I experienced a distinct sense of Déjà vu during tonight’s episode of 30 Rock as Liz Lemon’s plotline essentially recycled the premise of Baby Mama with a little Juno thrown in for good measure, as a crazy-eyed, baby-hungry Liz sets her sights on a dippy, pregnant donut shop employee with a bun in the oven, a crappy boyfriend with his Myspace status permanently set on “horny” and little in the way of resources or job prospects. Liz furtively tries to weasel her way into the unfit mother’s heart (at least she doesn’t appear to have eight future wards of the state inside her uterus unlike a certain creepy instant celebrity) by listening with feigned enthusiasm to her dreadful music, hiring her as a “youth consultant” on The Girly Show and pretending to care about her relationship travails.
You beautiful people have complained extensively about the negligible role the staff writers have played this season, especially noted baseball cap enthusiast Frank, who seldom gets more than a zinger or two an episode. Well, the 30 Rock folks have answered your prayers, since tonight’s episode was all about the staff writers in general and Frank in particular. Feeling lost, sad and eager to avoid temptation while Salma Hayek’s sexy nurse is away, Jack decides to hang out with men guaranteed not to get any action: the writers.
The alpha male of 30 Rock and an overeducated group of schlemiels bonded over their love of Harry And The Hendersons and Jack learned that under Frank’s uber-dork exterior lies a wounded, would-be lawyer who dropped out of law school and is just as traumatized by parental abandonment as Jack himself. Jack has long been a passive-aggressive mentor to Liz. He decides to play a similar role to Frank tonight, agreeing to put him through law school, much to the chagrin of Frank’s mother, who worries that he’ll become a mob lawyer like everyone else in his family.
Is this the first time we’ve seen Frank without his signature baseball caps? It was utterly jarring seeing Frank in a sharp business suit and slicked-back hair; he looked disconcertingly like Penn Jillette post de-scuzzification. Meanwhile, in a C-story that scored some big ass laughs despite a tiny amount of screen time the perpetually desperate and attention-starved Jenna resorts to increasingly desperate measures to get people to pay attention to her, especially after the rest of the staff becomes obsessed with throwing Tracy Jordan the birthday party he’s never had and giving him the present of his dreams: either a Robocop, an opportunity to hunt the elephant that paints or breakfast in bed. It turns out Tracy wants to have breakfast in bed with Robocop while an elephant paints him.
In the end, it all came down to Harry And The Hendersons, as Liz and Jack must, like John Lithgow at the end of Hendersons let go of something they’ve grown attached to—in this case the donut lady’s fetus and Frank as a protégé—even if it hurts them personally to do so. In a beautiful, elegant bit of plotting, the episode’s various threads came together, united by the shining example set forth by Harry. The fact that John Lithgow popped up to play himself as a lost and confused celebrity desperately trying to escape 30 Rock was the icing on the cake.
There were parts of tonight’s episode that felt cartoony in a slightly Family Guy sort of way, like when Frank’s angry Italian stereotype of a mother asked Jack if she had to draw him a picture of what Frank’s future would be if he became a lawyer and the camera panned to said picture of a lawyer lying dead in the ground but for the most part it made me happier than breakfast in bed with Robocop while an elephant paints me. Or a baby Psychlo on a diet of straight Kerbango. One of the two.
—Poor Lutz. Even in a group that gets no respect he stands out for being particularly pathetic. I liked the shot of him fast asleep with a hoagie still in his hands.
—“I buy myself all the presents I need. And because of my drinking, they’re often a surprise!”
—Donuts, then bed? What are you depressed about or celebrating?
—“What do your dads tell their friends you do?”
—“The candles for my fourth birthday lasagna”
—I liked the idea of a father reappearing in his child’s life solely to punch little league umpires and impregnate the mother
—“That film has layers.”
—“Make your father hate any new children he might have.”
—“Right. Fake vomit.”
—“Especially those too fat to dance their way out.”
‘—“You already dress like a mom!”
—Did anyone catch the full lyrics to that hilariously dreadful song? I know it prominently involved a web of rainbows.
—Having Liz angrily deliver the line, “Have disposable cameras at the wedding because it’s fun and people like it.”=awesome.
—Props to Scotty T (who’s cold chilling in Toledo as I write this, ah the glamour of writing for The A.V Club) for filling in for me last week.
—Lithgow’s cameo seemed intentionally anticlimax: everyone revered the wisdom of Harry And The Hendersons yet completely dismissed its star.
—Damn you, 30 Rock! I now sorta kinda wanna see Harry And The Hendersons again