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'30 Rock' has heart. And vomit and urine too.

March 26, 2009 | 10:37 pm

30_rock_2 Oh no. I feel sort of guilty beginning my "30 Rock" showtracking career with tonight's episode, mainly because I can't get half as giddy as usual over this week's installment.

Dennis Duffy is back. Dennis Duffy is Liz Lemon's manipulative, philandering ex-boyfriend. Sure, most of the characters on "30 Rock" are extreme, but there is something about Dennis, in particular, that goes too far in the direction of caricature. Mainly because it is impossible to envision uber-intellectual and self-effacing Liz ever hooking up with a guy as trashy and disreputable as Dennis.

Also, as a person unequivocally grossed out by bathroom humor, I feel unfit to judge an episode which relies so heavily on vomit and urine jokes. I am not criticizing the boudoir medium as a whole here, but merely saying I do not possess the wherewithal to critique it, since I seize up at the first suggestion of a toilet joke. Asking me to judge the relative merit of tonight's barf-a-thon is like sending a deaf man to judge a symphony.

And so, I politely decline to critique this evening's episode. I can say, however, that the Tracy Jordan subplot shone brightly, as always. Played with baffling comedic timing by Tracy Morgan of "SNL" fame, the character of Tracy Jordan is consistently hilarious on the show, and always provides one-liners to be impersonated poorly around the water coolers of America the next morning. It barely matters what Tracy is saying, because his mere inflections provide grounds for belly laughs.

Tonight, while making a case for his venture into space, Tracy Jordan wowed his co-workers by quoting Robert Browning. When they stared back at him, baffled, Tracy announced, in his trademark bellow, "I was prepared for the possibility of this meeting." Okay, maybe you had to see it.

Which brings up an interesting question: How much of the humor of "30 Rock" comes from the page, and how much comes from the amazing comedic chops of the actors themselves? So often on this show, the lines and scenarios seem absurd to the point of ridiculousness. (Can you picture reading the stage direction for Kenneth Parcell's muppet-dominated inner monologue tonight? And yet, it was a hilarious and absurd addition to an already very funny episode.)

One thing "30 Rock" has working for it week after week, comedically, is speed. I challenge you to name a faster-paced comedy. The jokes come so fast and furious that they often don't sink in till seconds later. So, who cares if one or two (vomit) jokes fall flat? You'll be laughing at something else before the potty joke is even over.

And maniacal pacing isn't the only consistently wonderful thing about "30 Rock." Corny as it sounds, the show is also consistent in the warmth of its message. Tonight's moral? You can't buy happiness. After Jack Donaghy spent the bulk of the episode searching for joy he could purchase, he finally found it in the closing scene, thanks to a simpler pleasure: friendship. Oh, and watching Liz Lemon's advertisement for a call-in sex line. Because hey, it is a comedy after all.

Till next week (when we find out whether or not Jenna Maroney will take Liz Lemon to the Canadian Grammys!).

-- Stephanie Lysaght

Photo credit: NBC