instead of 911 and asking for “New York…Diabetic repair, I guess). It was a hilarious bit that felt like it was incredibly funnier than the rest of the episode.

And I think this is largely because the plot never got moving: Jack’s succession has been in the works for a while, but he can’t actually succeed: there was no way that Liz’s character could change so drastically, and until Baldwin decides to end his contract there really isn’t any chance of the show abandoning their boss/employee relationship. So, the promotion is a non-starter: the inevitable result of Jack not getting the position was just that, and although the show can operate without suspense it just didn’t feel right when paying off a storyline that has been ongoing for quite some time.

Those episodes had something about them where you really felt Jack wanted it, but right after he broke down crying (A great scene from Baldwin) things fell flat as things got crazy. Liz went insane with power, Tracy went insane with a “Uhh, so, we need a storyline for Tracy” plot right off the big board of random ideas, and Jack was actually happy: he wasn’t struggling for approval, basking in glory, but awkwardly sitting in a position of power and content to do just that until he could start rubbing it in people’s faces. Unfortunately, that means we get a fairly straight Jack Donaghy (In character, not in terms of sexual preference); this would have been fine, I think, if Liz hadn’t been so over the top.

We’ve seen this character trait from her before (In her breakdown over Floyd a while back, in “Up All Night” I think, so perhaps we’re supposed to buy this as a callback since she was up all night at the beginning of the episode. However, I just don’t like it: it’s not nearly as funny as her witty and sarcastic humour, and it just doesn’t provide me any joy to see her in this fashion. I’d compare it to the divisiveness over Michael Scott on The Office, where he is either sweet or really, really naive and cringeworthy: however, I never find him shrill, and I found Liz intolerable this week.

As mentioned, B-Story saw Tracy making a porn video game. Was it funny? Not particularly. Entertaining? Nope. Was it really worth time that could have been spent fleshing out and dialing down the pacing on the succession story so that the concluding chaos was even more pronounced? Absolutely. Geiss’ death was fairly easily choreographed, and Liz being responsible is a typically klutzy move like we saw in “Source Awards” last season. The episode needed more time spent on these characters to understand their shifts, and Tracy’s stupid porno game wasn’t worth it (Except for the scene describing the Uncanny Valley to Tracy, which was fantastic).

But then Dr. Spaceman arrived, and everything was okay again.

Cultural Observations

  • Honestly, I wouldn’t have said it a year ago, but Jenna is more important to this show than we realize – I really miss her in these moments as the person who always makes Liz seem more sane, and I really do hope they integrate her further into storylines in the future.
  • The conclusion, with Banks (Will Arnett) angling for his fiance to take over the company, leaves the door open for his swift return, where hopefully Liz can fake make out with him in elevators some more (Up to that point, Liz and I were on the same page character wise. Then she fell off the wagon).
  • Go Montreal! I had to miss a few seconds of 30 Rock to do so, but great comeback for le Canadiens.


Filed under 30 Rock

3 responses to “30 Rock – “Succession”

  1. Spencer

    Out of curiosity, have you seen Amadeus? If not I can completely understand how one wouldn’t find this episode brilliant, but the Tracy-Frank story was one of the far more clever parodies of Amadeus that I’ve ever seen. In particular the frequent use of Mozart’s Requiem throughout the episode was great.

  2. Alas, Spencer, I have not – it was one of those scenarios wherein every review was like “Amadeus Amadeus, Amadeus” and I suddenly realized that my achilles heels of both a lack of cinema knowledge and my late blooming when it comes to entertainment have foiled my plans again.

    I shall be rewatching the episode once I watch the movie – I promise.

  3. Spencer

    Oh good.

    As a side note, watch the entire Hitchcock catalogue then rewatch the Simpsons. Or maybe just the AFI 100.

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