January 15th, 2009
I know that it’s January, which means that we’re smack dab in the middle of two sweeps periods and thus in what would be a creative holding period for most returning shows, but it’s unfortunate for 30 Rock that as it delivers a mostly listless affair there’s all sorts of exciting shows premiering or about to premiere. There’s a lot of excitement swirling around the world of television right now, and this episode just doesn’t capture any part of that.
This isn’t to say that it’s bad, or to say that 30 Rock’s fate is dependent on this one outing: in fact, NBC announced today that the show is getting an unsurprising but still very welcome fourth season renewal. This show was on life support as early as this past October, so to see it thriving in the ratings and the award season enough for NBC to give it that vote of confidence is great to see.
Unfortunately, the show itself isn’t really living up to that reputation in “Flu Shot.”
There are some really neat things about “Flu Shot;” the return of Dr. Spaceman (Chris Parnell) is as entertaining as ever, Liz’s nightmare world of ill crewmembers as zombies was well-conceived and very entertaining, and I thought that the episode did well to again return Liz to her state of selfish and ill-liked behaviour. All of these sections had a certain rhythm to them, a flow of sorts which kept them from feeling too inconsequential. The episode is clearly not aiming for much in terms of recurring storylines.
But I never found the humour to really be clicking along the way, especially again with Salma Hayek in a fairly pointless guest role as Jack’s new love interest. I don’t care about her, not in the least, even if I felt that Mr. Templeton (and his awesome theme song) was a more interesting outlet for the two characters than last week’s. The storyline feels like an excuse, right now, to give Jack something to do and for us to look at Salma Hayek’s breasts (this is not a complain, just an observation). Jack, to me, works best when he is Liz’s boss, and when his decisions and actions are in some way intertwined with business: here there was an almost complete disconnect, and I really felt like that slowed down Liz’s storyline at points.
Similarly, Tracy and Jenna were given absolutely nothing to do here: they stand around, they go shopping, and they perform a clown comedy act for the sake of a convenient plot device. The whole thing just felt too light on any substance: yes, I love when Tracy’s facial expressions don’t match his words, and I do think that the two of them are often good together, but with no sense of conflict or point to the story beyond convenience, I don’t know if I really think they demonstrated their potential usefulness in these situations.
But the episode remained memorable primarily because Dr. Spaceman is perhaps my favourite recurring character on this show, a stunning demonstration of witty writing. I loved every second of it: the idea that his favourite thing about being a doctor is attending executions, that he made Jack drop his pants even when the flu shot went into his back, that he thought Jack was going to ask him a question as a woman, that he made Liz dance for her flu shot, or that he thinks doctor/patient confidentiality is a two-way street. No, it was no “411/911,” but it is proof that we need more Dr. Spaceman in our lives.
And this episode could have used a bit more of his cleverness: nothing awful, nothing painful, just nothing that makes me herald 30 Rock as a comic sensation. Just a funny show on NBC is all this was.
- The one-liners were still flowing, though: I particularly enjoyed the idea that Liz’s health care tirade was driven not only by her desire for people to like her but also seeing the trailer for Michael Moore’s Sick in front of Alvin and the Chipmunks. (Sidenote: I had to google to find out what that film was even called, so apparently Michael Moore’s pop culture cache is really slipping, or I’m really tired).
- I just recently got my first cell phone (I know, I know, I’m behind), so I have to get used to this whole “texting” phenomenon. I need to find a happy medium between Cirie’s gibberish and my own complete sentences with semi-colons.
- I love that there was a song about Mr. Templeton – I tried googling it, and it doesn’t appear to be a real song, so I’m wondering what inspired them to create a musical accompaniment to that particular montage.
- Seriously, Hayek in that leopard print dress? Ridiculous. Also: according to my notes, they transitioned from Kenneth’s “I only lay down on the job when milking pig teets” to the first scene of Hayek in the dress. Coincidence? I think not.
- Totally missed one of my favourite quick moments before: Hayek’s flashback to her time at Dunkin Donuts manifesting as Liz asking when they start to throw donuts in the garbage. Wondrous.