NBC’s 30 Rock is one of the smartest sitcoms currently running. The humor is often unexpected, always tight, and the actors delivering the lines have wicked comic timing, every single one of them. I’d almost complain that all the amazing supporting players get too little to do because of the heavy reliance these past few years on big name guest stars. This week’s episode was yet more proof of that. Yet, I have a hard time doing criticising because the guests 30 Rock gets are more than stunt; they’re just as good as the regulars. In fact, I will state that the series has unequivocally the best guest roster of any sitcom ever. And they just keep coming back.
This week, in “Double-Edged Sword”, there were three major arcs. In the first, Jack (Alec Baldwin) travels to Canada with his gal, Avery (Elizabeth Banks, in her TWELFTH appearance on the show in the last year), where she goes into labor. Both being staunch patriots, and hoping their unborn daughter will one day be president, Jack and Avery battle mightily to make it back to the states before the baby comes. Snow storms cancel flights, the rental car companies are out of cars, and they end up in a mobile meth lab. Only after a conversation with the van’s owner (guest star, the hilarious John Cho), does Jack realize that he’s going too far and takes Avery to the hospital. A Canadian hospital. The couple are furious when the hospital won’t even take their money.
It’s broad comedy. I doubt there are more than a handful of people in this country who would put that much importance on having a child born in America, risking their lives and the baby’s to make that happen. But the comic timing of Banks and Baldwin makes you forget that for twenty-two minutes. Add Cho, seemingly out of nowhere, and it was easily the most entertaining of the three stories that night. Not to mention, two stubborn people trying to make a relationship work is still relatable, despite the circumstances, so 30 Rock pulled off another neat trick.
The question is, how long can Jack and Avery go on? Banks has a movie career. She previously made time to recur on Scrubs after her character had the main guy’s baby, despite getting tons of cinema work. She accepted the part of Avery, though, after she’d already blown up. Twelve episodes in twelve months is a supreme gift from her. Does that mean Jack and Avery are heading for Splitsville? Somehow, I think 30 Rock will make them work because they’re perfect for each other. Just don’t expect Avery to keep recurring as often as she has been.
Story two was also about a couple that were extremely similar, but it didn’t have such a cheery outcome. Liz (Tina Fey) took a trip with her pilot boyfriend, Carol (Matt Damon). Or tried to, since their plane was kept on the runway until the passengers revolted, led by Liz, of course. Carol, meanwhile, let his fight with his girlfriend rule his decision making skills, increasingly the already volatile situation. They were broken up before the ending credits because neither would bend, like Jack did. Perhaps they needed John Cho on their plane, too.
Damon has only done four episodes, but once could argue that Damon is also on a whole other level than Banks. The fact that someone of Damon’s prominence would even agree to do a sitcom is rare. Playing a character so different from Damon’s other work would be my best guess on why he did it. Clearly, Fey wrote for him because she just wanted to kiss Matt Damon. Kidding! I worship Tina Fey. Still, it was nice while it lasted.
The heart of this show is Jack and Liz. Their relationship, while it will never be romantic, is the driving force. The romance was (extremely) briefly toyed with early on, then rejected quite quickly and with finality. Despite the two being in different countries in drastically different, though somewhat connected, situations, they still took time to check in with each other by phone. However bonded Jack and Avery become, do not look for that to change.
The final story was just Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) being Tracy Jordan. Completing a long running arc where Tracy strove for an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony), he finally got it, just in time to regret it. The EGOT status is a renowned one, only twelve real people having ever achieved it. Tracy didn’t expect to attend stuffy banquets and change his whole life after; it was just something to do. Now he’s stuck among the ranks of Mel Brooks, Whoopi Goldberg, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli, Richard Rodgers, and Audrey Hepburn. Can we please get Whoopi, Liza, or Barbara (or better yet, all three) to put in an appearance coaching Tracy on the lifestyle? More likely, though, this story has come to an end, for the most part.
Best Tracy Jordan line of the night: after Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) tells Tracy that Steven Spielberg wants him to star in his next film, Tracy replies excitedly, “Kate Capshaw’s husband!?” (pictured right)
NBC’s 30 Rock has not come to an end. Far from it. It airs Thursday nights at 10 p.m. on NBC.