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'30 Rock' recap: The old college try

November 18, 2010 |  9:48 pm

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I wish my microwave sounded more like Alec Baldwin.  It's Baldwin's voice, after all, that is probably his greatest gift as an actor (alas, that once-chiseled jawline isn't quite as striking as it used to be).  Lines like "Lemon, you are the sexual equivalent of a million Hindenburgs" just wouldn't be as devastating if Alec Baldwin sounded like, say, Gilbert Gottfried.  It's the contrast between Baldwin's calm, breathy tone and his withering comments that make Jack Donaghy such a brilliant comic invention. Should GE find itself in continued financial trouble in the future, they might just emulate tonight's episode of "30 Rock" and design a talking microwave oven. If Baldwin's voice can raise money for NPR, then it can certainly do the same for GE stock prices, right?   

During a debate over the pronunciation of the word "schedule" (Toofer insists it's "shed-yule"), the writers discover that Jack is the voice of Pronouncify.com.  Jack is angered by the news.  As a struggling scholarship student at Princeton, he lent his perfect American accent to a linguistics archiving project.  Now the college is cashing in on his exquisite voice, selling clips to anyone who will pay--even the Wu Tang Clan. As far as I can recall (and if I'm wrong, please correct me) this was the first time that Jack's voice was the real subject of an episode, which is surprising for a show as self-referential as "30 Rock." 

The discovery conjures up memories of Jack's hard-scrabble college experience. Every morning, he'd wake up and read words from the dictionary.  Then, he'd head off to his second job at the university's monkey lab. Jack recalls the painful memory.  "It wasn’t the feces that got to you, Lemon."  A beat. "It was the crudely scrawled notes 'of help me.' "  Excrement?  Animal testing?  A race of angry primates, ready to wreak vengeance on their human captors?  It's scary stuff, but delivered in that voice--and with those dramatic, perfectly timed pauses--it's transformed into comedy gold. Maybe next year, Alec Baldwin's voice should win the Mark Twain prize for Humor. It's certainly earned it.

Like Jack, Liz was also dealing with some college memories, trying to relive a single "fortnight" when she was popular.  Jack's visit to the microwave oven department was another highlight, as was Baldwin's cameo as a delivery guy. The image of 12-year-old Jack working as a stevedore in Boston Harbor will probably make me giggle for at least a few weeks, as will the word "stevedore." Even Pete, between his freestyle rap and his poncho n' beer session, was granted a rare opportunity to shine.  This was a great episode, the latest in a season that has yet to deliver any duds.  As a "30 Rock" fan, I feel like an old married person who has gone through a wilderness of romantic doubt and returned more committed then ever.  Right now, I'm on my second honeymoon. 

Joke of the night: The ongoing "Pronouncify.com" gag ("I love unicorns," "Obama is very presidential," etc.)

Nerdiest reference:  The repeated jokes about Hinduism (Jack: "You're going to wish you'd never been born."  Ramesh: "Which time?")

Jack's Alpha-Dog Wisdom: "Oh, please.  Money can't buy happiness. It is happiness." 

Meanest thing said to Liz: "Lemon, lesbian Frankenstein wants her shoes back."  --The voice of Jack on Pronouncify.com

Least PC jokes: "Usually everyone treats me like Hitler.  Today I feel like Hitler in Germany." --Liz

"AJ...Raj...Ramesh? Where are Dinesh, Kumar and Sunavo?"  --Jack, on a visit to GE's microwave lab

Jenna's diva behavior: "This is why I hated my first two weeks at The Royal Tampa Academy of Dramatic Tricks. No one knew who was the sluttiest.  But I showed them."  

Liz's bad eating habits: She can shotgun a whole pizza. 

Quintessential Kenneth:   "After I left Kentucky Mountain Bible College, it kept going.  Until it was shut down...because of the wolves." 

Some things I'd like to know more about:  There was the week Jack spent as a "GE woman," performing corporate espionage; Ogbert "Tracy" Jordan and the "borkulator" he invented; and last but not least, the disastrous escape at the Princeton monkey lab.

My new motto: "Rollin' with my homey, me and Jackie D.  Bitches gettin' ready for a sex party." --Pete

Most absurd Tracyism:  "Your boos are not scaring me.  I know most of you are not ghosts."   

Winner of the episode: Liz, for coming to terms with the fact she's an R.A., not a cool kid.  

-- Meredith Blake

twitter.com/MeredithBlake

Photo: Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) and Jack (Alec Baldwin) size up the latest offering from GE's microwave oven division. 

Credit: Ali Goldstein / NBC

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