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'30 Rock': Don't let the bed bugs bite!

November 6, 2009 |  8:57 am

All is right with the world.  After the loathsome Jeff Dunham appeared on last week’s episode, I was a little worried about "30 Rock."  Metaphorically speaking, it had glassy eyes, clammy hands and a little bit of a fever.  But this week, my favorite show was back to its rosy-cheeked self. Instead of a possibly racist puppeteer, we had a guest appearance by Brian Williams, whom I believe might be the funniest network news anchor ever (take that, Connie Chung!) if his appearances on “The Daily Show” are any indication.

This week was relatively low on the meta-scale, which felt a little refreshing after a series of increasingly self-reflexive episodes.  The main plot concerned auditions for a new TGS cast member. Liz and Pete had their favorite, an actor with the hilariously boy band-ish name of Jayden Michael Tyler.  In order to ensure that he’d get the part, Liz and Pete applied what they call the “Horberger Method,” intentionally stacking the deck full of dreadful competition — my favorite being a female comic wearing a bolo tie — so that he looks even better by comparison. Meanwhile, Jenna and Tracy set out on their own journey to find a new cast member.  Miracle of miracles, Jenna even had a few very funny lines — like her reference to a “disaster” named Katrina, who turned out to be a terrible hair and makeup artist, or when she said that she’d been brought into auditions to make Kim Cattrall seem grounded and human.

While everyone else was on the lookout for new talent, Jack had his own mission: A quest for acceptance.  With a nasty case of bed bugs (otherwise known as "chew daddies" or "Mugabe's concubines"), Jack is rejected by everyone at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.  He’s even banned from riding his company car, and must resort to taking the subway.  We see him on board the subway (a real one, I might add), begging for mercy from strangers.  I only wish I had been on the F train that day.  Sigh.  By the end of the episode, he’s feeling so dejected that when a robot mime reaches out and shakes his hand, making him feel like a human again, Jack insists that Liz hire him for the show.  (Broadway nerds, help me out: Was the robot just Cheyenne Jackson in silver makeup?)  It was Jack's very own version of "A Christmas Carol," and dare I say it, it was almost touching.  On “30 Rock,” it’s all relative.

It was a fine return to form after last week’s wobbly episode, and I am looking forward to the next few weeks of guest stars: First Padma, then James Franco.  For a show that “no one watches,” especially not in Germany, it seems like everyone is clamoring to guest star.  Should we take bets on who else might appear this season?

One other thing: Was that whole thing with Cisco another paid product placement, a la Soy Joy and Verizon?  If so, bravo to Cisco for having a sense of humor.

Best Joke:  Kathy Geiss as Susan Boyle

Most Meta Moment:  Before his bed bugs teach him about acceptance, Jack says "Human empathy.  It's as useless as the Winter Olympics.  This winter on NBC."

Nerdiest Reference: This week, it was Chekhov. Dotcom wants to audition for "TGS," but Tracy is dismissive.  "Oh yeah, I forgot, you know everything about acting because you played a bird in some stupid school play."  His answer? "Yes Tracy, I was Trigorin in 'The Seagull' on the Wesleyan Arts Space main stage."

Meaning Thing Jack Said to Liz: "That's true, Liz is old."

Meanest Thing Liz Said about Herself: "My mom used to send me articles about how older virgins are considered good luck in Mexico."

Quintessential Kenneth: "Sir, anyone can get them. Back in Stone Mountain, even the mayor had them.  And she was a horse."

What did you think?

--Meredith Blake


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Photo: Jack, Liz and Pete do their best Simon, Paula and Randy imitations

Credit:  NBC/Ali Goldstein