Christmas episodes are a sitcom staple, but as we discovered last year around this time, they're also a risky proposition for a show like "30 Rock." Just how do you maintain the right balance between holiday cheer and year-round irreverence? It's a delicate formula, and on Thursday night "30 Rock" got it just right. That is, they leaned toward the former, delivering a Christmas episode full of cyncism -- but topped with just a sprinkle of sweetness.
Since "12" is the most Christmas-y number there is, here are a dozen highlights:
12. Mental-Liz: I don't watch "The Mentalist," but maybe I should. Liz, apparently a Simon Baker fan, can now accurately decipher the most delicate physical clues. If the whole TV writing thing doesn't work out, then at least she can offer her services as "body language expert" to US Weekly.
11. Avery's pregnancy camouflage: She hasn't spilled the beans yet at work, so Avery's using various objects -- like a ham topped with a Pilgrim hat -- to obscure her growing belly.
10. Jack and Avery's war on the "War on Christmas": "Happy Holidays ... is what terrorists say," reads their Christmas card.
9. Mr. and Mrs. Parcell: Tracy sneaks back into the TGS set after hours to get some serious clothes for a charity appearance, and there discovers Kenneth, celebrating Christmas all alone with a pair of trash cans with construction paper faces. "I certainly wasn’t going to pretend those trash cans were my parents." Sure.
8. New Queer's Eve: I was crushed by Jenna and Paul's breakup last week, and apparently, so were they. When Jenna gets her invite to Tom Ford and Elton John's "New Queer's Eve," she bursts into tears. How can she possibly miss out on the chance to eat shrimp of an old gay dressed as Baby New Year? If that's what it takes to get her back together with Paul, I'm all for it. These two -- and their strategically placed salamanders -- are meant for each other.
7. The wing at Jack's house designed by M.C. Escher: Liz heads in this direction to locate Colleen, and all we hear is her saying, "These stairs are weird." Also: Jack lives in a house?
6. Liz's drag doppelganger: Attempting to play peacemaker between Jenna and Paul, Liz shows up at the restaurant where Paul works as a drag waitress in rollerskates (what a cliche, right?). Paul sees Liz and mistakes her for a colleague. "I’m sorry, I thought you were a transvestite." Minutes later, we see a remarkably Lemon-esque waitress skating away.