I have complained in the past about 30 Rock’s reliance upon flashy celebrity guest stars and also about this boil on my ankle. So I am pleased to report that I am loving the show’s last two flashy celebrity guest stars and I had that boil lanced before it got infected. Elizabeth Banks is just about perfect as the shark in a miniskirt who has won Jack Donaghy’s heart and inflamed his loins and Michael Sheen is hilarious as sort of a bizarro world Hugh Grant.
Last week we were introduced to Sheen’s Wesley Snipes when Liz Lemon ended up entering a strange number into her cell phone as “Future Husband” after getting fucked up on anesthetic during a trip at the dentist. Liz had no memory of meeting a gent she would deem her future spouse yet through sitcom-style trickery she was able to secure a date with Wesley, the mystery man in question.
In a brilliant subversion of romantic comedy conventions, the man of Liz’s destiny turns out to be the man of her nightmares and fate appears to be pushing together two people who could not conceivably be more wrong for one another. Though ideal in abstract, or while messed up on laughing gas, Wesley turns out to be a dreadful bore, a pasty-faced creep whose quasi-charming exterior masks the worst personality in the world.
Everything about him is slightly off, from his irritating British names for bikes (Foot cycle and Velocipede) to the condescending way he refers to God as a woman who wants him and Liz to be together. Liz and Wesley kept running into each other under seemingly random circumstances, which, true to form, he misinterprets as a sign from the heavens that they’re destined to be “settling soulmates”. God, I love that phrase.
Every part of this subplot was brilliant, from the simultaneously soul-crushing and weirdly homey future Wesley has mapped out for them (“Grow old with me, in separate bedrooms”) to his conception of their Notting Hill-like dynamic (“I’m British and charming and she has certain angles that work for her”) to his suggestion that marrying Liz will help him look less gay at work functions. I will miss Liz and Wesley's exquisitely awkward non-chemistry.
In a parallel plot, would-be corporate titan Jack is faced with the prospect of finding his settling soulmate professionally when his new bosses at Kabletown offer him a cushy life doing nothing for a company that doesn’t do much of anything at all. Jack’s professional midlife crisis is poignant as well as funny. I enjoyed the soul-shuddering disdain Jack injected into the phrase “Kabletown”, as if it pains him physically just to utter that horrible, horrible word.
In the weakest thread in tonight’s episode, Tracy faces a crisis of his own when his maid writes a tell-all book revealing that, contrary to his out-of-control playboy reputation, Tracy has never cheated on his wife. Tracy sets about correcting this grievous oversight with Jenna and then Liz but the whole plot felt like a Russian nesting doll with one big switcheroo (a guy getting in trouble for not cheating on his wife? That’s Episcopal-level crazy!) holding a bunch of smaller switcheroos (like when Tracy praises Liz for being a strong, smart independent woman like Hilary—from the Fresh Prince Of Bel Air) inside. I laughed at some of these supremely silly gags, like when Tracy referred to Little, Brown as a talent agency for black dwarves instead of a publisher but it felt a little cheap and easy, not unlike my mother.
All in all, though, it was a rock-solid episode even if the “Porn for women” bit at the end felt awfully hacktastic. I’d like to think 30 Rock has a slightly more nuanced take on the battle of the sexes but that gag felt awfully Cathy to me, not unlike how Liz’s food obsession struck the other Wesley Snipes.
—“I’m supposed to be drinking a soda right now”
—“The Earth into one of the top three planets in the Universe.”
—“It’s like being in a Cathy cartoon that just won’t end”
—“But then I realized it was just some old woman who lives in my building”
—“We brought good things to life and bad things to Chinese rivers”
—“Just like my favorite golfer O.J Simpson” (cue rimshot)
—“Jack, the Master-Baiter Donaghy” Hoo boy, they might just get a Peabody taken away for that line
—“Alexander wept, for there were no other worlds to conquer. Hans Gruber, Die Hard”
—“Gangway for the foot cycle!”
—I loved that Geiss was frozen like Han Solo in Empire Strikes Back
—“The marketing campaign aimed at making children afraid of the dark”
—Dr. Spaceman shilling for soda pop? Has the world gone mad?