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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

30 Rock: “My Whole Life Is Thunder”

Illustration for article titled 30 Rock: “My Whole Life Is Thunder”
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Last week, there were a few debates in the comments about whether or not Jenna should have been invited to Liz’s wedding. I can see both sides of the argument. Jenna is Liz’s best friend (or, more specifically, her closest female friend; some were quick to point out that Jack fits the best friend role better, and they have a healthier friendship, and I agree), so it was a little odd that Jenna was completely excluded from the entire wedding. However, I do think that including Jenna would’ve shifted the storyline to be more about Jenna’s anger/jealousy and would’ve taken the focus away from Liz’s inner conflict. I love Jenna, and she’s a character that consistently cracks me up, especially the more over-the-top she gets, but her personality is so large and demanding that once in a while, it’s necessary for her to step aside from an important plot in order to let it fully resonate. Plus, it means that this week we get an episode where Jenna’s craziness needs to be front and center, and it was definitely worth the wait.

“My Whole Life Is Thunder” picks up shortly after Liz’s wedding as she’s announcing to the TGS family that she’s now a married woman. Predictably, Jenna doesn’t take the news too well. Not only is Jenna upset that she wasn’t invited, but she also reveals that she was planning to have a surprise wedding that day, and now, Liz has ruined it. When Jenna learns that Liz has won an award—for being a woman under 80-years-old who isn’t Betty White—her anger only escalates. Liz’s successes, both in her personal life and her career, threaten to disrupt the power balance in their friendship. Jenna believes that she is the one who is supposed to have the dream wedding, and she is the one who is supposed to win awards while Liz continues to date a string of losers and go unnoticed for any of her work. Liz’s hardships boost Jenna’s self-esteem, so if things are going well for Liz, Jenna’s self-perception is warped. The rivalry that exists between Jenna and Liz is nothing new (and really it’s just an extension of the rivalry that exists between Jenna and every other person in the world). Neither is Jenna’s habit of overdramatically going off the deep end to gain a little attention, but both are fun to watch here.

To try and fix things, Liz invites Jenna to accompany her to the award show. It’s the opportune time for Jenna to seek revenge, and it’s clear she’s going to, especially as she turns to the camera and sings “Secret plan / Revenge on my mind.” The award show (being broadcast on the Lifetime website, naturally) is funny in and of itself, and I always think that 30 Rock is one of the few shows that can cleverly get way with joking about stereotypical female behaviors, such as everyone rushing to the bathroom at the same time or being unable to work the projector, without getting offensive. But what really sells it is Jenna’s revenge plan to have her surprise wedding while Liz is accepting the award. Liz is actually one step ahead and rigs the lighting, scaring Jenna from carrying out the plan. Jane Krakowski, as it must be said again and again, is flawless throughout the entire episode. Her revenge song, her one-liners (“You had me at Hayden Panettiere is dead!”), her hilariously horrifying and hunched-over exit, her reconciliation with Liz, and everything in between had me laughing from beginning to end. Honestly, I think Jane Krakowski should win an award solely for the way she pronounces “camera.”

“My While Life Is Thunder” had two other funny yet poignant stories. Kenneth’s anger at Liz for firing Hazel (which also resulted in their break-up) has resulted in him questioning his television-obsessed lifestyle. Kenneth loves television because nothing changes, and people don’t leave, so when this happens in his real life, it’s a significant bummer. To cheer him up, Tracy enlists the help of Florence Henderson, but it quickly backfires when Kenneth realizes she’s the opposite of her Brady Brunch character. I like this storyline because it works with Kenneth’s childlike naiveté, but it’s also something that rings true, especially considering how much stock we tend to put into fictional characters. It reminds me of the outrage on the Internet a few weeks ago when people felt crushed when Melissa Joan Hart’s political beliefs were the opposite of what they’d assume Clarissa Darling’s would be. Of course, 30 Rock does this to the extreme—Florence Henderson is an alcoholic who confuses Kenneth and Tracy with “the perverts who want to go to town on each other while I make a pie”—but I still felt a pang of sadness for Kenneth. I really liked the ending as well, with Kenneth deciding his life was good enough that he didn’t need it to be like television.

The second story involved Jack’s mother, Colleen, coming to visit for Christmas. At first, it’s the same as every other Jack and Colleen storyline where they argue and she constantly puts him down, but it soon becomes more. In a twist that I didn’t see coming until the exact moment before, Colleen dies of a heart attack—right after telling Jack that she just wants him to be happy, a statement that he takes as “one last twist of the knife.” The pathos wasn’t overdone, and 30 Rock didn’t let this become a typical death episode (in the same way it didn’t let “Mazel Tov, Dummies!” become a typical wedding episode). I thought Jenna’s surprise wedding was a nice way to bring together the two stories and a way to maintain levity throughout the funeral—though an appearance from Kermit also helped.

Stray observations:

  • Bitch Hunter made a return tonight in an exceptionally clever gag about the ads that pop up during television shows.
  • Tracy believes that “Television is the most effective portal for poltergeists.”
  • I really enjoyed Rebecca Mader’s appearance as well as Kenneth, once again, wailing to Jacob.
  • Actually, 30 Rock is really killing it with all of their guest stars this season.
  • The “characters are stuck in an elevator” trope is one of my favorite overdone sitcom tropes to make fun of, so I’m glad Tracy went that route.
  • This was the last new episode of the year, so I’ll see you all in 2013 for the final stretch. We’re getting so close to the end, and it’s starting to hurt.