In my post for 30 Rock last week I criticized the show for gushing over the cult of Oprah instead of giving her an interesting character to play. Tonight's episode was once again chockablock with star-power. In a real coup for the show it totally snagged a guest appearance from a mega-star: the guy who played Mack on Night Court. Oh, and also Jennifer Aniston. Yes, tonight witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime event: a reunion of friends–from Night Court!
In tonight's episode 30 Rock was haunted by the ghosts of NBC hits past: Jennifer Aniston from that show with the friends being friendly and half of the cast of Night Court. Encouragingly, the show gave Aniston a firecracker of a character to play: a loopy live wire who functions as a smart, subversive parody of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Like a prototypical MPDG, Aniston character is a zany free spirit who shakes up the lives of everyone she meets, oozes sex and spunk and turns the life of a serious, business-minded, mildly depressed square, in this case our old friend Jack Donaghy, upside down with her irrepressible antics.
Oh, also Aniston's character is fucking insane. And more than a little bit evil. She's a Chicago chum of Jenna and Liz, though she seems like the sort of friend so crazy and exhausting and poisonously narcissistic that she makes even her ostensible friends wonder why they tolerate her. It's telling that even Jenna, the show's gold standard for self-absorption and flightiness, finds her hopelessly ditsy and infuriating.
It's easy to see what Jack sees in Aniston's madwoman: the promise and deliverance, of lots and lots and lots of hot crazy-person sex. Jack is powerless to resist her nubile charms and propensity for popping up unexpectedly in French Maid costumes. Jack may have a formidable mind and an impressive cookie-jar collection (or least he had an impressive cookie jar collection) but in situations like these the penis generally has veto power of the brain. In this case the mind says, "No, no, no" while the junior executive says, "Yes, yes, yes." Incidentally, all of my favorite Jennifer Aniston performances involve her wearing sexy maid costumes: first Friends With Money and now this. What a strange coincidence.
While Jack struggles and fails to resist Aniston's charm and need to put him in hilariously ridiculous hats–I laughed out loud at the first sight of sober old Jack wearing an Aniston-designed Mad Hatter chapeau–Kenneth the Page chafes at the new uniforms the NBC pages are forced to wear. Tracy Jordan feels his pain and decides to fulfill Kenneth's biggest dream: to finally experience the show-closing wedding the sinister suits at NBC cruelly robbed audiences of when it nixed a tenth season for Night Court. "A court? At night? I'm laughing already!" Tracy enthuses hilariously.
Tracy reunites at least some of the cast of Night Court–namely Harry Anderson, Markie Post and the guy who played Mack–and convinces them to stage a climactic wedding solely for Kenneth's enjoyment and edification. It's a testament to John Larroquette that he somehow managed to dominate the show even in his absence.
Jenna, meanwhile, learns of this impromptu, delightfully insane Night Court reunion and is apoplectic over not being invited to reprise her role as a "were-lawyer" whose presence on Night Court marked the moment it officially jumped the shark. Has 30 Rock gone monster-crazy? Between the cultural phenomenon that is "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah", Tracy's monster claw and now Jenna's turn as the world's first were-lawyer 30 Rock is veering into Munsters/Addams Family territory. I found it amusing that 30 Rock has devoted far more time and energy to Tracy staging a fake Night Court episode than to the gang at 30 Rock writing and performing real episodes of The Girly Show With Tracy Jordan.
Is that show even on the air anymore? Tonight's episode of 30 Rock was kooky, ooky and over-the-top and I loved every minute of it. I caught some flack for under-rating last week's episode but I think it's a measure of how deep and consistently funny 30 Rock is that even a solid-but-unexceptional episode has at least fifteen or twenty quotable lines.
Grade: A –"It's like an owl not wearing a graduation cap: heartbreaking!" –"This is objectively awesome!" –"a small but prestigious clowning academy" –Was anyone else disconcertingly turned on by the prospect of a Jack, Liz and Jennifer Aniston threesome? It's like my fan fiction come to life! –I loved that Jack was at a fundraiser for a fundraising academy –Boy, that Harry Anderson hasn't aged very well –Tonight we witnessed the battle of the NBC all-star cleavage: Aniston versus Post. Who do you think emerged victorious, other than the audience? –Aw man did I love the hats Aniston designed –Poor Scottie Pippen. He never knew what hit him. –Speaking of Manic Pixie Dream Girls, a phrase/concept I wholly intend to beat into the ground (look for the upcoming MPDG installment of Direct-To-DVD Purgatory!), someone has registered the manicpixiedreamgirl.com . How fucking crazy is that? Tis a strange and beautiful world indeed. –I'm anticipating a lot of Jennifer Aniston hate in the comments though I very much enjoyed her performance tonight. Maybe it wasn't Greenzo-level awesome but it was pretty sweet all the same.