Season Finale: 30 Rock – “I Do Do”

“I Do Do”

May 20th, 2010

I haven’t written about 30 Rock in a very long time, so you’d think I’d have a lot to say: after all, “I Do Do” actually had a “Previously on 30 Rock” sequence, which is rare on a show that is usually so off-the-wall that it doesn’t need to worry so much about continuity.

However, this was an aggressively plot-heavy conclusion for the series, so it makes sense that we might need a refresher on why Liz is going to three weddings, and why she would go anywhere with Wesley Snipes, and how smart the show was to have Jack dating two celebrity guest stars so that you really don’t know who he’s going to pick. This being said, however, “I Do Do” isn’t really plot-heavy at all – rather, it just sort of revels in the situation that has already been created, introducing new elements and providing conclusions that do a pretty good job of boiling it down to characters.

There are jokes, and there are plots, but even with some fairly ridiculous star power there is no point in time where all of it overwhelms the ways in which the episode plays out as a story about Jack, Liz and Kenneth, which makes it a successful conclusion to both these storylines and the season as a whole.

The battle between Avery and Nancy has never really provided a great deal of comedy, but it’s always felt really real to me. It makes sense that Jack would be torn between a woman who understands his past and a woman who inspires him to stay virile and active in the present, as someone of his age would be trapped between those two elements of his identity. That the story has rung true has gotten me through Julianne Moore’s accent, and the overly drawn out period where Jack is unable to make a decision, as in the end this feels like something that would happen to this character.

The resolution to the story ends up feeling earned, and surprisingly concrete. I could have predicted that Avery would be the winner, presuming that the show wasn’t planning to have it be “neither;” while Nancy fits into Jack’s life, Avery fits into the show both in terms of her position at CNBC and in the way Elizabeth Banks so seamlessly integrated into the cast. She’s a fantastic comic actress, and even if the material hasn’t been particularly hilarious I really think Avery is a character that could recur for a season and carry Jack’s baby without it feeling like gimmicky stuntcasting. Moore managed to fit in pretty well by the end, but that was more through persistence rather than any sort of real chemistry with the people involved: Banks just sort of works, and I am surprised that it all came together quite this well.

As for Liz, I think Matt Damon’s casting is perhaps a little bit more difficult to accept, but I quite like the way in which the character is meant to seem a bit romantic and too good to be true. It’s not that Damon is playing a hunky movie star, but rather that he’s playing someone who considers himself a doorman to the sky, who makes up something like “Sky Law,” and who loves TGS with Tracy Jordan, especially Fart Doctor. He’s Liz Lemon’s ideal man, so for him to look like Matt Damon is part of the story, and Damon is pretty great at playing these light comic roles with just enough self-deprecation to make it work. The character is never going to fit in as well as Michael Sheen’s Wesley, who has developed into a really wonderfully hilarious character over the course of his various appearances (“My boyhood passion for train accidents” was genius), but that’s sort of the point: he’s not supposed to fit in, because Liz is just a bit too crazy and prone to dramatic speeches.

Kenneth, meanwhile, doesn’t want to be promoted to Los Angeles (which makes no sense considering the Page program seems like it would be focused more on New York, but maybe it was supposed to be another Conan allegory?), but the way the story plays out is completely true to his character. Even when he gets fired for doing a horrible job, a bit which Jack McBrayer has a lot of fun with, he can’t help but love the TGS crew and everyone who has been so horrible to him. His drunken speech proclaiming his love for everyone and his hope that he’ll see them all in heaven was a great bit of acting, but it was also a quintessentially Kenneth thing to do. The show got its humour, what with his Best Friends in the World categorizations, but it also ended up saying something sort of sweet about the character despite his unemployment (which will surely be rectified early next season).

I wrote about duality earlier in the night with Parks and Recreation, and in some ways 30 Rock enjoys the same sense of stability and chaos co-existing: as crazy as Jenna’s relationship with Paul is, and as freaky as Will Forte made up half as Cher and half as Jenna really is, it’s a nice metaphor for the show as a whole. Liz is completely crazy, but Carol still returns to TGS to try things out because of his position in life; Jack and Avery’s situation is still plenty volatile (I particularly enjoyed Liz’s attempts to avoid looking surprised), but the baby and their connection still feels sort of right; Kenneth may have been fired, but he’s also come to truly grasp how he feels about his friends. In all cases, some weird things are happening that probably won’t last forever, and yet there’s also that romantic sense that there is something there worth investigating, or worth looking past the conflict to discover. The show can be as wacky as it wants, but it also has a heart, and I liked that in an episode about three weddings we got a whole lot of happy couples and less drama than we’d normally expect from this sort of setup.

None of it really counts as particularly inspired or laugh-out-loud funny, but for a show that can sometimes feel a little bit lifeless beyond its gags I really appreciated the resonance to the characters’ storylines: if you had told me a year ago that I would care infinitely more about characters on 30 Rock than on The Office on the night of their respective finales, I wouldn’t have believed you, but that is the situation we find ourselves in.

Cultural Observations

  • The Bald category is fun, but the Beatiful Hair (Strong) category just opens up so many great possibilities.
  • Nice pickup of last week’s episode with Liz’s attempts to stall at Floyd’s wedding: Tina Fey was entertaining enough that I completely forgot it was even at Floyd’s wedding until she started changing up lyrics.
  • Carol’s argument about Charles Schellenberg was the kind of thing you’d expect to hear from Dennis, while some of the character’s other tendencies (including his happenstance meeting with Liz over confused identity) nicely connects with Floyd. He’s sort of an amalgam of all of her past relationships, which is a neat touch.
  • Saw the reveal that the cheesy pop music during Jack and Avery’s moment was playing live, but loved that it was Moonvest (!) that was playing it.

1 Comment

Filed under 30 Rock

One response to “Season Finale: 30 Rock – “I Do Do”

  1. Jeremy L

    For a season that’s been the show’s worst thus far, the finale actually gave me hope for its future. It had a lot of great beats, it took storylines interesting places, and I certainly look forward to seeing what they do in the fall.

    Just remember 30 Rock, keep the over-the-top ridiculousness reigned in. These are characters, and we still care about them. Be good to them.

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