It is a testament to how far 30 Rock has come in a short amount of time that people don't really associate it with Saturday Night Live anymore. Part of that has to do with quality and tone. 30 Rock is whip-smart (what other network sitcom sends viewers racing to Dictionary.com to look up words like "alopecia"?), lightning-fast and filled with hilarious, unforgettable characters the public loves and can't get enough of. To put it charitably, the current incarnation of Saturday Night Live is not, and I say that as a hardcore, life-long SNL apologist. On a related note look for my forthcoming Saturday Night Live: Season Two TV Club Classic posts beginning tomorrow. But it doesn't hurt that the average episode of 30 Rock isn't particularly interested in the inner workings of an SNL-like show or what ends up on the air. Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip treated the making of a live sketch comedy show as a matter of vital national importance. The making of The Girly Show, in sharp contrast, doesn't even seem to matter to the people who write and star in it.
Tonight's typically kick-ass episode was all about conflict. In a matter of national, if not international importance, the Toofer-Frank rivalry finally exploded. Two of the show's more underrated and overlooked supporting characters got a chance to shine as they took to adopting each other's look and affectations as a form of thinly veiled class warfare. Frank has always been both a funny and a funny-looking character (his appearance is comical to me), with Judah Friedlander augmenting his already goofish and cartoony face with ironic flourishes like zany trucker hats and coke-bottle glasses. Frank is pretty much a walking sight gag so it was a brilliant bit of physical comedy for slight, prissy blue blood Toofer to adopt his geek-chic look as a misguided act of aggression.
Jenna, meanwhile, brattishly over-reacts to Liz Lemon's pampering of Tracy Jordan by throwing a series of diva fits and acquiring the entourage she so richly deserves, namely a battalion of bitchy queens slinging one-liners and insults like Chinese throwing stars. Meanwhile the star-crossed romance between arch-conservative Jack Donaghy and his Liberal paramour has finally gone public. Cajun-style. The show ended with Donaghy boldly admitting his affair with a lefty vixen in front of his professional colleagues, which sets off a chain reaction of sordid confessions, from "I donate money to NPR" to "I'm black" before finally ending with "I murdered my wife", a killer end-line (in more ways than one) that would be a beautiful way to end this consistently genius half-season of televisual glory. Seeing 30 Rock shut down after just nine episodes is like baseball going on strike when your favorite team is on the verge of finally winning the pennant. Then again I have total faith that the 30 Rock gang will find an equally brilliant way to end next week's final new episode (cue the mournful cries of a thousand widows weeping). Goddamn I'm gonna miss this show when it's gone.
Grade: A Stray Observations: -"Lemon out" -This was quite the gentleman's episode, what with the "Gentleman's lunch" and "The Gentleman's Barge" -"This corporation has a very strict bros before hos policy." -"Try not to dress like a small town lesbian" -Ron Weiner, who wrote this episode has a spectacular track record: from Weird Al's underrated and surprisingly clever kid's show to Newsradio, Futurama and of course Arrested Development. I guess if you grow up with a last name like Weiner you either have to be really funny or built like Tiny "Zeus" Lister -"Where are the French fries I did not ask for?" -Someone on the 30 Rock staff has to be a big hip hop head: it's got some of the most surprisingly smart, informed hip hop references around, including this week's revelation that Tracy Jordan wanted to be known as Wise Greasy Bastard (am I the only one who thinks Ghostface Killah and Tracy Jordan are alternate universe twins or something)? -"Would you call what we did last night sex?" -I love that Tracy's kids consider him the World's 4th Best dad -"Maybe I should just give up and try this crystal meth I hear so much about" -"Banter!" -"You are the most beautiful woman in the room right now." -"Tell me a painful story. About your teenaged years." -I also love that Tracy named one of his sons George Foreman -"You're jealous of babies with soft skin" -"Not in front of the gays" -"Gentlemen. Token ladies" -"Let's watch this instead of working." -I hope they bring back Jenna's entourage. They were kinda awesome. -Josh has a faux-hawk–what a hipster douchebag. I bet he lives in Williamsburg and reads the A.V Club.