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30 Rock: "Kidney Now!"

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Tonight’s 30 Rock’s finale offered a bitches brew of questionable elements. Guest star after guest star after guest star! Catchphrase after catchphrase after catchphrase! Inside jokes up the wazoo! Father-son bonding! Spoofing a Jerry Springer Show-style trashy talk show a decade past its cultural expiration date! Yet the cast and crew emerged from this minefield of hackery with a show that was a delight from start to finish. It wasn’t all gut-busting but the funny stuff was fall-down, call-up-a-friend, quote-extensively-on-the-internet-for-years hilarious.

In last week’s episode we learned that Milton Greene, a bleeding-heart Liberal college professor played by guest star Alan Alda, is Jack's real father. Milton is delighted to discover is his son, in no small part because he desperately needs a kidney. Jack is reluctant is reluctant to give up his kidney and has mixed feelings about his father living to complete his three-volume biography of Jimmy Carter.

So he pays a visit to Dr. Leo Spaceman, who isn’t entirely sure whether he’s supposed to stick Milton's kidney into Jack or Jack's kidney into Milton’s. He also seems mighty confused as to what all the crazy medical mumbo-jumbo in his charts means. It’s always a pleasure to see more Dr. Spaceman.

Meanwhile (oh meanwhile, king of the segues. Where would I be without you? Me not know. Writing break down into no-goodness) Jenna is invited onto a trashy talk show to dispense relationship advice based on the exploding popularity of her “That’s a Dealbreaker, ladies!” sketch.


Jenna smartly brings along Liz as a crutch. Jenna is flummoxed by the studio audience's very first question but Liz leaps to her defense and issues a machine-gun series of answers in the form of catchphrases (“That’s a dealbreaker, ladies!” primarily but also “Shut it down!” and least successfully “Ro-bot warning!”). Tina Fey delivered a virtuoso performance in this scene, instantly honing in on the fatal flaw in every relationship and obliterating it with highly quotable sass. Liz’s straight-talking, no-nonsense, common-sense approach to relationships wins her a book deal (not unlike Fey, who made headlines scoring a six million dollar book deal for a collection of comic essays she threatens will be in the vein of Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck), and, more excitingly, a trip to a sit-down Quizno’s.

In a b or c story, Tracy is reluctant to go back to his old high school and deliver a speech because he dropped out in shame after refusing to dissect a frog. This was the weakest of the various threads despite the revelation that Kenneth’s high school science class doubled as bible study. But it more than justified its existence with a glorious, glorious speech in which Tracy told the students to accept themselves for who they are, even the gay kid, and promised them that they would all, each and every last one of them, someday become President.


But the meat of the episode was Jack’s brilliant brainstorm that he didn’t need to give his dad his kidney when he could call in all his favors at once and pull off the very first all-star charity benefit song for a single man. Jack ingeniously reasoned that since Farm Aid didn’t solve the farming crisis and We Are The World failed to solve hunger in Africa rock stars should finally put their voices and power to use in service of a goal they could actually achieve: getting a kidney for Milton Greene.

Pretty much every element of this subplot was genius, especially the part where Mary J. Blige began talking very earnestly about how the Mary J. Blige Foundation had spent ten years looking for the Loch Ness monster. I could quote particularly hilarious lyrics but you can read the complete lyrics here.


Earlier in the episode Jack casually tells Liz she should start thinking about what she’ll do after the show, since it’ll probably last another two years tops. That made me think: do you think 30 Rock will make it beyond five years? I hope so but I also thought this was probably the weakest of the show’s three seasons. It was still fucking hilarious but it’s set the bar awfully high.

Grade: A-

Stray Observations—

Two of my favorite parts of the songs—the revelation that only Sheryl Crow was getting paid and that only three of the singers were drunk


—Elvis Costello: excellent comic timing, both in his songs and in his various television and film appearances (almost always as himself)

—“Oh my, that’s very urban.”

—According to Liz, bisexuality is “just just something they invented in the 90s to sell hair product.”


—“I have a wolfdog, two bad knees. And a gun. That I lost.”

—“In layman’s terms, what do you think that means?”

—I liked Jack referring to that unfortunate weather business in New Orleans as “Rainstorm Katrina”.


—"What do you think this is, Wings?"

—“I’m talking specifically to you, gay kid!”

—Adam Levine’s impromptu Borat impersonation—funny

—I thought this was another example of 30 Rock and The Office complementing each other nicely. The Office went for pathos and emotion while 30 Rock delivered yuks aplenty.


—It's been a pleasure talking about 30 Rock and The Office with you guys. Parting is such sweet sorrow. I look forward to doing it all over again in a couple of months.

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