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30 Rock: "Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning"

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Hola, 30 Rock fans,

I know it’s been long as a camel’s dong since I last rapped at ya (with apologies to Jim Anchower), but I just got back from Sundance and before that, my dog ate my DVR. I’m not entirely sure how that happened. I just know that it did. This morning I read that NBC was strongly considering replacing Keith Olbermann with Alec Baldwin. I don’t think there is a 30 Rock without Alec Baldwin. What do you guys think? Now, if I’d read that last year, I perhaps would have derived some comfort from the idea of 30 Rock quitting before it had devolved into something embarrassing and unworthy of its legacy or the tremendously gifted people in the cast and crew.


30 Rock has experienced a hell of a comeback this year, however, and the idea of it going off the air during its current sweet fucking groove makes me apoplectic with rage. Tonight’s episode, “Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning,” was characteristically strong. I’ve found 30 Rock’s show-biz satire a little fuzzy and safe in the past, but it absolutely nailed the noxious self-absorption of celebrity benefits tonight.


The show’s premise found Jack Donaghy trying to get a jump on the competition by making a benefit for any conceivable traumatic event. Jack was able to rope in plenty of talent for his one-size-fits-all tribute to those people who died in that thing, not to mention those other people who gave their lives to save them or at least Tweeted donations, including Robert De Niro, who seemed awfully traumatized by that horrible event that awakened the slumbering conscience of those people in that country.


“Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning” adroitly spoofed the grave self-seriousness and self-aggrandizement of celebrity benefits, that sense that the firefighters or soldiers or rescue workers might obnoxiously try to claim some credit for fighting some disasters, when we all know the real heroes are rich, famous people willing to devote several hours of their lives to making themselves look good in the eyes of a grateful public.

Liz, meanwhile, decides to exploit Tracy’s desire to clean up his always shaky public image/reputation by presenting himself as the perfect husband and employee on his wife’s reality show by forcing Tracy to actually live up to his words instead of merely mouthing noble platitudes, then doing that Tracy Jordan thing just as soon as the cameras stop rolling. In a bid to avoid taking responsibility for his actions and living his words, Tracy festooned himself in corporate logos that ostensibly make it prohibitively difficult, or expensive, to actually show him onscreen without clearing all sorts of shit legally. Last year, Tracy’s shtick veered unmistakably into leaden self-parody, but this season has tapped into a rich new vein of Tracy craziness. I have fallen in love with Tracy Jordan all over again.


In the C-story Lutz finally finds himself in the cat bird’s seat when his panicky co-workers all angle to catch a ride with him in case shit goes down. It was a pretty flimsy subplot, but it didn’t take up too much time, and the other stories were strong and funny enough that the show never dragged.

“Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning” found a fresh angle to attack celebrity self-righteousness and the mindless platitudes of self-righteous celebrities but it found a pretty obvious, barn-door-sized target when a cataclysmic event finally happened in a way that would bring shame, rather than glory, to the first folks to commemorate it with a benefit: a storm that ravaged Mel Gibson’s private island of vicious, misogynistic anti-Semitism. Even more disastrously, it threatened Gibson’s house guest, Jon Gosselin.


I fear for 30 Rock should Baldwin ever leave the show, but right now, I’m enjoying this fantastic ensemble and the show’s renewed vitality while I can. Who knows what kind of fucked-up shit might afflict our planet in the very near future? At least we can take comfort in the knowledge that celebrities will be there to help us deal with it, no matter what. As always, they are the real heroes.