Is it too easy to point out that the writers on 30 Rock aren’t doing themselves any favours by naming an episode of an uneven season quality-wise, ‘Nothing Left to Lose’? It is? All right.
Instead, let’s hand out this week’s awards…
LVP (Least Valuable Plotline): After a ring is pulled out of Tracy’s (Tracy Morgan) nose, he is able to smell for the first time since childhood. Naturally, Liz (Tina Fey) uses a hair product called “Midnight Symphony” (Tagline: “You are the conductor of your own proud African symphony”) that Tracy’s father used, and the scent causes Tracy to confuse Liz for his father. Suddenly, Tracy has found a replacement father figure in Liz Daddy-Liz, and Liz has found a way to manipulate Tracy into actually doing his job. With the whip of her hair and a “Hey, little buddy!”, Liz gets Tracy to pose for photo shoots on time and write sketches: “Open on Philadelphia 1776. John Adams… and Mitt Romney enter. Commentary!”
It’s discouraging that this plotline is being used again – not only was the “Tracy can be professional!” conceit pretty well explored last season when Tracy won an Oscar; but it’s also been done more substantially in the past, like in episode 3×20 “The Natural Order,” when it was used to explore preferential treatment and prejudice. Remember the good ol’ days, when 30 Rock strived for something a little more thoughtful? I could’ve gotten over the tired plot, however, if the jokes had been funny. But apart from a few good lines, they just fall flat – am I supposed to laugh when Tracy says that his dad didn’t come home after a trip to the store to buy “milk and heroin”? Although I must say, his Jimmy Fallon impression is pretty fantastic.
Most Sexist (Aw Hell, Who am I Kidding? Funniest) Dr. Spaceman Rejoinder: Liz wonders aloud how Tracy could’ve had the decoder ring stuck up his nose since the seventies, but Dr. Spaceman (Chris Parnell) will have none of that: “You know what else is from the seventies? Women staying quiet.” No matter what, 30 Rock can always count on Dr. Spaceman for a laugh, and this week is no exception.
Sexiest Secret Crush Revealed: Kenneth (Jack McBrayer), in his capacity as super-janitor, or “The Natural,” pulls out a little gem from Liz’s trash can – a sheet of paper repeatedly signed “Mrs. Elizabeth Lemon-Trebek.” Of course Liz’s secret love is that silver fox with the Mona Lisa smile and smug intelligence! I mean, can you blame her?
Saddest Character Regression: After reading his self-evaluation, Jack (Alec Baldwin) finds it unacceptable that Pete (Scott Adsit) hopes to be exactly the same in five years, and tries to force Pete into reclaiming his confidence. But since this is Pete he’s dealing with, trying to make a man out of him results in Pete losing all of his hair, submitting physically and sexually to a dummy, and getting mugged by two five-year olds in a trenchcoat. As Liz so succinctly explains, “yeah, he’s a mess.” I suppose it is a step forward that Pete has his own storyline, but this is all he gets? Think about his character arc this season – the only times he isn’t exposition guy are when he is the victim who either gets his whiskey stolen on his birthday or who ends up asphyxiated and confused on the floor of his office with his pants down. And when he finally gets his own story, he still gets victimized, and by a dummy no less! It’s almost cruel how Pete is being treated by the show (let alone how little quality screen time Scott Adsit is getting, who is still billed as a lead cast member).
Most Entertaining Insightful Self-Evaluations: The writers did give the audience a little gift this week, in the form of the staff of TGS’s self-evaluations scattered throughout the episode. Even Lutz (John Lutz) gets a couple funny moments. Lutz!
Lutz: “My greatest weakness is… chocolate”
Jenna (Jane Krakowski): “I caused that Italian cruise ship to crash.”
Liz: “Five years from now? I’d still like to be working for NBC, or whatever NBC is five years from now. A tee-shirt company probably?”
All right, now it’s your turn. Does this show still keep you laughing “like a couple of Jews watching The Daily Show”? Or do you expect more “Sorkin-esque repartee”? Sound off below!
30 Rock airs at 8:30pm EST, Thursdays on NBC.