Season Two, Episode Ten
Airdate: January 10th, 2008
I love 30 Rock: it’s a smart, intelligent and funny show that has emerged as a tremendous showcase for Tina Fey’s talent. And if this were a 2007 list, I could have told you exactly the episode that would make it into this time capsule, as “Rosemary’s Baby” is still perhaps the series high point for me (with “Hard Ball” neck and neck). But there is something about the 2008 episodes that has made this decision inexplicably hard.
This won’t stop me from attempting to explicate it, however – I think my problem is actually quite simple. While the show’s post-strike second season episodes were smart, featuring some great overall work for especially Tina Fey, none of them felt consistent. I thought that Fey had a great backend (wow, what sounded dirty), but Alec Baldwin wasn’t given much to work with. Similarly, the great guest appearance by Dean Winters as Dennis in “Subway Hero” coincided with the pointless but shockingly Emmy-winning glorified cameo from Tim Conway. And the third season is still climbing its way out of some early stuntcasting to shape its own identity – any judgments seem premature.
So, while I appreciate the thematic wonder of “Succession,” and still find Fey’s eating in “Sandwich Day” to be hysterical, I find myself gravitating to an episode that for all intensive purposes should have no business being here: completed while the Writers’ Strike was on, the episode was rushed to production to the point where Fey and Co. never even got to write a proper title.
Strangely, what emerged was shockingly funny, especially Liz’s epic battle against the Co-op board. It was one of those moments where Liz Lemon was let loose in the real world, and the result was a sequences that has made me highly conscious of drinking around telephones and has given me a lifelong goal of someday both running on a treadmill with a glass of wine and buying a Black apartment.
And while the rest of the episode isn’t that much more consistent than some of the other possible selections, something about it just kind of makes me happy: whether it’s the episode ending musical number, the bittersweet conclusion to what was a strong storyline with Jack and his senatorial lover CiCi (an up to task Edie Falco), or the jittery wonder of Kenneth on caffeine, the episode seems less like a rushed attempt at finishing a pre-strike episode than a controlled chaotic release of hilarity.
Yeah, Alan Sepinwall already beat me to this particular drum in his own year end list, but I think the point needs to be made: a darn good half hour of television is to be found here, nameless as it may be.
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[For more details on the Cultural Learnings 2008 Television Time Capsule, click here!]