'30 Rock': Jack Donaghy brings an end to the late-night (janitor) wars
That's the conundrum Jack Donaghy faced on last night's "30 Rock" double-header. In a self-consciously cliched plotline -- at one point Liz asks Jack, "How’s your episode of 'Three’s Company' going?" -- our hero had to juggle "slutty Grace Kelly" Avery and the more modest Nancy.
To invoke another TV cliche, it's a familiar case of Ginger versus Mary Ann. Avery (Elizabeth Banks) is blond and ballsy and gives Jack Reagan's old cuff links for his birthday; Nancy (Julianne Moore) is frugal and disconcertingly honest -- she saves leftover beer and asks to postpone their makeout session because "I got the night bloats." Avery is attracted to Jack's power and his Siberian husky eyes; Nancy likes the cornball star of "Hey, Beantown" hidden beneath the expensive suit.
In most other scenarios, I'd be pro-Nancy, but on "30 Rock," I'm all about Avery. It's not just because of the horrible accent -- you know the one I'm talking about -- though that certainly doesn't help matters. It's just that I would like to see Avery in pretty much everything, especially if we get more exchanges like this one. Plus, Nancy's appeal stems from Jack's sense of nostalgia; she fits into the life he used to have, not the one he has now. I hereby officially endorse candidate Avery (and judging by the results of this NBC quiz which I totally took, I'm not the only one).
By the end of the evening, Jack was no closer to a decision than he was at the beginning; if anything, he was more hopelessly confused. I have a horrible feeling that, according to the immutable laws of the sitcom, Jack's attempts at juggling might end in a double disaster, but I'm crossing my fingers it all works out.
Last night, to the surprise of no one, "30 Rock" finally tackled the great late-night wars of 2010. In typical "30 Rock" style, the send-up was supremely clever and self-referential -- Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien were replaced by two janitors, one of whom had been promised the late shift five years ago. Perhaps less typically, the writers didn't take much of a stance on the issue. I figured Tina et al would be "Team Conan," but NBC was the butt of the joke, and not Jay. "30 Rock's" spoof was decidedly neutral, albeit very funny -- especially the lines about "he collects classic car [cough] cardboard" and "I'll just go work at Fox [cough] Foxwoods casino."
Watching "30 Rock" this season has felt a little bit like being in a Liz Taylor-Richard Burton-style, on-again, off-again relationship. One week, I'm madly in love. Then "30 Rock" disappears for three weeks -- no phone call, no text, no anything! Like a fool, I stop by faithfully at 9:30 Pacific on Thursday nights, but I get the Olympics or another hour-long episode of "The Office" instead. Tina Fey is off playing Sarah Palin on "SNL," which I surely can't hold against her, and promoting "Date Night," which maybe I can. Then "30 Rock" returns out of the blue and it's intense -- twice in one night! -- so now I am just not so sure how to feel. It's been such a tumultuous season, and my quibbles with Liz's portrayal have only gotten worse. Last night didn't do anything to assuage these concerns -- Liz was attacked by Tracy's dog, bought a $1,200 karaoke machine to impress her co-workers, and got hit in the face with a dodgeball -- but when it comes to laughter and love (yes, I really did just write that), we'll always have Jack.
What did you think? Who do you think will win Jack's heart? Do you think the "30 Rock" writers wussed out when it came to Jay and Conan? And will Liz's suffering come to an end anytime soon?
Best joke (that wasn't really a joke): "This is America, none of us are supposed to be here." --Pete
Most meta moment: "Wow, other than some notable recent exceptions, NBC never guarantees employment five years in advance." --Jack
Jenna's diva behavior: "Oh you don’t want to mess with that stuff Liz. Ice has caused a lot of OD’s in the porn community. Oh, you mean frozen water? I don’t know."
Jack's Republican talking point: "In my defense, every April 22 I honor Richard Nixon’s death by getting drunk and making some unpopular decisions."
Extent of Liz Lemon's humiliations this week: Between "singles fart suppression" and getting mauled by Tracy Sr. (Tracy's dog), this episode is rated "E" for extreme.
Meanest thing said to Liz: "Lemon, the grown-up dating world is like your hair: sometimes awkward triangles occur." --Jack
Most insane Tracyism: It's a tie, once again. On the phone with Liz: "Parties are like Frisbees. If you throw them the wrong way, they'll veer off in a bad direction, and then your kid will fall into a quarry." And in response to a question about his marriage vows: "To be honest, I couldn’t really understand anything Rick James was saying."
Quintessential Kenneth: "Mr. Donaghy, I have to run out to Mr. Jordan's house. I'll call you when I get there to let you know I'm safe...I love you!"
Something I'd like to know more about: The wig and mustache Tracy was wearing at the beginning of last night's first episode.
Just because: "I've had to make some tough calls over the years, switching Sheinhardt’s wig production to 100% Chinese cadaver hair, turning down Dick Cheney’s offer to become King of Iraq..." --Jack
Guest stars: Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, and a cameo by Will Ferrell.
Proof I have good taste: Apparently, New Yorker editor David Remnick is also a huge Tracy Morgan fan.
-- Meredith Blake (follow me on Twitter@MeredithBlake)
Photo: Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) juggles his two favorite ladies, Avery Jessup and Nancy Donovan. Credit: Ali Goldstein / NBC