My friend Claire Zulkey recently commented how casually satirical 30 Rock can be, not in a "Aren't we Important Artists who should be festooned with awards for our Bravery in Addressing Important Issues" Aaron Sorkin kind of way, but in more of a slyly subversive, off-handed fashion. Just look at tonight's episode. What was it ultimately about? It dealt with terrorism, racial profiling, and racism in Liz Lemon story, the cultural divide and inter-party canoodling in Jack Donaghy's plot, and class and money in Kenneth The Page's C-story.
In tonight's episode, Jack Donaghy hooks up with a mystery woman played by special guest Edie Falco at a Republican bash and is horrified and a little turned on to learn that she's a Democratic Congresswoman who was shot in the face by a dog and given a new, more attractive face through reconstructive surgery. "I thought you made love like an ugly girl!" Donaghy broods in one of the episode's many quotable lines. Good old Elizabeth Lemon, meanwhile, similarly finds herself tempted by the seductive allure of law and order when she begins to suspect that a shadowy neighbor played by all-purpose ethnic Fred Armisen may be a terrorist.
In Kenneth The Page's obligatory C-story, everybody's favorite dumb bumpkin with great skin and soft hands agrees to serve as the sadistic comedy writer's prank monkey in order to raise enough money to pay for Donaghy's $2500 pants.
I've complained before about characters in 30 Rock breaking the fourth wall and talking to the camera to spoof product placement, but I must admit I was a little won over by that bit this evening. Product placement has become so ubiquitous that we barely even notice it anymore. It's attached itself parasitically to our popular culture and is corrupting it from the inside. It's so insidious, ugly, and poisonous that maybe a show like 30 Rock has to scream just to make itself heard above the deafening din of commercial over-saturation. Incidentally this paragraph's knee-jerk anti-advertising sentiments are brought to you by Orange Krush. Orange Krush: Catch The Wave of Refreshment All Summer Long.
Tonight's episode addressed all kind of important issues without ever sacrificing the funny. 30 Rock is a slave to the funny, but it still managed to make penetrating satirical points about the commercialization of culture, about fear and racism, about white liberal guilt, and our fractured political climate without ever feeling preachy or didactic. 30 Rock is firing on all cylinders these days, which makes it all the more unfortunate that what looks like it could very easily be an MVP, championship season is going to be cut short by this strike. Grade: A Stray Observations- -I could watch an entire television show that consisted of nothing but Tracy Morgan talking to a pigeon. -Guest stars Fred Armisen and Kristin Wiig are two people I consider funny despite the fact that 80% of what I've seen them in has been awful (that includes Armisen in The Ex and Deck The Halls). That's especially true of Wiig's recurring characters on SNL, who always send me scurrying for the remote. -In every episode we learn something new. Here we learned that the hair is the suit of the head. -Jack Donaghy sings! -I love that NBC is a sub-division of the Sheinhardt Wig Company. -Awesome use of both the split screen and Tracy Jordan's Rerun dance in the cold open.