30 Rock – “The Ones”

30rocktitle2

“The Ones”

April 26th, 2009

While its Thursday night comedy counterpart The Office has been delving into a long-term storyline over my hiatus, which has made not blogging about it a little bit more problematic, 30 Rock has been in a very different sort of place. This isn’t to say that the show isn’t achieving its goals: this is two solid episodes in a row now, so one can’t say the show is necessarily coasting.

In fact, I’d argue that “The Ones” was really on the ball in terms of both its light comedy (which is almost always strong) and its resolution and continuation of some storylines and characters who have been hit and miss. I was less than kind in my analysis of the Elisa storyline, but some time in Puerto Rico seems to have done both the character and the writers well, as the zany but grounded conclusion felt like the ideal sendoff. Combine with the second straight good use of Jenna, a fun little Tracy diversion, and Liz as Jack’s bro? And this was an episode chock full of strong dynamics.

None of this was particularly novel: the show has used Brian Williams jokes before, for example. However, there was something that just clicked about it, like having Brian Williams actually appear on the show. Kenneth, for example, has thrown himself into harm’s way and been a guinea pig in the past, but his raving that “My real name is Dick Whitman” before going under the first time (a reference to Mad Men, for those who aren’t watching the best drama on television) put it over the top. Similarly, Dot Com’s hyper-intelligence has always been a running gag, but his lion/Tangiers connection was really quite funny.

Even the Elisa humour was not that far from every other of Jack’s relationships: first they appear really charming, but then it’s revealed that they’re crazy and all hell breaks loose. The only one who didn’t get that treatment was CiCi, which was justified since the character was introduced that way and it would have seemed entirely out of character. Elisa was more like the others, and I thought this was for the best: Hayek is better at broad comedy than she is subtle, and I thought she really brought it here with her charmingly broken English, her mass hysteria, and her admonishment of Liz’s insistence on yelling “Puerto Rican!” every time she sees her.

Liz was great in this episode largely because she was playing Jack’s bro. Liz is, ironically, best when she is on either end of the relationship spectrum: whenever she’s actually in a relationship, or when she’s so NOT in a relationship that she basically becomes the closest thing to a man at TGS, it just seems like the character exists in this really interesting and unique comic arena. This is particularly true of the latter case, as I don’t know if there’s another female character on television that can so easily enter into this role, and Baldwin and Fey were as usual aces in their various interactions. Fey’s little turn pose to prove to Elisa that she wasn’t remotely attractive, in particular, cracked me up (and, to be honest, was actually pretty hot).

I also have to give credit for the second straight strong Jenna storyline: although she may have been downgraded from sociopath to narcissist, Jenna is still in great form when her escapades are this off-the-wall. And to be honest, one of the best things about this Jenna storyline is that Liz wasn’t involved: when Jenna becomes just another annoyance for Liz to deal with, she is just a plain old comic foil. And while she is still a pretty shallow character, as long as that shallowness is ripe ground for the Pranksmen and not for Lemon’s neuroses it just hits better.

There was some fun stuff with Tracy: the montage with the shirt removal was hilarious for its inclusion of Tracy MORGAN’s appearance on a morning show, I always like to see Dot Com and Grizz get some smaller moments to shine, and the entire tattoo idea worked well with the conclusion at the end (although it isn’t entirely clear whether that was the markered version of the tattoo or the tattoo itself – either way, I’m laughing!).

Overall, it just felt right: while early Elisa stuff wasn’t hitting, and Jenna went through a rough patch there for a while, both seemed to really click here. This is the last we’ll see of Elisa (they’d bring back Edie Falco before they’d bring back Hayek), and I think I’m happy about that, but this delayed goodbye actually worked really well.

Cultural Observations

  • I enjoyed Pete’s eventual involvement in the Pranksmen, which would have been enough to hold up an entire episode realistically, especially his anger at Pete and Twofer for nearly losing a monitor (as opposed to nearly killing Lutz).
  • The running Slanket gag was cute, as it seemed a bit of a justification for project placement in a world wherein Liz truly WOULD love a slanket for reasons beyond product placement. On top of that, it was just a really fun visual.
  • Elisa in the “What the Frak?” T-Shirt? Thank you, whoever came up with that idea.

3 Comments

Filed under 30 Rock

3 responses to “30 Rock – “The Ones”

  1. Thumbu

    The slanket thing is funny, too, ’cause her old SNL partner, Jimmy Fallon, was pimping the rival ‘snuggies’ on his show. There’s a clip somewhere of Tracy Morgan in one of those. I thought that’d appear in reference, but that might’ve been far too much intertextuality for a show that was already saturated with it (Dick Whitman, Morgan on WGN, Battlestar, etc).

  2. Didi

    I’m sometimes amazed at how much I enjoy 30 Rock, as I’m not a general TV or mainstream movie aficionado–so I obviously can’t get the satisfaction from all these outside “cultural” references people kindly point out. (Frak? Something more than just a f**k replacement? Sorry! I need footnotes.) I guess I’m kind of like a little kid watching The Simpsons–half of it over their heads but still laughing like crazy. (Come to think of it, Homer and Tracy have some commonalities…)

  3. DamnYankees

    Where’s the Chuck writeup you mentioned in Twitter? The show has been SO good recently I want to read everyone’s opinion!

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