I’m really enjoying this season of 30 Rock, and I hope it continues to serve as a rebuke to television critics who assume that a few bad episodes are a death knell for a series. While I admittedly thought last season was a down year, the carping over the supposed awfulness of 30 Rock was supremely annoying. This is a comedy created by, written by and starring some very talented comedians. It might not always warm your heart but it will make you laugh if you let it. Sometimes, especially with comedy, whether or not you like something is at some level a decision on your part. If you decide that a show is “past its prime” or “on the downslide” or whatever terminology you want to use, it can easily become a decision which reinforces itself.
This habit of exaggerating a show’s demise would be less annoying if it were clear that quality was recognized and rewarded by the networks themselves. Unfortunately, this is far from the case. And when “(Bleep) My Dad Says”, which is so awful critics won’t even write about it, outdraws 30 Rock, the over-parsing of a truly funny show can become problematic and result in more shows like “(Bleep)”.
Anyway, what worked and what didn’t in “Let’s Stay Together”? I enjoyed Jack in professional-bull-shitter mode, especially his explanations, one to Liz about the dangers of vertical integration, and the other to Congress about how being against it would kill the American farmer. I liked Rob Reiner playing “himself” as a Congressman, especially his “rhubarb rhubarb” bit (it’s what extras in crowd scenes are supposed to say.) Having Reiner play himself made it sort of odd that Queen Latifah was playing a character, and her one-note joke was funny the first time, but less so during her visit to NBC. A lot of that NBC visit was problematic, especially the obvious set up with the different recycling bins for colored and white paper, although Tracy reading the stage directions from his prepared script was a good gag, if an old one.
I like that the jokes on Liz are becoming more about her as a boss than as a sad-sack single woman. The signs on her door were just the right kind of office hi-jinks. The show’s decision to have Liz in an off-screen stable relationship is paying huge dividends by refocusing the show’s humor. I love whenever the show lambastes NBC, and tonight was full of that kind of humor. The page-candidate’s parody of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” had a great capper with “Outsourced is the new Friends!” * And it’s about time someone in a public forum gave the peacock crap for cancelling Law and Order. Loved Tracy’s plaintive: “It was a tentpole!”
In case you didn’t recognize him, the black actor in Dot Com’s re-imagined sitcom was none other than John Amos, who played the father on Good Times (and Admiral Fitzwallace on The West Wing.) Made the capper that much funnier.
*A side note here on Outsourced, since it’s not worth its own post. Did anyone else notice that the new promos awkwardly edited out the quotes about the show being so great? Yeah, it turned out that those were actually quotes from NBC’s PR department, they couldn’t really find much in the press to use. Also, it really, really sucks that Outsourced is higher-rated than Community, because it’s just based on timeslot. If you switched the start-times you would almost certainly switch the ratings. Outsourced still loses a lot of the audience of The Office, NBC’s highest-rated comedy. If all this leads to Parks and Recreation coming back as a replacement for Community instead of Outsourced, you may not be hearing from me for awhile, until I earn computer privileges in the state prison I will be sent to.