Saturday, 23 April 2011

30 Rock - S5 E20 & 21 - 100th Episode, Parts 1 & 2

TGS celebrates it's hundredth episode with the specter of cancellation looming.

Spoilers after the jump.

If you're going to make a big deal of hitting your hundredth episode, don't spend an inordinate amount of time looking back, just try and keep moving forward. Left without their rehearsals, recordings or scripts, TGS (with Tracy Jordan) just goes with the flow once it comes, but this episode with its flashbacks (unlike the episode of Community preceding it, using actual archive footage) felt oddly over-matched by the enormity of the occasion. They had the right idea though; call backs, raised stakes, internal conflict, blockbuster cameos and Cerie spoke for the first time all year!

Getting a glimpse into the futures Jack and Liz would have had if their crossed paths had not been so prolonged was a great and appropriate point of emphasis. For Liz, she would have no show and presumably be a stay at home mom with New York Islander fan Dennis (Dean Winters making a triumphant return though looking more haggard than ever) Dennis is a comforting option for Liz because while he's certainly not the best thing for her, she is most certainly best for him although he had a funny way of showing. With that validation she's lacking in her existing personal and professional life, it can be easy to slip back into old patterns of behavior but thankfully for her, Dennis once again is dead-set on proving what a numskull he is, threatening the lives of everyone to fulfill his selfish desires.

For Jack it's a lot more complicated. Kabletown as highlighted earlier in the season is the not exactly the kind of company he has been plotting to rule all these years but now he's stuck because somewhere along the line he became invested in this frivolous showbiz world. In a way he's the opposite of Liz. His current role is one in which he often basks in the glow of supportive superiors and underlings. His alternate universe self on the other hand likely had to step all over people to get where he has ended up, owner of the Buffalo Bills (I want to see this AU show spun-off, stat!) and is still climbing. As his future self indicates, happiness is not necessarily borne from success. Unsurprisingly, Avery is part of none of these realities. They're both way too Type-A for that thing to last too much longer.

Tracy's personal journey was a particularly telling one. Because he displayed talent and won awards, he was granted media invincibility. You see it all the time, there are certain celebrities exempt and immune to all criticism. In the UK, the best example is Paul McCartney. In hushed voices everyone will pretty much agree that he is a gigantic douchenozzle, but because he was with the Beatles and has a tragically dead ex-wife, is afforded the most lenient of support and coverage. No amount of tantrums and eccentricity by Tracy Jordan can dilute the reverence afforded to him either. Until of course, as Jack explains with a brilliant self-deprecating roast of his real alter-ego Alec Baldwin, he returns to television. Indeed this is something else often seen with movies being the domain of "ambitious" actors with "real talent" while those who toil in TV are derided no matter how versatile their characters may be. Unless they're on pay cable of course.

Jenna had a storyline too but as usual it was nonsense to be ignored. This was a fun episode and it flew by despite being double length, but disrupted by too frequent flashbacks. Highlight was definitely the show-down between the various personas of Jack. Lowlight has to be whatever happened between them after the real Jack left...

"30 Rock" airs Thursdays on NBC at 8:30 pm EST.

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