30 Rock: "Mamma Mia"  
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30 Rock: "Mamma Mia"  

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30 Rock

"Mamma Mia"  

Season 3, Episode 21

Did anyone else notice that tonight’s episode featured both a variation on Flirting With Disaster’s plot—grown man goes looking for his real parents and runs into a few dead ends—and, if you factor in those obnoxious Night At The Museum 2: They Fucking Made a Sequel And It Will Outgross All Your Favorite Films Combined commercials, appearances from both the actor who played the seeker in search of his lost pops (Ben Stiller) and his actual father (Alan Alda)?

Tonight was so fucking meta it hurts. There were references to Mamma Mia! scattered throughout as well as a commercial, in Chicago at least, for the Mamma Mia DVD. As if that weren’t migraine-inducingly post-modern enough part of plot involved Jack trying to create tacky pre-fabricated catchphrases the show could then market mercilessly—in this case Jenna sassing, “That’s a Dealbreaker ladies!”—and plugs to visit NBC’s website to score “That’s A Dealbreaker, ladies!” screensavers.

I would have minded a lot more if the show hadn’t delivered, comically.  There were larfs aplenty, memorable lines up the wazoo, more Hornberger than you can shake a stick at and Lutz briefly redeeming a lifetime of loserdom by becoming a karate master, then immediately devolving back into the Lutz we’ve all come to pity.

In tonight’s episode, Jack decides to meet his long-lost real father and Liz is overjoyed when it turns out he’s going to pull a Mamma Mia!—bringing together three potential fathers under a false pretense so he can find out who his really daddy is. At the risk of outing myself as a heterosexual is that how the plot of Mamma Mia! played out?

"Mamma Mia" was all about fatherhood. In the B-story Tracy “discovers” that he is the “father” of a “son” who is clearly a half-assed con man roughly his own age. Hornberger and Liz prove themselves completely unable to discern the age of black men so they begin to wonder if maybe Tracy really is a doddering senior citizen who looks decades younger than he is due to decades of clean living. Mildly edgy observational humor or racism? I will let you, dear reader, be the judge.

Finally, Jenna attains the fame she’s been lunging for all her life when her “That’s a dealbreaker, ladies!” catchphrase takes off. Liz feels she’s being denied credit for a line she came up with so Jenna lets her share a Time Out New York cover shoot where she advises Liz to part her lips suggestively and emulate Lindsey Lohan and to never, under any circumstances, allow herself to be photographed with wacky props.

So it isn’t long before Liz is letting herself degraded for a shot at fame. Tonight was seriously zany—Liz was mugging with a rubber chicken while wearing Groucho glasses for crissakes and the fake-Tracy-son/Lutz karate fight veered into Scrubs/Family Guy territory—but again, I was too busy jotting down memorable lines and being entertained to mind.

And the casting of Alan Alda as Donaghy’s bastard was inspired, as was Jack’s mortification when his dad used a Yiddish word. One of us! One of us! There was so much I liked tonight, like Liz’s heavily Donkey Kong and Sims-influenced take on human behavior and Tracy’s very sweet response to being told that his fake son isn’t really his son.

More than anything tonight’s episode made me want to rent Mamma Mia!, see the hilarious new blockbuster Night At The Museum 2 and download a “That’s A Dealbreaker, ladies!” screensaver. Oh, but I am putty in NBC’s hands! And it turns out they’re going to be airing a second adaptation of Ron Howard’s 1989 laffer Parenthood. With apologies to Homer Simpson, Oh, television, will your golden age never end?

Grade: A-

Stray Observations—

 —“I want something really juicy to whisper to her on her deathbed.”

—"Like a dog in a sidecar when it comes loose from a motorcycle.”

—“I want you bastards to meet my bastard.”

—Liz’s perfect response to learning of Tracy’s illegitimate child: “Huh? Feigned surprise!”

—“I’m just practicing sitting.”

—“Why don’t I have any other friends?”

—“I’m so emotional I’ma gonna smash these barrels!”

—“Easter egg hunts that turn into knife-fights.”

—“I gave my gun to my pastor—you know, in case I get the old gloomies again.” Buscemi was killing it tonight. It's neat that he seems to be turning into a semi-regular

—If they ever made a live-action Simpsons movie Buscemi should play Moe.

—“The international film songsation!”

—“All I’m promising is a madcap musical romp-dot-dot-dot-fun!”

—Did you guys catch the latest Southland? Me neither. I will never forgive them for pulling E.R off the air too soon. It was just starting to find its groove.

—“I like it when you use your calm, reasonable dad voice.”

—“What 21 year old wraps up half a muffin?”

— I enjoyed Lutz shoving a handful of gummi worms in his mouth

—“I will not be spoken to this way. I’m a contest winner!”

—“Act like the chicken farted.”

—“Why would I lie about my age? I’m in the entertainment industry!”

—Wow. Dot.com is 18.

—“He reminded me of someone—John Travolta’s character in Grease. And also myself.”

—Here I wasted two months getting a yellow belt in Tae Kwan Do (my dad likes to point out that “yellow belt” is just two letters away from “yellow belly”) from B.K Yun’s Academy in a strip mall outside of Milwaukee when I could have attended The Tracy Jordan Institute for Black Karate.