30 Rock: Cooter
May 12, 2008

NBC, Thursdays at 9:30PM

Genre: Sitcom

Conceit: Less About SNL and More About Tina Fey Not Having Time To Write SNL.

What does it mean when a show’s regular cast is regularly outdone by their reoccurring characters?  The abbreviated second season of 30 Rock came to an end in an episode which was a metaphor for the season as a whole: hit or miss.  

The hits were obvious.  Dean Winters was barely in this episode, but absolutely owned every scene he was in.  When Dennis found out that Liz may be pregnant with his child, he returned into her life and was hilarious with the few lines he was given.  I really like Floyd because he just has great chemistry with Lemon, but Dennis is the funniest person on this show.  Make him regular cast.

Picking up from a joke earlier in the season (as 30 Rock does so well), Paul Scheer returned as Donny, Head of the Pages and Kenneth’s sworn enemy.  Both were vying to be the NBC page sent to China for the olympics.  Again, Scheer wasn’t given many lines to work with, but went miles with the ones he did.  The Kenneth/Donny rivalry is one of the better inside jokes this series has found.  Scheer should team up with Winters to get a nod as regular cast.

Sadly, when you start with the B and C story characters, it says something about the A stories.  As mentioned, Liz had a pregnancy scare.  Turns out the chips she insists on eating from the Spanish deli use bull semen, which tripped the tests.  Meanwhile, Jack was adjusting to a life in politics.  Or more accurately, trying to find his way out.  Matthew Broderick played Cooter, an aide that would have been his rival, if not for the fact that he was just as desperate to get out.  Unforunately, Cooter just wasn’t a funny character, nor was the storyline as a whole.  The only plus: we got to see C.C. again.  Ok, Dean Winters, Paul Scheer, and Edie Falco: make them all regular cast.

Final Grade: B-

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30 Rock: Sandwich Day
May 4, 2008

NBC, Thursdays at 9:30PM

Genre: Sitcom

Conceit: Less About SNL And More About Tina Fey Not Having Time To Write SNL.

Y’know, Tina Fey is a geek’s dream come true on many levels, but man, hand her a flat iron and a red dress and she’s a lady for any man.  Liz classed it up because Floyd was back in town for a day and needed to crash at her place.  Of course, when any ex comes into town, you want to “win” (we learned this lesson from How I Met Your Mother a couple weeks back), so Liz went lady.  And it worked.  Floyd was mesmerized.  That is, until a cancelled flight found him popping back to Liz’s and seeing her in all her normal glory.  An awkward silence led to the funniest moment of the episode: Liz questions Floyd, in less than lady-like form, about a woman who answered his phone during the season premiere.  Things go back and forth throughout the episode until both pretty much arrive at the same place they were at the beginning.  I complained last week that the story heavy episode just wasn’t that funny.  I think the difference this week was the chemistry between Fey and Jason Sudeikis.  You want to see them together.  Hopefully we’ll see more of them trying to be together in the future.  

Jack’s story was pretty awful.  Not worth mentioning.

Final Grade: B

30 Rock: Succession
April 25, 2008

NBC, Thursdays at 9:30PM

Genre: Sitcom

Conceit: Less About SNL and More About Tina Fey Not Having Time To Write SNL

Hmm…so NBC puts it faith in this show, bumps Scrubs back to 8:30, and drops this show at 9:30 with The Office as a lead-in.  And they deliver this episode?  Mind you, it wasn’t a “bad” episode, per se.  But it was a plot episode.  It was about moving the story forward.  But…eh…it wasn’t that great, was it?

This Don Geiss story, while a good story throughout the last two seasons, has really been stalled for sometime.  Unless Tina Fey has a theory I haven’t thought of yet, Jack can’t become chairman of NBC without losing the Jack/Liz interactions that power the show.  So no one really expects it to happen.  So why does the show keep belaboring the point with these “almost, but wait, there’s a twist” episodes.  The only highlight would have to be Will Arnett, and the hope of more Will Arnett to come.

Tracey’s quest to impress his children by making a great pornographic videogame (you have to give the show credit not loving its ridiculousness) was a decent side story.  The best part of this “Amadeus” spoof had to be the slow motion running of a caped Dr. Leo Spaceman (back from his stint on the criminally underrated “Miss Guided”) through the halls.  Also, Frank got some great moments in during what was a ho-hum episode overall.

Final Grade: C+ 

30 Rock: Subway Hero
April 18, 2008

NBC, Thursdays at 8:30PM

Genre: Sitcom

Conceit: Less About SNL and More About Tina Fey Not Having Time To Write SNL.

“We’re like Ross and Rachel, except not gay.”  There are just some lines that Dean Winters’ “Dennis Duffy” was just born to deliver.  And, as history shows, any episode of 30 Rock with The Beeper King in it is that much better than any episode without him.  When the newly exonerated from his “To Catch Predator” fiasco Dennis seemingly saves someone’s life in the subway, he becomes an overnight celebrity, even warranting a guest appearance from Mayor Bloomberger.  Jack wants the new celebrity to guest star on the show and wants Liz to use her “in” to make it happen.  Dennis, however, wants to have this “crazy on again off again” relationship to turn on again.  And resist as she may, Liz can’t help but be pulled into his blackhole.  Its easy to be with Dennis, Liz tells us; it requires no work on her part.  She’s Sally Field to his Subway Hero.  And just like that, Dennis repels the throngs who worshipped him and Liz in one fell swoop.  Classic Dennis.  And just like that, Liz goes back to Dennis.  Classic Liz.  And just like that, Dennis reminds Liz why they’re not together.  Classic Dennis.

Meanwhile, Jack is trying to find a way to garner more celebrity support for his McCain Fundraiser, supported by the Committee To Reinvade Vietnam.  While this leads to some great Tracey moments, the real star of the show had to be Dotcom, who’s two lines with Jack had to be the funniest he’s ever uttered.

Tim Conway also made an appearance as former TV star Bucky Bright, who Jack initially considered for his fundraiser.  Kenneth, enamored by his hero, decided to give Bucky a tour, only to find out that the star from a more wholesome time of television was pretty unwholesome.  Conway could actually duel Winters for who had the best lines of the show.  Either way, we win.

Final Grade: A+