I’ve spent much of the past week watching 19 episodes of Andy Richter Controls The Universe for the DVD section of avclub.com. Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner was a writer/producer on the show and I singled out a sonorous voiced, impossibly handsome, effortlessly suave and very masculine looker played by James Patrick Stuart as a rough draft of Mad Men’s iconic Don Draper. Stuart’s got all the looks, charm and suaveness of Draper with none of the depth, smarts or torment. The running joke of Stuart’s character on Universe is that he’s so good looking that he lives by an entirely different set of rules than everyone else. Women throw themselves at him, he’s treated with kindness and generosity everywhere he goes and he gets to nap his charmed life away while God Herself smiles adoringly at Her most magnificent creation.
Then I thought to myself, “Eh, you’re kind of reaching there buddy.” Or not. In tonight’s episode the big joke is that the doctor character played by guest star Jon Hamm, AKA Don Draper, is that he’s so good looking that he lives by an entirely different set of rules than everyone else. Women throw themselves at him, he’s treated with kindness and generosity everywhere he goes and…you get the picture. I’m not saying 30 Rock is ripping off Andy Richter Controls The Universe but when you have a job like mine patterns, gags and ideas tend to repeat themselves with disconcerting frequency.
For Hamm, you see lives in “The Bubble”, a protective wall that protects the absurdly beautiful (and, one would imagine, the absurdly rich) from the insults and everyday humiliations of the ignorant, non-beautiful rabble. Jack Donaghy knows this firsthand as he used to live inside “The Bubble”. He shows Liz a picture of himself at twenty-five and she is suitably impressed. For Alec Baldwin at twenty-five wasn’t just handsome: he was downright beautiful, a walking God even. Liz’s reaction was a cartoon eye roll and sarcastic moan that felt to me like a subtle spoof of that horrible, mugging screaming recurring character Kristen Wiig plays on Saturday Night Live (I realize that doesn’t exactly narrow it down).
In the b-story Tracy has become so insanely rich off his pornographic video game that he has Jack and the Sheinhardt Wig Company over a barrel when it comes to renegotiating his new contract. When Jack blunders during the renegotiation pulls a Michael Scott and impulsively decides to quit, much to the irritation of his family, which has become spoiled by dad’s frequent absences, professional and otherwise. I could be wrong, but I think Tracy Jr. was once again played by pint-sized Role Models cut-up Bobb’e J. Thompson.
It somehow seems fitting that pretty much all of Jenna’s storylines revolve around her character being overshadowed by her castmates and not having anything to do. As you may have read in Page Six—of her publicist’s email—Jenna agrees to shave off her hair as part of a ridiculous publicity stunt but is once again upstaged by Tracy and his tomfoolery.
Hamm’s 30 Rock character initially seemed too good to be true but the show gradually revealed him to be imperfect and even fucked up enough to be plausible. Perhaps that’s why the Hamm-as-God’s-favorite plot rang a little contrived: if the world is his oyster then why does his insane family treat him so shabbily? The Hamm subplot was very funny and well-executed but for some inexplicable reason I felt like I’d seen it before. If only I could remember where.
—“For years I thought I spoke excellent French.”
—“I started to dream as Cranston.”
—I hope we haven’t seen the last of Cranston. He’s got pizzazz!
—“I didn’t like it outside the bubble. It was very ironic.”
—That photo is a tribute to my cubicle-mate Scott, who loves pugs and Alec Baldwin. I hope this makes up for the countless hours of irritation I've subjected you to.