30 Rock: Season 4, Episode 21
Emanuella Goes to Dinosaur Land
One criticism that can rightly be lobbed at 30 Rock is that it overly relies on its guest stars, to the point that some episodes forget to be funny in favor of cramming in a bunch of celebrities. In fact, the show's general lack of character development can to some extent be blamed on the constant parade of celebrities that come in for one or a few episodes before vanishing, returning occasionally if we're lucky. Tonight was a guest star heavy episode, but to a pretty large extent, it worked. The show has only truly developed three of its characters beyond stereotypes (and the third is a stretch, but let me make my case): Liz, Jack, and Tracy. Tonigh gave each of them a story, and two of those stories a litany of guest stars. Let's break it down that way.

Liz' Story: This was a pretty standard episode for all three of the characters, as each struggled with pretty much the same things they've struggled with since day one. Liz needs to find a man, in this case a date to Floyd's wedding so she doesn't have to do her reading alone. Following Colleen's advice from last week, she decides to settle and revisits her exes to figure out which one is right for her. This provides an excellent opportunity for us to see Drew and Dennis again, and both turn in great cameos. Jon Hamm is so perfect in his scene that I am reminded how much I miss Mad Men and what great, mostly under-utilized comedic timing he has. Drew has gotten no smarter in the interim between he and Liz' break up, and has in fact lost both of his hands to different terrible accidents. Hamm plays the physical part of the scene to the hilt, but he also nails Drew's vacant stare and unbelievably stupid reasoning. I pretty much just wish Jon Hamm was in everything at this point. Dennis is always fun in small doses, so it is a blessing that he returned for just long enough to try to send his mentor (he's now in a program where bright kids mentor troubled adults) up in a balloon for publicity. Liz finally ends up taking Westley (a returning Michael Sheen, still humoruously annoying and out of touch) as her date ,but is reminded just how much she hates him by the time the To Be Continued pops up...

Jack's Story: Jack is still caught in a love triangle with two pretty boring characters, and his story is really a non-starter. He and Julianne Moore don't have as much chemistry as he and ELizabeth Banks (I credit that entirely to writing), so their subplot just sort of sits there, as Jack has sex with her and immediately regrets it. The only way he can break the news to her without losing her is by trapping her in mass, which she is to Catholic to leave. So Jack is about to lose one of the women we're supposed to believe he loves as the episode ends and the cliffhanger arrives (I don't want to spend much time on his story as it was pretty dry really)...

Tracy's Story: The show returned to the ongoing EGOT plotline tonght as Dot Com and Kenneth convinced Tracy to go out for what basically amounts to Mo'Nique's role in Precious in order to get his Oscar. I thought it was a perfect comparison, especially considering the respect Mo'Nique had as an actress before taking on the role. And good lord was Tracy Morgan on fire tonight. His (pretty likely improved) rants about his horrible life growing up poor in New York were some of the best moments on this show in a long time, and he matched the rest of the episode (and proably the last few too) laugh for laugh in those extended rants that were smattered throughout. The plot here was pretty thin, but that was all the show needed to give him in order to let him shine. Earlier in this post I claimed that Tracy was one of the three most developed characters on this show, and at first glance that probably sounds ridiculous. But pause for a moment to try and stereotype his character like you can every other supporting player on this show. You may say he's just "Crazy black man" but that doesn't really incapsulate him. He isn't just a "man-child" either as he has managed to maintain a pretty solid personal life throughout his madness. No, Tracy Jordan is a unique creation, and he works on a level that really transcends any stereotyping or cliche's you might try to pin on him. Morgan really outdid himself tonight, and raised the level of an otherwise pretty forgettable 30 Rock. He threw out so many one liners so quickly it will take me several viewings of the episode to suss out all the hilarity he managed to fit into one thirty second rant. Tracy decided to go for the Oscar-bait role as the episode ended, and I can't wait to see where this story goes next week.

Giving each of the show's three strongest characters a story seems like the best bet to ensure a great episode of the show (we are always better off without a Jenna plotline), and this week it pretty much delivered. I'm quickly tiring of Jack's triangle, but hopefully that will wrap up next week in the finale and with any luck, Jack will lose both women so I never have to hear Julianne Moore's annoying accent or see Elizabeth Banks try really hard to milk laughs out of lines that would be gold in anyone else's hands ever again. the Liz plotline was saved by great turns by her three exes, and Tracy Morgan turned his plotline into an all time classic by just being non-stop hilarious for as much screen time as he was given. Tracy alone raised the grade on this episode higher than it would have been based on the other two plotlines. I hope his hot streak continues into next week. Until then, To Be Continued...

Grade: A-


-"I'm on that pill where you only get your period once a year." "Damn! We're so close to beating that thing entirely."

-"My elastic line is going to get infected again."

-"What goes good with second chances? Ugh. Water. Water is fine."

-"That was my last ungashed painting."

-"You're too good for me now that I have pirate hook hands?"

-"Garfeild 3: Feline Groovy?" "Its a pun! Because cat's have grooves in their paws!"

-"And they're paying me one million teacher's salaries."

-"Excellent pantomime is supposed to look idiotic."

-"I watched a prostitute stab a clown! Our basketball hoop was a ribcage. A Ribcage!"

-"We're like Russ and Rebecca on Chums."

-"Our term for intercourse is 'yiffing.'"

-Here's as much as i could get from Tracy's stellar monologue at the end: "A puppy committed suicide when he saw our bathroom! [...] A pack of wild dogs took over and successfully ran a Wendy's [...] I once saw a baby give another baby a tattoo! They were very drunk!"
Tags: 30 Rock
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