(For the next several days, some of our writers will be swapping duties on some of our most popular shows. Some of them will like what they see, but for different reasons. Some of them will have vastly different opinions from the regular reviewers. And some of them won't be all that different. It's Second Opinions Week at TV Club.)
I have no idea if the latest public electro-shock incident at a Pittsburgh Pirates game inspired the moment when a police officer desperately warns Liz, “Don’t think I won’t Tase you. I have OCD and love doing paperwork.” But amidst 30 minutes that satisfyingly teemed with guffaw-worthy gags and punchlines—and followed a lackluster Parks and Recreation and emotional Office sendoff—that spastic cop’s bit of walk-on dialogue elicited my haughtiest belly laugh of the episode. That’s even accounting for Margaret Cho’s deliriously hysterical guest part as Kim Jong-il, which somehow managed to both elevate her own well-crafted arsenal of ethnic caricatures and give Team America’s emasculated marionette of the North Korean dictator a run for its funny.
In general, “Everything Sunny All the Time Always” (a line cribbed from Cho’s shining moment as North Korea's gleefully optimistic meteorologist) was surprisingly audacious in its unwillingness to convey any serious respect for Jong-il as a threat to the American way, even if some of his policies share the vaguest DNA with Western liberal sentiments toward capitalism. It took a little while for the emotional center of my brain to put aside the fact that Jack remained calm enough throughout Avery’s kidnapping to walk Liz through her menial plastic-bag dilemma, or that Liz herself was too self-involved to express proper urgency about Jack’s slightly major international and personal quandary. But “Everything Sunny,” as is the case with 30 Rock in general, was all about the little narcissistic habitats theoretically sophisticated American urbanites cocoon themselves in, and how sensitive they are to the unspoken personal space within and around their clearly flagged domain. (Note the mustachioed doorman who reminds Liz that he has no obligation to placate her minor grievances when she’s not inside the building.)
The Jong-il storyline, and its actors’ contributions, were certainly adding their voices to the chorus of satirists who’ve reduced fanatical autocrats to raving, comically delusional individuals. But it was also an ingenious way of having us see our own culturally afforded system of beliefs and priorities in the context of something other than itself, and its many granular privileges. Hence, we have Liz bemoaning the fact that her real life outside of her work life doesn’t perfectly resemble the fictional life of a Diff’rent Strokes penthouse. But there’s also an ungrateful Tracy forcing half the staff to re-create the circumstances of a private joke that developed in his absence, 50 First Dates style (except with self-imposed exile standing in for trauma-induced amnesia). An absence he spent hiding out in Liz’ apartment. Which he wish-fulfilled into an African walkabout.
While not all of these threads come together with any real practical necessity, they do perform the very sitcom-y job of collectively underscoring a wacky humanity to it all. Whether it’s Jack finally perking up at the threat of Avery endorsing an end to Reagan doctrine, Liz discovering how little control one suddenly has the more creaturely cozy they get or Tracy recognizing that private jokes are just a metaphor for substantial friendship, all the major players in “Everything Sunny” see things from a more worldly view. Even if for Tracy, that world’s boundaries stretch from the camaraderie of three stooges on a dressing-room couch to a couple weeks crashing on Liz’s stain-free college futon.
• I really enjoyed last week’s episode as well, and was sad to see most of the supporting cast non-existent or on the margins. But hey, what are ya gonna do? Them's the ensemble breaks.
• Was I the only one bummed that Condoleezza’s cameo was ostensibly fully laid bare in the endless promos? I honestly could have done without that scene, but I guess if you’re brainstorming connections that could get Avery out of a jam, and can get Condi in for an afternoon, you lose any real creative say in the matter.
• “What are you doing? That’s his urine.”
• Boo on the somewhat too-pleased-with-itself Matt Damon joke.
• Am I the only one who will only ever think of Point Break when someone wears a Reagan mask? That was a funny bit though.
• Did we know Grizz’s name was Griswold?
• The talking bag. Totally saved that whole storyline. OMG.
• Speaking of which, “I’ll be here long after you're gone, the wind rustling against my
• And speaking of saving storylines, the Chinese delivery guy’s “Smooth move, Ferguson” at the very end was a perfect button.
• The Ghostbusters word-mash during the end-credits bit was funny, but the fact that Tracy’s character was named Levine…. Comedy. Gold.
• “I can’t draw hands.”