When Liz's on-again, off-again boyfriend The Beeper King was busted in a Dateline "To Catch A Predator" sting last season I was both amused and disappointed. I was amused because it was a pretty sweet gag and disappointed because I had come to love The Beeper King in all his jerky, obnoxious, douchebaggy glory. It seemed a goddamned shame to get rid of him for the sake of a gag, no matter how clever.
So I was geeked by the undisputed monarch of beeper sales' glorious return in tonight's episode: as a conquering hero even. After a shaky first episode back, 30 Rock was firing on all cylinders tonight. It was the kind of episode where explosive laughter drowns out equally funny gags a few second later. Beyond the triumphant return of The Beeper King tonight's episode featured guest star Tim Conway, yes Dorf himself, waxing rhapsodic about the guilt-free gay sex he used to enjoy at 30 Rock back in the day as an innocent example of two manly men "enjoy each other's strengths" and Alec Baldwin as Richard Nixon in purgatory. God, I love this show.
It's been a while since 30 Rock danced a merry little jig on Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip's grave but I can't be alone in seeing the plot thread where television legend and celebrity Republican Tim Conway quietly horrifies Kenneth The Page with wonderfully deadpan memories of his time at 30 Rock as a den of unimaginable sin as a savage parody of the notorious Studio 60 episode where we as a culture learned that Blacklisting was bad from co-star Eli "I'm Still Alive? Seriously? You Gotta Be Kidding Me?" Wallach. I loved the incredibly casual way Conway spoke lovingly of an era where no man was complete without "a monogrammed pocket for your opium pipe and switchblade" and fondly reminisced about what he and his colleagues called "The Jew Room." Who knew Dorf could be so dry and hilariously understated?
In the episode's second kick-ass thread Jack Donaghy tries to get Tracy Jordan to become the face of Black Republicanism, with a little help from Richard Nixon's ghost and the Committee To Reinvade Vietnam. Jack appeals unashamedly to Tracy's innate love of low taxes, more guns and a repeal of the death tax. Incidentally, whenever I encounter a baby I subject it to my exceedingly half-assed Nixon impersonation. It's a little known fact that babies all love Richard Nixon. If the voting age had been lowered to two or three months he'd still be in office today, despite having died fourteen years ago.
The episode's central plot found The Beeper/Rat King unexpectedly re-entering Liz Lemon's warped axis when he's hailed as the "Subway Hero" after an act of heroism inspired largely by his contempt for Derek Jeter. To Liz, The Beeper King is like a worn-out old slipper: so comfortable and familiar that he's hard to give up. He's a lovable, strangely irresistible asshole who can always be counted upon to say the right thing, then do the wrong thing. In this case he makes a speech playing smartly on Liz Lemon's heartstrings, then seriously contemplates literally throwing her under a train in a desperate attempt to get back his hero cred. In the upside-down world of 30 Rock that looks an awful lot like love. Or freezing to death. Or both. I for one sincerely hope that we haven't seen the last of the Beeper King. Long may he reign.
Grade: A Stray Observations– –Cool Republican celebrities: Oxymoron? –I love that Jack calls Chuck Norris "C-No". It's too bad a switch in dojos destroyed their special bond –"We're like Ross and Rachel only not gay" –How perfect is it that The Beeper King sings Sugar Ray in a shitty bar band? –It was great to see more Tracy and Jenna. They make me laugh, those two –I'm reading all six hundred riveting pages of Yes I Can for Silly Little Show-Biz Book Club so I got a kick out of Sammy Davis Jr. popping up in Tracy's fantasy. Now and forever: Sammy Davis Jr. = funny.