30 Rock: Season 5, Episode 15
TGS Hates Women
Tina Fey is one of the funniest people alive. There is no doubt about that at all in my mind. One of the biggest issues she must have had throughout her life is the fact that in addition to being one of the funniest people alive, she also happens to be a woman. To me, this doesn't present a problem, but to society at large, it can be a pretty big deal. So I'm sort of surprised that 30 Rock hasn't dealt with gender issues too prominently before this episode. I'm not surprised, however, that when it does it handles them deftly, honestly, and hilariously.

An important part of the point this episode is making lies in the distinction between Tina Fey and her onscreen counterpart Liz Lemon. For one thing, Tina is hilarious, while the show often displays just how unfunny TGS, and therefore Liz Lemon can be on a weekly basis. Additionally, while Liz is a liberal, it would be hard to say she's a thoughtful one. Liz knows the position to take, but her politics, and her tendency toward mishap, make her into a huge overreactionary, to the point that she often ends up undermining her honestly liberal goals (like, for example, when she got her neighbor detained as a terrorist back in season two). Tina Fey is a thoughtful and insightful woman, but she's also a satirist who is perfectly at home with self deprecation and so in Liz Lemon she has created the ultimate satire of herself (or at least of her public perception).

This episode's A-plot focuses on Abby Flynn, apparently the freshest female voice in comedy at a time when TGS is accused of hating women (and for good reason. The entire Jenna-centric episode seems to boil down to period jokes). Liz hires her to beef up the show's feminist cred, only to discover she is actually a scantily clad, infantilized sexpot that seems engineered to gain the approval of men more than to actually champion the cause of women. This allows the show to take several jabs at the many women in our culture who can be accused (and often rightly) of the same thing, but by episode's end, it also lets Liz look like an overreactionary when its revealed that Abby (who used to be a brunette comic named Abbby Grossman) has changed her voice and her appearance not to gain the attention and approval of men, but to hide from the crazed ex-husband who is trying to kill her. I think when all is said and done the ending is a bit of a cheat, allowing the show to go pretty far in its condemnation of faux-feminism that actually just masks a way for women to play the game in a "man's world" without actually improving their positions, but keeping it from actually landing the punch where it was aimed. Instead of letting Abby's transformation say something about how sexist our society still is and how someone like Abby probably would be more successful as a baby-talking porn star caricature than as a smart, funny stand up comic, the show went with a "Sleeping with the Enemy" joke. It was still very funny, but like many episodes when 30 Rock tries to have a political message, it didn't exactly know how to stick the landing.

The B-plot, on the other hand was pure gold, putting Alec Baldwin up against the hilarious Chloe Moretz in a stand-off that I hope becomes a recurring rivalry in the mold of Jack and Devon Banks. Moretz here plays the granddaughter of the CEO of Kabletown and the heir to his job, a job which Jack covets. Her Kailey is a brilliant and ambitious schemer who uses her age and a pretended interest in Oceanography to send Jack on a nostalgic trip back to his youth and his dream of being an explorer/adventurer. It was a brilliant move, but even better was the final showdown in which Jack confronts Kailey and she shows her true colors and pledges to take him down. Please, please, please bring Chloe Moretz back, 30 Rock. She was hysterical tonight and I can only imagine the rivalry between Kailey and Jack will get better with repeated exposure.

This was a solid episode of the show that landed some political punches and a ton of laughs but failed to get the K.O. it should have. I don't know if Tina Fey decided long ago that the show should always prize comedy over political messages (not a bad decision by any stretch, considering how funny she is and how hysterical her show can be), or if the show's writers are just wary of stepping over the line and seeming too "message-y" but whenever the show becomes a political satire for an episode, it seems to have its heart, and more importantly its mind in the right place, but it always seems afraid to go in for the kill. This leaves the satiric episodes of 30 Rock feeling incomplete and under-done, but when a half-baked satire is as good as this one, its hard to find too much to complain about.

Grade: B+


-"This is Amelia Earhart. I'm halfway across the Pacific. Oh no, my period!"

-"New Blood is the Lifeblood of Every Company's Blood. He's not a strong writer."

-"The aunt smokes pot and "paints," the father is trying to sail an inflatable castle across the Atlantic."

-"She should be careful around the crew. New York gives us a tax break for hiring sex offenders. Its a terrible program."

-"Tracy Chapman. She's a woman, right?"

-"Bob is short for Bobbert."

-"I'm not going to live forever no matter ho much gold I give Poseidon."

-"Is this where you got your V card punched?" "What? No! Does this look like the make up room at a clown college?"

-"Slaves of Jesus, hear my tale..."

-"Mr. Donaghy, what are you doing here?" "I could ask you the same question, but that would make no sense."

"The ocean is awesome and for winners. YOU'RE for tools!"
Tags: 30 Rock
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