Alex and His Pen: Favorite/Least Favorite Episodes of 30 Rock
Itâ€™s hard to believe 30 Rock is over.Â When it started, I was still in high school. I still had mutton chops. Bush was still Presidentâ€¦Iâ€™m really making it sound like all of the changes have been for the better, arenâ€™t I? Either way, 30 Rock was avbig deal for me. I watched it from day one â€“ yes, I even remember watching it with A Few Good Years (a show, that to be honest, I thought had potential but squandered its creativity on typical sitcom jokes and plots). And I watched it religiouslyâ€¦ until the end of seasonv6. Yeah, as a fan of this show, I really put up with a lot of peaks and valleys.
At its best, 30 Rock brought laugh-out loud jokes, hilarious movie parodies, endlessly quotable lines and even some clever social commentary. At its worst, 30 Rock was responsible for juvenile humor, didactic dialogue, needless subplots, and redundantâ€¦ well, redundancy. A lot of shows nowadays seem to have strong first seasons only to start fiddling with the format way too early (My Name is Earl, anyone? Oh, while weâ€™re on the subject, if I ever stop being lazy/have more free time,I plan on doing â€œA Look Back at My Name is Earlâ€ similar to my reviews for Taxi and The Critic). But the creative team at 30 Rock fortunately decided to stick with the adage â€œIf it ainâ€™t broke, donâ€™t fix it.â€ Unfortunately, they stuck too close and 30 Rock was going downhill the old-fashioned way: By sticking so close to the familiar it became stale! There just reached a point where I felt like the writers were just finding new ways to make the same episode. Jokes were getting redundant, stories were becoming redundant. Even their attempts to parody how redundant they were becoming were getting redundant! Oh, Iâ€™ve gone into tirade mode, havenâ€™t I? The point is there were a lot of reasons to like 30 Rock, but there were a lot of dud episodes as well. So, without further adieu, here are my favorite episodes and my least favorite episodes:
Top 5 Favorite Episodes
1.Â Â Â Â Â Â Subway Hero: Dennis was one of my favorite recurring characters. He was cocky, overconfident and was sort of stuck in the past. Liz frequently referred to him as the last beeper salesman in New York.Not to mention he usually had funny dialogue. (â€œShe said the last guy she dated was Asian! That stuff doesnâ€™t happen â€˜til college!â€ And suffice to say, this was his funniest episode. Dennis is sort of caught between reputations. On one hand, he recently had to register as a sex offender. On the other hand, he rescued someone from being hit by a subway. While stories about girls dating jerks usually have me rolling eyes, this one actually won me over as it had a clever explanation for why Liz fell for Dennisâ€™s antics and as I said before, Dennis was a funny character.
2.Â Â Â Â Â Â Klaus and Greta/Black Light Special: For me,season 4 was when this show hit its peak. I think the writers found a good rhythm for writing jokes. There was a good balance between the smart humor and there werenâ€™t as many didactic, over-written jokes. Â I decided to lump these two episodes just because they were aired on the same night and basically served as a one-two punch to let me know the rest of the fourth season (it was coming back from holiday hiatus after all) was going to be awesome. â€œKlaus and Gretaâ€ featured an absolutely hilarious subplot about Jenna pretending to date James Franco to hide his blow-up doll fetish.Â Speaking of Jenna, her subplot in â€œBlack Lightâ€ was hilarious too as she played the mother on Gossip Girl who was dying of extreme old age at 43. And considering I usually found Jenna’s subplots to be the weakest, I think it speaks volumes that they were actually the highlights of these episodes.
3.Â Â Â Â Â Â High School Reunion: From what I heard, a lot of people would probably include this in their bottom five, but I really liked this episode. Admittedly, I donâ€™t always look forward to episodes like this. They usually just deliver a bunch of worn-out jokes about high school politics and whatnot. Even It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia screwed one of these up! But this episode actually took a clever spin on an old formula. Liz dreads her reunion because she thinks her classmates were mean to her, but she doesnâ€™t remember the fact that she was actually cruel to them. I have to say, I usually love when people take the idea of outsiders from a different perspective. We always see these stories of people complaining about being outsiders. And I love when people look at things from a different perspective: Maybe they really were jerks! (In fact, I use the same idea in my Robert Tolkien short stories.) Not to mention, a lot of the characters had some pretty funny lines. (â€œIâ€™m so angry all I can do is dance!â€)
4.Â Â Â Â Â Â Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning: Just the premise of this episode was hilarious: In his quest for ratings, Jack decides to create reactions for the next disaster before it happens. And of course,because said disaster hasnâ€™t happened, everything has to be as vague as possible. The jokes practically wrote themselves for this one and thereâ€™s a genuinely clever twist. Not to mention, I found the social commentary in this episode surprisingly astute. And those of you who know how much of a DeNiro fanboy am I shouldnâ€™t be surprised how much I enjoyed his cameo here. (â€œYou do this or Iâ€™ll reveal that youâ€™re actually British!â€)
5.Â Â Â Â Â Â Christmas Special: Liz wants to be a Secret Santa for inner city kids,but things blow up in her face because she thinks sheâ€™s being scammed. Â Lizâ€™s reactions are funny enough on its own, but thereâ€™s a good story in there. I donâ€™t want to spoil the ending,but I think itâ€™s a hilarious skewering of how we view morality in our lives. Do we really do things out of the goodness of our hearts or do we just want to make ourselves feel better? Also, Jack is trying to create the most over-the-top Christmas special ever because he wants to avoid his mother on Christmas. While any regular watcher can attest to Jackâ€™s rocky relationship with his mother, Christmas is a particularly sore subject because sheâ€™d always sleep around at that time. That also has a pretty funny reveal at the end. Also, Tracy has some really funny moments in this episode â€“ such as learning to use a camera and knowing someone at the post office.
Top 5 Least Favorite Episodes
I really wanted to do a top 5 least favorite episodes. I could think of other episodes I disliked that didnâ€™t make the list, but with the exception of a few moments/jokes, IÂ canâ€™t really remember what I disliked about them. And if I disliked them that much, I donâ€™t want to watch them again either.Â I thought about doing a list of dishonorable mentions, but if I canâ€™t really articulate why I dislike them, I should probably just keep my opinions to myself.
1.Â Â Â Â Â Â Stone Mountain: Looking back on it, this episode wasnâ€™t THAT bad, but it was the first one I remember utterly hating. The running joke with chuckles really annoyed me (if you donâ€™t know what it is, trust me, youâ€™d rather not). The main plot involving Jack and Liz wasnâ€™t particularly funny â€“ which is never a good sign. And of course, there was a God-awful subplot involving the writers trying to get into a Halloween party. I seem to take the popular opinion that subplots involving the writers were rarely funny, but this is one that particularly annoyed me. There were too many jokes that were practically spelled out for the audience and it really foreshadowed the didactic tone the show would take. The subplot with Tracy worrying he was going to die was mildly amusing, but not enough to save this dud. Besides, the resolution was telegraphed.
2.Â Â Â Â Â Â Itâ€™s Never Too Late for Now: Stop me if youâ€™ve heard this before: Pete and Frank form a band. And of course, itâ€™s an â€˜80â€™sflashback band. And they do a Yoko Ono spoof. And itâ€™s revealed that Pete was once a member of Loverboy. You see, thatâ€™s funny becauseâ€¦ Loverboyâ€™s a thing that existed? Bad subplots involving the writers had been nothing new, but this was positively dreadful. Also, those plots are usually counteracted by the funny involving the main cast. This time, the main involving Liz treating a set-update like Murder on the Orient Express was more tedious than anything else. In short, if the writers are going to be lazy and just retread clichÃ©s, Iâ€™m going to be lazy and retread Roger Ebert reviews: I hated this episode! Hated, hated, hated, hated it! Hated every,simpering, stupid audience-insulting moment of it!
At the time, I thought the show was doomed without Tracy Morgan because he had kidney surgery, but it was followed up byâ€œTGS Hates Women.â€ That episode was hilarious, so Tracy Morganâ€™s absence was no excuse.
3.Â Â Â Â Â Â Live from Studio 6H: I have a love-hate relationship with gimmick episodes. Sometimes, they workâ€¦ Oh, who am I kidding? They seldom work! I think the biggest problem is that more often than not, the normal jokes and formula take a backseat to the gimmick. Also, they never stop at one. Both of those reasons add up to my utter contempt for this episode. The first live episode wasâ€¦ okay. It had some funny jokes and the gimmick was relatively unobtrusive. Also, it was fun seeing Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Matt Damon was fun. The second time they tried itâ€¦ Ughâ€¦ I was annoyed enough when I was getting another rehash of a gimmick episode, but then I found out it was a half-baked sketch episode. And most of the way that they actually tried to tie the sketches into the showâ€™s story was REALLY forced. And to add insult to injury, most of them werenâ€™t funny. Okay, some of the stuff with Dr.Spaceman was funny, but thatâ€™s about it. If Iâ€™m to be honest, this episode got more laughs than any of the other episodes on my worst list. But the bad parts were just too bad for me to enjoy this one and I felt like I was watching another show entirely.
4.Â Â Â Â Â Â Queen of Jordan 2: How does one follow up a terrible, unfunny retread of a gimmick episode? With an even worse, less funny retread of a gimmick episode! To be fair, I actually liked the first â€œQueen of Jordanâ€ episode. Â I thought it was a non-the-money spoof of reality TV. So, unfortunately, someone decided to do it again. So essentially, this episode was built around one joke that we had already seen before. Not to mention, it was just digging up more potty humor. How bad was this episode? I think Calculon said it better than I could:
I am not kidding when I say I just gave up during this one and turned it off.
So that was my… um… tribute to 30 Rock. Yeah, it went downhill, but how many shows don’t after 7 years?