30 Rock: Season 4, Episode 20
The Moms
Something I've noticed over the years on 30 Rock, and never more apparently than in the last season, is that while the show sporadically tries to have a master plot or ongoing story arcs, it has never been particularly adept at pulling them off. For years Liz Lemon has yearned for love, but outside of Floyd in maybe one or two episodes, she's never had a love life the show has managed to make us care about. At the same time, Jack has traded through as many high profile female guest stars as the show can nab, and disregarding Edie Falco's turn as C.C. back in Season Two my feelings on them have ranged from neutral to outright loathing. The whole idea of the protagonists trying to "have it all" is really the theme that 30 Rock is going for, but that's never what I think about when I watch this show.

What the show does well, and what made it one of the best shows on television during its first few seasons, is high concept absurdity. If you need some gleeful randomness, a parody so intricately constructed it sails over the top and lands right where you always wanted it, or just a silly show filled with crazy characters, 30 Rock can be exactly what you want on any given week. I'm just not sure this show was ever meant to be at all serialized. Which is why it was nice that "The Moms" pushed the serialized storylines to the background a bit by filtering them through a bunch of absurdist gags and a few cameos by people like Buzz Aldrin. The return of Elaine Stritch is always a pleasure, and pairing her with Kenneth lead to a clever recurring gag where she slowly made him forget his name by referring to him as "Carl."

In the new version of 30 Rock, which as I discussed last week functions more as a wacky one liner machine than as a well oiled sitcom masterpiece, Tracy Jordan is more vital than ever to the success of a given episode, and he was on fire tonight as he tried to alienate and then grew to accept his fake mom. The number of insane things he says in an episode is fairly proportional to the quality of the episode lately, and this week he had some really solid ones. Jenna's plotline was a throw away as usual with the return of her hateful, boring mother for some more screamfests.

Even the Liz plot this week, which was pretty standard "I'll never find the one" fare was made better by the straight up weird gags it brought in, like Liz playing the younger version of her mother, or Buzz Aldrin's ongoing conflict with the moon. 30 Rock may never master the serialized format, and may not even return to the incredibly solid episodic form of its first two seasons, but if it continues to turn out consistently funny episodes like tonight's, I'm not sure that's the worst thing ever.

Grade: B


-"Put the mimosas down, bitch!" I love the Bitch Hunter recurring gag, and that the pilot was written by Matthew Weiner. This show loves its Mad Men jokes, and I love it for that (see also, Liz' mom saying she left Buzz Aldrin because of her great job as a secretary at Sterling-Cooper).

-"I sexually assaulted Scotty Pippin in 1997."

-"Her name might be Cheryl and she was wearing a red shirt in 1984."

-"I apologize ma'am. That is not a song. You make me very nervous."


-"And you think I wanted a son who recorded an Anti-Condom PSA?" "I saved a lot of kids from lame sex!"

-"I saw him at Rupert Murdoch's Twister Party...I mean regular party."

-"Return to the night! You've no business here!" "Are you yelling at the moon?"
Tags: 30 Rock
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