’30 Rock’ – ‘Respawn’: How I spent my summer vacation

Senior Television Writer
05.06.11 37 Comments


A quick review of the “30 Rock” season finale coming up just as soon as I cancel the sitter for tonight…

A couple of days ago, I posted a column on the reasons why I felt – even allowing for the bumpy period when Tracy Morgan was out of action – this fifth season of “30 Rock” was the show’s strongest overall year since season two. I wrote it not having seen the finale, and the hope when you write something blind like that is that the episode that follows helps to prove your point. Unfortunately, “Respawn” wound up being one of the weaker episodes of the season – one whose strongest element was the character I was most dismissive of in that column.

While the Liz and Jenna storylines were largely revisting territory the show has done a better job covering previously, Kenneth being forced to fill the Avery-sized hole in Jack’s life was the best thing Jack McBrayer’s been asked to do in a long time. Kenneth had become such an obsequious, masochistic cartoon that he had stopped being funny at all except in the smallest of doses. Here, though, he was human and self-aware enough to recognize just how inappropriate and gross Jack’s behavior was, and that made all the difference. The climax, with Kenneth outright impersonating Avery – and doing a fairly accurate impression of how Avery would impersonate him – was a particularly nice moment for McBrayer.

The rest of it wasn’t so much bad as largely flat. I liked some of the small silly side gags in the Jenna/Paul story, like Victor Garber’s half-explanation for why his wife couldn’t tolerate hijinx, farce or other monkey business, and the judge saying “gavel, gavel, gavel!” Overall, though, nothing that was especially funny or memorable.

I don’t suddenly regret anything I wrote the other day, but given how much I enjoyed most of this season, I wish they’d found a way to go out on a higher note than this.

What did everybody else think?

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