B+

30 Rock: "Argus"

Writing about 30 Rock has gotten a whole lot easier and less painful since I started adjusting my expectations accordingly. I’ve found that it makes more sense to appreciate 30 Rock for what it is rather than what I’d like it to be, namely the laugh-out loud masterpiece of its first and second year.

Tonight’s episode was very funny even if it regularly erred on the side of broadness. I found myself chuckling at certain gags I found fairly stupid and goofy, like Jack going through all the stages of grief in slow motion in less than a minute and Tracy threatening to show Liz the back of his hand. Except instead of slapping her he displayed a little post-it note asking her to be nice to him.

Yes, “Argus” was all kinds of silly but in a very winning way. For example, Jack learned tonight that his mentor Don Geiss had left him a peacock, or as Kenneth memorably dubbed it, a “swamp eagle”, in his will. That would be ridiculous enough even if Jack didn’t become convinced that the peacock was inhabited by the soul of his late friend. It was a patently ridiculous notion but Alec Baldwin is such a superlative actor and his relationship with Don Geiss so richly fleshed-out that it was actually strangely poignant that Jack thought an ornery old executive with both a secret Canadian and a secret attic family, was reincarnated in the body of a flamboyantly colored bird.

Remarkably, the Don Geiss-as-peacock subplot wasn’t even the wackiest of the evening. No, that dubious honor belonged to a thread about Jenna falling in love with her dream man: a Jenna impersonator played by Will Forte. Like Will Ferrell before him (dude, they even have the same initials), Forte throws himself into playing bizarre characters with almost scary conviction: there's no distance or irony. Tonight was no exception so there was something at once funny and deeply unnerving about the idea of Jenna making out with her exact double. Only, you know, with a penis and more pronounced Adam’s Apple.

As Liz mentioned, it was only fitting that a woman ruled by insane narcissism and a bottomless, unquenchable need for validation and approval would be attracted to someone who both worshiped her and wanted to be her. Also, how fucking creepy was that concluding duet between Forte and Jenna? I can’t say it was particularly funny but it did leave an indelible impression.

In the show’s funniest running gag Pete decides to reinvent himself as a dashing, mysterious, inexplicably Indiana Jones-like character nicknamed “Dallas”. He didn’t have much screentime but everytime Dallas made his presence felt it cracked me up. Meanwhile, Tracy throws one of his signature temper tantrums when he learns that Grizz intends to make Dot.com his best man instead of Tracy. It was great to see Grizz and Dot.com have something to do and I liked the callback to Grizz’s ill-fated sexual relationship with Liz Lemon.

I quite enjoyed “Argus”. It was entertaining, funny and had some killer one-liners from a cast who knows how to make the most of every line. At this point, that’s all I’m really looking for from a show that might not live up to its glory days but is still a whole lot of fun. And if it was short on subplots involving Liz and the writers, I did not mind.

Stray Observations—

“What if he's in a secret back room doing pot?”

Filed Under: TV, 30 Rock

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