In my last 30 Rock TV Club entry I mentioned that the show sometimes walks a fine line between exploiting hackneyed old sitcom clichés and sending them up. Accordingly, tonight’s episode dug up a hoary old trope and gleaned all sorts of cheeky meta-humor of it; in a plot device at least as old as the heyday of Edmond Rostand, Kenneth became enamored of a foxy blind woman but was far too tongue-tied to say anything to her. Tracy leaped into the fold by playing Cyrano De Bergerac to his mild-mannered chum, wooing her with the kind of nasal, high-pitched girly voice black comedians often use to ridicule the terminal uptightness of Caucasian-Americans.
Tracy memorably refers to Kenneth’s crush as a “Sexy Ms. Magoo”. One of my favorite Amazon features compiles “statistically unlikely phrases”. I’m guessing “Sexy Ms. Magoo” would probably rank pretty high on that list. Yes, love was in the air tonight, as Kenneth, good old Liz Lemon and Jumping Jack Donaghy all dealt with romantic travails.
Jack’s romance with a sexy nurse played by Salma Hayek hit a speed bump in the form of her ferocious Catholicism. Hayek wants to spend St. Valentine’s Day at Church praying to Jeebus while Jack wants them to share a much more satisfying and sublime spiritual experience: eating a thousand-dollar desert at a fancy restaurant.
Meanwhile, Liz and a sexy new doctor beau played by noted hunktor Jon Hamm of The Day The Earth Stood Still fame (see, I can crassly sexualize both genders) have a comically disastrous first date on Valentine’s Day. Hamm’s Monty Python loving doctor initially seemed too good to be true. When Liz shows Jack a picture of him he guesses that he might just be a “Bundyesque serial killer” (Bundy is the gold standard of handsome/Republican serial killers) but tonight we learned that Hamm is imperfect enough to be true. His teenaged daughter is a lush, a pyromaniac and at least mildly psychotic, his mother is actually his grandmother and he has enough emotional and familial baggage to put good old Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy to shame.
Hamm’s sexy doctor is at an age where the slow, subtle dance of courtship gets tossed aside in favor of the pragmatic, sometimes messy business of fusing two fucked-up, deeply dysfunctional lives together. So the telegenic twosome decide to skip directly from date #1 to date #20 or so. Earlier in the episode Hamm accidentally catches a glimpse of Liz on the toilet. Thankfully they’re able to overcome that trauma. Nothing kills romance and mystery quite like seeing a loved one on the crapper. I don’t care how open and free and liberated you might fancy yourself: bathroom doors exists for a reason. A very, very good reason.
Jack and sexy nurse lady’s relationship experiences some Valentine’s Day turbulence as well when Hayek realizes that Jack is something far worse than “one of those convenient Catholics who only goes to church every Sunday”. Jack worships at the Church of the Almighty dollar and recognizes no deity beyond Jack Welch and Don Geiss. When pushed into a confession booth he proceeds to deliver a ferocious verbal smackdown to Jesus or at least his Harvard-trained Earthly emissary.
As Meat Loaf unfortgettably sang in his hit song, “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)”, two out of three ain’t bad. Liz and Jack both enjoyed happy endings, though Jack required the heavenly intervention of the McDonald’s corporation (product placement or huge gift to Ronald & company), but Kenneth struck out once his blind would-be paramour felt his face and beat a hasty retreat. I probably would have liked that gag a lot more if I hadn’t just seen it in Spring Breakdown, the dreadful Sundance vehicle for onetime 30 Rock “strategic guest star” (a virtual McFlurry to the first person who correctly identifies the origins of that pop-culture reference) Rachel Dratch.
Tonight’s 30 Rock was firing on all cylinders. I especially liked the way Jack and Liz’s storylines converged at the end. In addition to chuckles by the barrelful 30 Rock sometimes boasts some fairly elegant plotting.
—“Let a McFlury be what it is: the world’s greatest desert.”
—“I wouldn’t have this job if it weren’t for the mouth on my back.”
—“I was just funning.”
—Hey, that scarf is fun!
—“NBC, blah blah blah!”
—“My instincts have never let me down. Except for looking at that eclipse.”
—“The patron Saint of judgmental statues.”
—Alec Baldwin is God. Or at least more Godlier than fucking Eric Clapton
—Being a consummate method actor, Baldwin appears to have eaten several thousand of those thousand-dollar deserts in preparation for this episode. All funning aside, there's something strangely satisfying about ridiculously attractive people letting themselves go a little. It makes them seem a little more human and gives us common folks a little more hope (note to self: enroll Jon Hamm in the "Cheesecake of the Month Club" ASAP)
—Is it just me or was Tracy a little Magical Negro-y on tonight’s 30 Rock, what with all his selfless helping of hapless super-crackers?