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30 Rock Review

October 30, 2009

Published by Ozark Unbound

30 Rock’s comedic essence returns in time for Halloween | Cultural Critique


By Bethany Larson
Ozark Unbound
In this week’s “30 Rock,” the show finally leaves the heavy handed political messages behind and returns to the quick-witted, intelligent dialogue we learned to expect from the show.
In “Stone Mountain,” the third episode of the new season, we learn that gays throw the best Halloween parties, the myth that celebrities always die in threes isn’t a myth, and that Southern folks aren’t as wholesome as they are purported to be.
The majority of the episode is dedicated to Liz and Jack’s continued search for a new TGS actor. Because Jack (Alec Baldwin) believes that TGS needs to make a larger effort to appeal to Middle America, he and Liz travel to Kenneth’s hometown of Stone Mountain, GA, when Kenneth tells them that a comedy club is located there. This is rational since Georgia is so obviously Middle America. (Did you get the sarcasm?)
This foray to the South allowed Fey and the rest of the writing team to slam fast-food joints and the congeniality of the South. And it was funny.
Fey’s Liz Lemon, a major junk food junkie, was delighted to find a Fatty Fat’s Sandwich Ranch and order their specialty burger, which includes the enigmatic “chuckle”–turns out that this ingredient is the portion of the pig between the tail and the anus, as explained by Kenneth. Despite her terrible dietary habits, Lemon’s Manhattan constitution cannot handle the greasy, chuckle burger.
With Liz indisposed, Jack visits the Stone Mountain Laugh Factory and discovers Rick Wayne (Jeff Dunham) with his hillbilly puppet. Jack immediately signs him, without Liz’s approval, and Liz learns of the decision via the local news anchor who matter-of-factly says “Some Catholic guy hired Rick Wayne to be on TGS with a black fella.”
Stereotypical and offensive? Yes.
Funny? Absolutely.
The side bar of Tracy Jordan’s (Tracy Morgan) fear of being struck down by “The Rule of Three” when two other celebrities suddenly die brings two cameos (Betty White and Jimmy Fallon) to the show, but little else.
Also, this particular week is Halloween (for those of you who haven’t noticed) and NBC dictated that their two-hour Thursday night comedy block be Halloween-centric. To fulfill this edict, TGS’ group of quirky male writers, Frank (Judah Friedlander, who will be at the U of A November 21st), Toofer (Keith Powell), and Lutz (John Lutz) decide that this year will be the year that they throw an epic Halloween party–the problem is, they don’t know how.
So, when they are informed by the hot secretary, Cerie (Katrina Bowden), that gay guys throw the best Halloween parties, the writers decide to be nice to the airhead TGS actress Jenna (Jane Krakowski) because the gays love her, and the desperate writers want to use her to get an invite to the gay Halloween bash.
What made this episode particularly funny was the debunking of the Romantic idea of the South– you know, the one where everyone below the Mason Dixon line is charming, classy, and wholesome?
Jack insists that this is true, and is shown the contrary via Rick Wayne and his puppet, who make terrible fun of Liz when she finally sees his act. (I think the line was “ferret-faced slut”) Jack, appalled at this reprehensible demeanor, screams, “You’re supposed to be nicer, but you’re just terrible. Just like the people in New York!” This revelation is supposed to be illuminating and earnest, but it just illustrates Liz’s point that, “Americans are the same everywhere.”
But, the greatest thing about this episode: the two very well-placed, subtle jokes that finally brought the essence of Emmy-winning “30 Rock” to this new season.
The first was a scene between Jenna and the writers that took place in the men’s restroom. In this brief scene, Jenna walks in and quickly observes, “They painted the ceiling in here.” Then there is a jump cut to the next scene, leaving the audience to ponder that gem of a line.
The second joke was a little less subtle, but perhaps more intelligent. Playing on both the ideas of the founding of Georgia and the immigration surge of the early 20th century through Ellis Island, the name Sexcriminalboat is applied to both Georgia and Manhattan on opposite ends of the episode’s run-time.
Stereotypical and offensive? Yes.
Funny? Absolutely.

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