30 Rock: Season 5, Episode 11
Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning
I think 30 Rock is at its best when its taking on absolutely ridiculous aspects of pop culture and exploiting them for their lunacy. The show doesn't do so well with the political satire, or with the building of actual emotions (though its been trying that more this season, and its worked out from time to time) but throw some of Hollywood's weirder corners at the show and it will turn them into some of the most brilliant absurdity in recent memory.

Tonight's episode doesn't reach the heights of the show at its absolute best, but a 30 Rock when two of the three plotlines are solid is bound to be a pretty damn good episode. The A-plot focuses on a Tracy-Liz conflict we've seen a billion times before (and I have no idea how the show is still coming up with new ways for Tracy to be insanely lazy and yet still making them funny) with a new twist: Tracy can't come off as his usual crazy self because Angie's new reality show is filming him and he wants to look professional so he can win an Oscar (and thus elevate himself to a new level of crazy and buy an island). This leads to some pretty excellent Tracy craziness, as well as an escalating battle in which Tracy comes up with increasingly insane ways to keep his behavior from being shown on television (including singing everything to the tune of "Uptown Girl" and saying things from behind a mask with copyrighted material all over it).

The B-plot follows Jack in an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of celebrity fundraisers in the wake of tragedies by pre-taping one for the next disaster so he can beat all the other networks and get all the ratings and cash for NBC. Including a hilarious Robert De Niro cameo that posits he's secretly British and ending up with a fantastic mix up that has NBC raising money to rebuild Mel Gibson's island retreat where Jon Gosselin was a guest.

In this week's failed plotline, Lutz pretends to have a car to win the favor of the writers, all in a parody of reality television that is about a quarter as funny as the A-plots take on the way the shows are produced and edited. No one usually likes Lutz, so of course he treasures their approval, but the whole thing plays out very predictably and without the absurdity that makes the other two plots work.

This wasn't the best 30 Rock of the season, but it was a very, very funny one that took on reality television and the cynicism behind celebrity telethons in its signature clever style with enough madness. When it was on, it was hilarious, and when it stumbled it recovered quickly. The show attacked celebrity self-righteousness and cynical networks, silly reality shows and Tracy's insanity, and it included an excellent meta gag on emotional resolutions to boot. Yeah, it was a solid week.

Grade: B+


-"Why does the warden let Lady Extravaganza have so many spoons?"

-"That island he wants to buy is filled with scorpions."

-"Perfection is my middle name. Unclaimed Perfection Baby Boy."

-"No I wasn't going to buy two blimps and crash them together to see what sound they make..."

-"Fantastic Jenna. You really brought the song writing computer's words to life."

-"I'm going to Tupac's house to shoot gnomes!"

-"Your online romance prank was not funny. I fell in love with you!"

"G'Day. First off, he Holocaust never happened..."

-"It was our highest rated show since that episode of SVU where the detectives watched American Idol."
Tags: 30 Rock
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