30 Rock – “Floyd”


March 25th, 2010

While 30 Rock is a show that rarely has a great deal of forward momentum, I always like it better when it seems like it’s taking me someplace in particular; Jenna’s best story was when she was dealing with her weight, Tracy’s best recent story was when he confronting the uncanny valley, and Liz and Jack are almost always at their best when it feels like they’re confronting something that could last a few episodes or have some sort of ramification for their future.

This does not mean that I don’t find episodes like “Floyd” funny just because 2/3 of the episode is pointless, but it does mean that I prefer the parts of the episode which feel like they have history and a future. I know it’s not typical for the show, and I know it’s not really going to last, but there’s something about Liz Lemon doing something which seems mildly important that just makes me like the show more.

Alec Baldwin can pretty much make anything work, and so there were a couple of fun moments in the “Pranksmen vs. the Silver Panthers” storyline which I guess was effectively the B-story. Frankly, Danny (despite some fine with from Cheyenne Jackson) has been a fairly big waste thus far, and this didn’t do a whole lot to convince me the character has any long term value. Intelligently, the episode completely sidelined Danny at a certain point, turning this into a battle between Frank and Jack, so we could get Alec Baldwin awkwardly leaving rooms and Frank, “the black one, and LUTZ” in their underwear concerned about Cloverfield monsters because of what cable news told them. It’s not rocket science, but it fills in the gaps.

Meanwhile, I guess you could say the same about Tracy and Jenna being haunted by Kenneth after spending an entire day in plaster masks listening to him tell inane tales of his various misadventures and opinions. These kinds of stories don’t really work when Tracy and Jenna are working together, as the conflict becomes entirely imaginary without any real consequences; Kenneth doesn’t even know that anything is going on, which might be fine if this was due to ignorance as opposed to a baseline of naivete. I like that Kenneth is innocent enough to presume that Pete always says hate when he means love, as opposed to people finding him annoying, but it made for a one-sided story that luckily ended up at Tracy and Jenna both coming to the conclusion that they need to Elm Street Kenneth, which I thought was inspired.

But really, the episode (and the title) belonged to Floyd, as Jason Sudeikis makes his triumphant return. While “Floyd” can’t live up to “Sandwich Day,” which I legitimately loved and which could have earned Tina Fey an Emmy, I really like Sudeikis, and he has a lot of fun with Floyd getting drunk from salmon (“Six Floyds Amusement Park” and his extensive explanation of why her prefers deer to badgers were highlights) . The entire story seems like an alternative version of “Subway Hero,” in that one of Liz’s exes returns to her life in a way which forces her to deal with them; however, unlike the Dennis story, Liz actually wants to see Floyd, just not when he’s trying to get married on the Today Show. As a result, we get Liz Lemon pondering her romantic future, which Tina Fey always has a lot of fun with.

However, as I write that paragraph, I discover the danger of the show referencing the past or the future: this was no “Sandwich Day,” and was certainly no “Subway Hero.” It seems like 30 Rock is going to be one of those shows where episodes it does early in its life (“Hard Ball,” for example) may never be topped, always held up as archetypes that the show tries and fails to replicate. While I thought Sudeikis was funny, it sort of meant that the story wasn’t quite as grounded as previous Floyd stories, and I always sort of liked that he was the one boyfriend everyone liked, and the one who kind of kept things low key. To lose that is a bit disappointing, but it made for a fairly funny episode when isolated – it’s just that, considering the episode heading towards the future, I think I was hoping for something that set things up a bit more clearly.

Cultural Observations

  • It seemed odd that Jack would be hung up on Nancy and hitting up on Frank’s mother when, as far as I can remember, Elizabeth Banks isn’t entirely out of the picture or anything yet, especially since she got him in the position to fight for the head of NBC.
  • Yes, Tina Fey is trying to get “Whuck?” off the ground as a non-acronym version of “WTF.” I’m not sure it will catch on.
  • Sure, it couldn’t come come to The Office’s coda, but some fun physical stuff from Scott Adsit to be found there.

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