'30 Rock': A tale of two plot threads

Tinafey2_30rock_s2_240It was the best of times, and it was -- well, not the worst of times, but definitely the not-best of times -- on 30 Rock Thursday. The A-story, with Liz's latest foray into the outside world? Awesome. The heavy-handed Iraq/baseball metaphor? Eh.

(Spoilers accomplished, right after this.)

Sending Liz outside the cocoon of TGS has always been a good source of comedy for the show, and Thursday's episode was no different. Liz, smart and funny though she may be, is, let's face it, a complete dork. Witness her attempted party talk with Jamie the coffee guy: "Speaking of music, how about that Gnarls Barkley? That guy's great. Have you seen his official web site?"

Pretty much at every turn, the story line yielded gold, from her opening "Give it up, you're talking to an ultrasound" line to the ending revelation that Liz looks an awful lot like Beth, Jamie's mom. In between, the story gave us lines like "He looks like Zac Efron -- that's a thing, right?" and Jack's pep talk about the benefits of being with someone younger.

And oh my goodness, Frank. Judah Friedlander probably had more to do in this episode than in any previous one, and he pretty much killed it. There's been just enough of the coarse, crass Frank in the past to make his attraction to Jamie work, and Friedlander did well by not going too over the top with his gay-for-Jamie-ness. The circumstances might have been different, but I think we've pretty much all acted the way he did around a crush.

A sampling of Frank lines: "Maybe I am [gay] for that little peach. I want to kiss him on the mouth and hold him." "I bought you a sweater. It's a slim fit ... and it wasn't even on sale." "We're just two straight guys who want to enjoy each other's bodies." And, it wasn't really a line, but his hip-shake in front of the mirror while wearing a tight, striped tank top might have been the funniest thing in the entire episode.

Tracymorgan2_nbc_30rock_240 Less funny was the Jack-and-Tracy-coach-baseball subplot. It started out promisingly, with Tracy tossing off a couple of great lines ("Dijonnaise is a boy's name? Pardon me," and "You know at the first practice they asked me what the sun was?") and Jack trying to figure out which biography of Winston Churchill would best inspire the Knuckle Beach kids.

But about the time they pulled down the Jefferson Davis statue, the Iraq parallels started landing a little too heavily for my taste. Maybe it was Jack dressing like MacArthur, or the "Fun Times Accomplished" banner, but the lack of subtlety kind of turned me off a little. Although I can't really be bothered too much by a plot that allows a bedraggled Kenneth to say "They won't listen, especially when I tell them not to hit me with my own shoes."

And if you agree not to mention Jenna and her even younger boy-toy, then I won't either. Although the wheely-shoe gag was kinda funny.

Some good lines and other niceties from this week's episode:

  • Jack: "Let me guess -- meatball sub with extra bread, bottle of Nyquil, TiVo Top Chef, a little Miss Bonnie Raitt and lights out." Liz: "No, I have something to do tonight." Jack: "Then you won't mind me telling you that Casey gets voted off tonight." Liz: "You monster!"
  • Liz's nerdlinger reaction to Jamie calling her sexy -- "Sexy? You are. Shut up."
  • Jenna, explaining that rules are made to be broken: "I had my no-sex-with-Asians rule, and then one day you walk into the Sharper Image, and there's Kwan."
  • Jack, upon seeing Liz out: "Did you take an Ambien with your Franzia and sleepwalk here?" And then meeting Jamie: "Where'd you meet, Amber Alert?"

What did you think of tonight's 30 Rock? Did you think the Liz story was a far, far better thing than the baseball story?