While this week’s episode of “30 Rock” manages to edge in a lot of screen time for nearly all of its major characters (including a nearly forgotten side character), not all of those characters are given something funny to do. The result is an uneven episode that has some genuine laugh-out-loud moments as well as too many moments that just don’t work.
Read the review to see what we mean…
Episode Title: “Chain Reaction of Mental Anguish”
Tracy’s “son” from earlier in the series makes a surprise return this week seeking investors for his “brilliant” business plan: a restaurant called “Staples” where Godzilla and Mechagodzilla lookalikes battle it out ala Medieval Times. Jack can’t decide whether to fund the project or be honest about his feelings towards the idea. In the meantime, Liz finds a suitable therapist in the form of Kenneth but their sessions have unexpected effects on his psychological well-being. Jenna’s relationship with Paul gets rocky.
- Business Plans: The visonary business plans of Tracy’s “son” all score some good laughs this episode. Aside from his idea for a restaurant named “Staples,” he’s also thought of starting a micro-brewery that also serves yogurt named “Microsoft” and a service where Americans can call a number that will give them air quality reports throughout the country. He named that one “American Airlines.” This show is often at its best when you can tell that the writers had fun working on an episode and developing clever ideas for it, and this is a perfect example of that.
- Tracy: Yeah, just Tracy. Not anything specific he said or did, just Tracy. Out of all the characters on the show, Tracy is the most absurd. The writers give him all the best lines and gags, and Tracy Morgan delivers them so perfectly that you never catch him acting. He is given a lot to do in this episode, and we’re grateful for that.
- Harold: In this episode, we learn that Kenneth had a pig named Harold. The eventual fate of said pig is genius. Just when the “Kenneth is an uneducated hick” jokes were starting to get stale, we got one that works.
- Liz’s therapy: The concept of Liz Lemon, the kind of character so neurotic she makes Woody Allen look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, diving deep into her past in therapy has the potential for comedy gold. Sadly, it’s a little hit-or-miss in execution. The connection between Santa Claus and her lack of trust in men is kind of clever, but there’s nothing tremendously funny in this whole subplot. That’s a shame, because there could have been.
- Jack: Jack is left more or less in the background for this episode, paralyzed by indecision over the situation he finds himself in with Tracy. He’s got nothing much to do except react to the other characters this week, and the show is lacking with him in the background. There is a little side bit about his relationship with his father but it’s one of the extremely rare occurrences in which Baldwin simply doesn’t sell the performance.
- Jenna and Paul: From the start, this relationship was creepy and awkward. It rarely sparked enough humor to justify some of its weirder aspects. Things only get stranger this episode, and the whole affair gets cast aside too quickly. It felt too obvious that Will Forte’s character was just being written out.
It had its moments, but we expect better of “30 Rock.” If you’re a fan of this show you most likely are also a die-hard “The Simpsons” addict and a confirmed Team Coco member. What do they all have in common? Fantastic comedy writing. This week had good comedy writing. But for “30 Rock,” good isn’t good enough.
“30 Rock” airs on NBC every Thursday night!
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