30 Rock: Season 6, Episode 12-13
Grandmentor/Kidnapped by Danger
I have never much cared for Elizabeth Banks (at least not since she single-handedly ruined Scrubs), a fact I have made clear many times in this space. However, I have also conceded that Avery Jessup is a pretty incredible character, so well written even a trained monkey or a show-wrecker can make her seem interesting, vibrant, and hysterical. I had high hopes for the "Avery kidnapped by Kim Jong Il" storyline, especially after the dictator's death earlier this year. However, it has mostly amounted to a variety of non-starter plotlines, and the functional two-parter of "Grandmentor" and "Kidnapped By Danger" doesn't change that. There is some fun to be had here, especially in Billy Baldwin's performance as Lance Drake Mandrell, a method actor playing Jack Donaghy and seducing Jack's mother-in-law (The still pretty awesome Mary Steenburgen), yet for the most part, this episode seems like an unwarranted extension of a promising plot line gone hopelessly astray.
In the first episode, Liz takes Hazel on as a mentor, and seems blissfully unaware that she is giving advice to a crazy woman. At this point, I think Hazel is doomed as a character, which is a real shame, seeing as Schaal is so hysterical. Yet after having her be just wacky and mentally unstable for no reason for another week, it seems like the best possible option for this character is a quick exit stage left. The Kenneth half of this plot worked much better, as he tried to reason with Hazel, and ultimately sacrificed his junior executive position in Standards and Practices to save Tracy from himself. Kenneth's self-less, near-delusional love for Tracy is always fun to watch, and while the "Kenneth as Executive" arc made for some great jokes, this seems like a fitting end to his ladder-climbing, as he returns to his roots and saves his friend from madness (as much as Tracy can really be saved, anyway).
Kenneth's story continues in "Kidnapped by Danger" as he is hired by the janitorial department. He smiles his way through an endless parade of degrading jobs before finally confessing to Jack in one of his rare, character breaking moments, that the only way he keeps a smile on his face is by lying to himself, an act he is not sure he can keep up much longer. I love Kenneth's dark underbelly (as a bald, immortal, apparently self-deluded creature), yet I think that side of the character only works in small asides like this one.
The TV movie that gives the second episode its title is not as rewarding as one might hope, but Billy Baldwin does a great Jack Donaghy, and Cynthia Nixon's spoof of Julianne Moore's over-blown Boston accent from season four was pretty funny (as were the increasingly disgusting slogans for Pride Pads, culminating in "enjoy a private sewer in your pants."). Yet the best part of this episode was definitely the cameo by Weird Al Yankovic, who parodies Jenna's song for the movie and sets off a rivalry, in which Jenna and Tracy strive to create a song he cannot possibly parody.
All of this went by relatively painlessly. It wasn't as bad as two of the three recent holiday episodes, but it also didn't reach the heights of even the better episodes this season. 30 Rock lives at a break neck pace, where it throws jokes at the audience so quickly it can become a blur, but that also means that when a storyline isn't working, a whole portion of the show can fall flat, and that has been happening more and more lately. So far, season six is a mixed bag more than an all out disappointment, but it is teetering ever closer to falling off the edge.
-"We've found that if someone is actually on NBC, they are 4% more likely to watch."
-"And, as it turns out, Amnesty International is just a company that makes and sells candles."
-"Are you sure? I took one of those 'which Gossip Girl are you?' quizzes and it said I was the dad's guitar."
-"You listen to me, Blitzer. Either CNN gets back on the Avery story, or I'll tell everyone your real name, Steel Hammerhands." This is the type of 30 Rock joke that is exactly in my wheelhouse, and reminds me of the show's heyday.
-"is this dress appropriate for watching pornography with Penn Gillette?"
-"Go to commercial." "They told us we can't do that anymore."
-"I'm going to be Mitt Rom-mummy." "Why wouldn't you be Mitt Zombie?" "Because I'm an idiot! God! Think for a second before you buy all that gauze!"
-"My father wore this to his high school prom. The theme was Enchantment under the Jim Crow laws."
-"I'll make coffee. You also make coffee. After the coffee contest, we'll get to work!"
-"I don't think there are any small jobs, just small people, like children or a giant that's very far away from you."
-"Yankovic! He reversed the parody! He Normal Al'd us!"
Tags: 30 Rock