The Jack Donaghy character on 30 Rock was apparently originally conceived as something of a hiss-worthy villain, a sort of corporate Generalissimo in an expensive suit but Alec Baldwin helped make him more of a cracked mentor, a fundamentally good man who just happens to be awfully in touch with his inner Gordon Gekko.
Part of what makes Donaghy such a strangely ingratiating figure, beyond the fact that he’s played by Alec Baldwin, is that he’s at heart a shameless romantic. He’s fallen in love over and over and over again on the show. There was his star-crossed love affair with a Liberal politician, his regrettable engagement to a fragile, scheming bird-boned creature and now his muy caliente romance with a sexy nurse played by Selma Hayek. Then again I think any character played by Hayek is automatically sexy. In Dogma she was a sexy former Muse. In Frida she was a sexy unibrow enthusiast. She could probably play a sexy executioner or CPA as well.
I am not a big fan of tried-and-true sitcom tropes but tonight’s 30 Rock featured a pair of groaningly familiar sitcom conventions. First, Jack Donaghy squared off against his exact double in his bid to win the heart of Hayek and her family. Yes, Jack Donaghy encountered his very own Mexican union equivalent in a super-gay Mexican soap actor whose unapologetic villainy turns Hayek’s beloved grandmother against him.
It was utterly shameless but I dug it anyway because, c’mon, Alec Baldwin with a ridiculous mustache as a fiendish arch-villain on Telemundo? That shit is inherently hilarious. It reminded me a lot of Conan O’Brien’s “Conando” sketches on Late Night With Conan O’Brien. Making fun of telenovas is awfully cheap but it’s also guffaw-inducing in the hands of ace chuckle merchants like Conesy and Alec Baldwin.
Love was in the air tonight as Donaghy continued to woo Hayek and good old Liz Lemon became unhealthily obsessed by a disconcertingly perfect new neighbor played by the only actor worthy of her: Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, whose retro matinee-idol good looks Liz perfectly/succinctly summarized when she said he looks like a comic pilot. Liz begins opening his mail in an attempt to find out relevant factoids about his interests and passions that she could use to make him fall in love with her.
It was the kind of hoary old show-biz trope I usually abhor but the show pulled it off with aplomb; it seemed to be winkingly spoofing these conventions even as it exploited them. Liz and the good doctor are so damned delightful that it’s hard not to root for them even if Liz’s antics increasingly border on deranged and criminal. It reminded me a little of the Onion article "Romantic-Comedy Behavior Gets Real-Life Man Arrested. Liz’s romantic comedy behavior could definitely get her arrested but no jury on earth would convict her.
Hamm wasn’t called upon to do much more than be handsome and play the straight man. He succeeded spectacularly on both counts. It’s as if the writers are tuned into the brainwaves of their fans and discerned the actor who would engender the greatest number of geekgasms if paired with our Liz Lemon. I’m talking of course about Peter Dinklage though Hamm isn’t bad either. Throw in Monty Python, cheese and Caddyshack and the brainbones of geeks throughout our great nation were exploding with joy. I’m super-straight and I’d switch for him. Incidentally have you guys all seen the Jon Hamm/Zack Galifinakis “Between Two Ferns” interview on funnyordie? That is like the most hilarious shit ever.
In a surprisingly funny C story Tracy decides to hold onto what’s left of his fading youth by becoming drinking buddies with a group of overgrown frat boy former investment bankers Jack hired as interns. Oh, and the climactic intercutting between Donaghy and his lady love and Hamm/Lemon giving it another go after an unfortunate, accidental Rohypnol incident was funny but also sweet and more than a little romantic. Roofies, telenovelas and wacky rom-com conventions: tonight’s stellar episode of 30 Rock made all these hackneyed tropes funny and fresh again. I will never get too old for this ship.
—“You know it lady Broseph”
—“Only the special tourists get to see Conan O’Brien without his wig.”
—“A yard like a lawn? Yes I have.”
—“As I said in my non-hit movie Cruise Boat, I am getting too old for this ship”
—“After we finish scratching off these lottery tickets let’s go to McDonalds and order only coffee.
—“Let’s put him back in his special kitchen cabinet”
—“We’re just playing a little game where he bites me.”
—Let’s close with pictures of beautiful Latin babies and the music of Tito Puente.
—Lemon and Don Draper feeding each other fondue: hot and funny. Literally