'30 Rock': On the wings of love
Here's a question for you TV experts: Has any network comedy ever made it to a fifth season without a wedding or surprise pregnancy? We had both on the "30 Rock" season finale, and it's a testament to the show's writing that the episode didn't feel weighed down by the sitcom cliches. Sure, "Friends" also had a surprise pregnancy and a wedding, but did it have a man dressed half as Cher, half as Jenna Maroney? It surely didn't.
It's been a tumultuous season for "30 Rock" fans. Many have been complaining that the show isn't quite what it used to be; others have stood by it faithfully. As for me, I think the show is at its best when it embraces the absurd rather than getting self-referential and swallowing its own tail, and as much as I love a little Hollywood stardust, the show's emphasis on high-wattage guest stars can be a distraction from the characters we already know and love. Who needs a dull cameo by Padma Lakshmi or a guest spot by (it still pains me to write this) Jeff Dunham when you already have Tracy Morgan and Alec Baldwin?
More than anything, though, I've felt both frustrated and hopeful about the attention paid to Liz Lemon's love life this season. Liz eats too much; Liz doesn't work out; Liz dresses like a frump; Liz can't find a man. We get it! It seems like the writers -- including Tina Fey -- are tired of the jokes too, as the last few months have been devoted to Liz's painful uphill climb out of the single life.
Last night, that journey culminated with Liz breaking off her unceremonious engagement to Wesley and maybe, just maybe, getting a nice boyfriend named Carol instead. Matt Damon was perfectly Damon-esque as Carol, the pilot (a.k.a. "doorman to the sky") who loves TGS and dislikes NBA tattoos. He was witty, smart, a goofy dancer, and -- most important of all -- demonstratively normal. No plushie sex, no balloon boy ambitions, no anime fixations. Liz is smitten, and Carol doesn't even mind the embarrassing confessional she makes about him at Cerie's wedding. Liz tells Wesley she doesn't have to settle -- and neither does he, and she lets the love wash over her "like a spray tan." It all seems too good to be true, which makes me worry a little bit that this could actually be the case. Let's ponder the reality here for a second: Matt Damon has an action movie franchise -- will he stick around to work on a sitcom? I supposed if Alec Baldwin did it, then anyone can. Or at least that's what I hope.
Liz wasn't the only one changing her mind. In a rather hasty moment, Jack tells Nancy he loves her, that he wants to "find long red hairs in my overcooked pot roast." Nancy understands his modest past -- one that includes wearing his sister's hand-me-down orange corduroys with hearts for pockets -- better than anyone. I've been rooting for Avery, but I have to acknowledge that there's something undeniably sweet about Jack and Nancy.
Nevertheless, I was happy to see Avery ultimately triumph, even if it was because of her pregnancy. A stunt? You betcha. But if it means we get more of Jack and Avery (shall we call them "Javery"?), then a little rugrat is fine with me. Jack is already the heart and soul of "30 Rock," the softie in the power suit, so I can't wait to see how that'll play out when he becomes a father. Prediction: Lots of pee and vomit jokes.
In the spirit of Liz's own transformation, I'll end this blog post on a positive note. Rather than dwell on this season's more wobbly aspects -- like a certain someone's Boston accent -- I'll accentuate the positive. The highlights of this season, in no particular order:
-- Liz's three-way with James Franco and his beloved anime pillow, Komiko
-- Liz in HD
-- Liz's hallucinatory makeout session with a potted plant that bears a striking resemblance to Jon Bon Jovi
-- Michael Sheen's guest stint as the other Wesley Snipes
-- The flirtatious and exhaustingly funny exchange between Jack and Avery on "Hot Box"
-- Jenna's relationship with Paul, a Jenna Maroney impersonator
-- Drew's hook hands, Tracy's traumatic flashbacks and basically everything else about last Thursday's episode
And as always, from this episode:
Best joke: Tie! "What if I could somehow combine them into one perfect woman, like a s'more you could take a shower with," Jack says, and Avery's Maryland accent on "Overshoppe.com."
Extent of Liz Lemon's humiliations: Virtually nonexistent, unless you count the "I'm alone in a dashiki" or the whole weird foot problem, or when Wesley called her a "luscious plum."
Jenna's diva behavior: "Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but when a girl dates a straight guy who impersonates her onstage for mostly gay audiences, she has certain expectations, Paul. Fidelity. It's not just the name of a bank that sued me."
Quintessential (and drunk) Kenneth: "You people, you're my best friends, and I hope you get everything you want in life. Have a wonderful summer!"
Something I'd like to know more about: Jenna's bag of hair
Guest stars: Matt Damon, Michael Sheen, Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks, Will Forte
So, Show Trackers, what did you think? Was this a season to remember or to forget? Will Carol return next season or will he fly off into the sunset? Will Kenneth get his job back or will he be forced to become a (gulp) CBS page? Will Wesley ever find anyone to settle for?
-- Meredith Blake
Photo: Paul (Will Forte) and Jenna (Jane Krakowski) agree to compromise on his love for Cher. Credit: Ali Goldstein / NBC
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