I would like to start off this review with some very good news. God willing, this will be the very last 30 Rock review I will ever write. From here on out, the eminently capable Meredith Blake will be taking over my position reviewing the show. I have absolute faith in her and her ability to write about this show much more deftly and insightfully than I have. I believe that people who write about shows that people feel passionately about and care deeply about, such as 30 Rock, should share that passion, intensity, and profound emotional investment.
That was once me. 30 Rock was once one of my very favorite shows. I once considered it one of the funniest, sharpest, and fastest shows in the history of television. There was a time, not so long ago, when I eagerly anticipated every episode with bated breath, but I haven’t felt that way about 30 Rock for a while. The thrill is gone, and I don’t think I’m doing anybody any favors by continually writing about my disappointment and pining for the version of the show some of y’all insist never existed.
So after five years of writing about 30 Rock, I am calling it quits, and I’m happy to report that my half-decade of writing about 30 Rock will end on a positive note. I know I have whined repeatedly about 30 Rock turning into a mechanical joke-delivery machine over the past few years but “Meet The Woggels!” is thankfully an episode with a soft, squishy heart beating underneath some very sharp jokes about racist Australian children’s entertainers, sexual walkabouts, and inter-generational warfare.
Like most episodes of 30 Rock, it was ultimately all about the jokes, but it was also on a fundamental about relationships: Jack’s relationship with his hellbeast of a mother, Tracy’s relationship with his Urkel of a son, and Jenna’s relationship with a man insane and indulgent enough to want to be just like her, even if that means dressing up in women’s clothing and putting up with all her craziness and debauchery. But mostly, “Meet The Woggels!” is about Liz’s den-mother role with the 30 Rock gang and her deep investment in all of their problems.
“Meet The Woggels!” was written by Ron Weiner, a former Arrested Development writer (not a bad credit on anyone’s resume) who began his career writing for “Weird Al” Yankovic on the terrific if short-lived Saturday morning cult program The Weird Al Show. “Meet The Woggels!” derives its title, much of its plot, and many of its sharpest, funniest gags from a devastating parody of another beloved, incredibly popular family entertainer: The Wiggles.
In “Meet The Woggels!” Jenna sets out to mark two notches off her sexual bucket list by sleeping with a non-aboriginal Australian and Yokoing a band. The band in question is a group very clearly modeled after The Wiggles named The Woggels. Jenna sets out to destroy them from inside by pushing her boyfriend to demand a role in writing the band’s songs, but it isn’t long until she realizes that she’s been pining for her cross-dressing beau Paul all along, and seducing and destroying an Australian kiddie superstar is just a poor substitute for the man she really loves and desires.
The Woggels only appear to be innocent. As the show progresses they’re revealed to be not just horrible racists (their “Woggel power!” catch-phrase becomes sinister once it’s revealed “Woggel” means “White” in Australian) but also, as a hilarious, episode-ending song discloses, murderers, men who are sexually attracted to bridges, whoremongers, and werewolves.
Tracy, meanwhile, sets out to “reverse-Urkel” a son he is horrified to discover has some very bad news: He’s intent on going to Stanford in clear violation of Jordan family tradition. Tracy is eager to prevent his son from going down the wrong road and becoming a lawyer, doctor, or philanthropist who helps people, instead of becoming a selfish, self-absorbed man-child like his father.
So Tracy sets out to corrupt his son the old fashioned way: via Montage. Alas, Montage is a stripper who has retired from the game, so Tracy instead is forced to resort to a “series of activities,” all of them hilarious. First, he and his son shoot Kenneth while Kenneth chipperly pretends to be a deer, then they eat fast food off a naked Asian woman. They “make it rain” on Liz Lemon, then reverse things and Tracy’s son and Liz Lemon make it rain on Tracy. They prank Rachel Maddow before ending their delightful series of activities by playing video game baseball with Mr. Met.
The campaign is successful, and Tracy’s son decides to shun Stanford in favor of joining his dad’s entourage, but Tracy is saddened and full of shame when he discovers that his son had a wonderful time engaging in their series of activities in part because it’s the first real day he’s ever spent with his dad.
In the final plot thread, Jack is horrified to discover his mother is in the hospital following heart surgery in New York without ever telling him. She insists that she only made the trek to New York because it was the home of the only place that would take her insurance but Liz thinks she came to New York for a very different reason: so that she could have one final important conversation with Jack and put aside all those years of acrimony, fighting and bitterness in case she dies.
In “Meet The Woggels!” Liz Lemon knows best, and if she makes a few missteps along the way to helping her friends, mentor, and co-workers communicate with the people they love and put things right, her heart is invariably in the right place. “Meet The Woggels!” isn’t a wall-to-wall laugh-fest. This is not that kind of a show anymore, but this episode has an emotional component that makes it more than the sum of its jokes. It's an often funny and sometimes sweet reminder of why I’ve loved the hell out of 30 Rock a lot over these past five years and why a whole lot of you guys do as well.
So goodbye, 30 Rock fans. I’m leaving you in very good hands.
- Elaine Stritch’s acidic delivery alone makes “cabbage hole” a very funny turn of phrase
- We get some very dark, Death To Smoochy-like insight into the sinister side of kiddie entertainment tonight, from the revelation that they put a “sedated prisoner” inside the Barney costume to the news that the fifth Woggle was devoured by a shark
- “That song, like everything, is about me!” is a great Jenna line
- So Dick Cheney has retractable wings and rocket arms. That seems about right.
- I really enjoyed the Couchy and Dean Cain running jokes
- Well, folks. That is all for me. Please do be kind to Meredith.