30 Rock: Season 7, Episode 3
Stride of Pride
After two opening episodes I was less-than-crazy about (last week's was so forgettable I forgot it was on, watched it, then forgot to review it. Bryan Cranston was there, and it still didn't stick in my memory. But I like Matthew Broderick...), "Stride of Pride" is a solid late-period episode of 30 Rock, even if its central premise is one the show has used multiple times. The "are women funny?" question is like the Jason Vorhees of internet debates: it gets killed dead every four to five months, but somehow it always comes back. Let me answer the question with the answer that is so obvious, it is maddening to me the question is still being asked: YES. Women are funny, they are as funny as men or monkeys wearing people clothes, and its silly and insulting that anyone thinks otherwise. I was disappointed when the show tried to tackle the subject last season in "TGS Hates Women," and while it felt like a bit of a retread tonight, I think it worked better here, and made its points without ever sacrificing a joke (almost as if Tina Fey, herself a woman, is good at humor. Hmmmm....)

Liz found herself debating the issue with Tracy in the same way thousands of internet nerds do all the time: listing funny women and being shocked when commanded to be funny on the spot. The sketch that Liz and Jenna perform (from their Piven nominated two woman show) is shown to us only in montage, and wins the argument for Liz only nominally (Tracy admits women can be funny, but only because he thinks the joke is that a woman could be a doctor), but she takes the victory anyway. Its a solid storyline, that involves Tracy Morgan yelling "men's nipples are hilarious, women's nipples are useless!", so I would call it a rousing success. Where "Stride of Pride" could have made any number of missteps a la "TGS Hates Women," it basically allowed Liz Lemon to have her rant and Tina Fey to prove her larger point at the same time: the question in and of itself is insulting and ignorant, and it doesn't deserve an answer. Except maybe to kick the person who asked it in the testicles, because THAT is funny.

The Jack and Jenna story lines both dealt with aging, which is kind of nice for the show to deal with in its final season, and while each was fairly slight, both were very funny. 30 Rock always crams its episodes full of as many stories as possible, and I always say the weakest plot line is a good marker of episode quality, but "Stride of Pride" didn't really have a weak plot line. The appearance of Ryan Lochte (as Jack's girlfriend's "Sex idiot") could have been awful, but he didn't outstay his welcome, and I got a few laughs out of his presence. Jack learns he is "the father figure" in a great scene where he breaks down every boyfriend type in front of them (my favorite is definitely the "Only Dating Him to Make Her Parents Mad" guy, who quietly asks "Is that all I mean to her? This is 2012...").

On the opposite end of the aging spectrum, Jenna decides she wants to be considered good looking "for her age" like Diane Lane and Helen Mirren, so she begins claiming she's 56. This is such a weird inversion on Jenna's normal behavior that if she was anything other than a cartoon character, that might bother me, but she isn't and it doesn't. Plus, her scheme makes a sort of demented Jenna-sense. Her theory is that if people think she is much older, they will comment on how young she looks more. So now she is a spokesperson for that awesome chair that takes you up the stairs (I want two of them, and I want them now).

All in all, "Stride of Pride" was a very funny episode of the show. There weren't any weak storylines, Alec Baldwin said "Pokemon" a lot, and Tina Fey got to have her cake and eat it too. The episode will be nowhere near my top ten favorite 30 Rock's ever, but its a solid late-period entry in a show that has managed to get through its bumpy patches with some innate quality intact. I look forward to where it goes in this final stretch.

Grade: A-


-"I guess I just thought she was a wig model."

-"Another old guy wanted to buy my shirt. Old guys are so funny."

-"Don't let her take me! It's not going to be a question, its going to be a series of mean statements!"

-"There are no bad ideas, Lemon, only good ideas that go horribly wrong."

-"I once saw a monkey in a cowboy outfit. I would LOVE to see the town he's sheriff of." Thank God Alec Baldwin decided to stick around for this last season. The show simply wouldn't be 30 Rock without him.

-"Are you thinking or doing kegels?" "Yes."

-"Are you alright, Jack? You look like that flashcard they told me was sadness."

-"This is how people danced before Chubby Checker ruined everything."
Tags: 30 Rock
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