’30 Rock’ – ‘The Fabian Strategy’: El duderino stuff

Senior Television Writer
09.24.10 70 Comments


A review of the “30 Rock” season five premiere coming up just as soon as I’m wearing jeans and reading fiction…

After last year’s batch of largely disappointing, at times plain awful episodes, I went into last night’s premiere with low expectations, but still some hope. With this many talented people, there had to be the possibility of a comeback, right?

“The Fabian Strategy” certainly didn’t live up to the good old days (or even some of last year’s isolated highlights like the “Dealbreakers” episode). But I laughed enough, and was pleased enough with the direction they took the Liz/Carol relationship, that I was relieved. There were times last season when the show felt like a chore. This was just amusing.

The Tracy/Kenneth storyline was a complete miss, but the other three all had something to offer. My favorite may have actually been the Pete/Jenna one, if only because right before it started, I sent Fienberg an IM that said “I wish Scott Adsit had more to do.” Ask, and ye shall receive, and Pete’s joy at having Jenna, of all people, lighten his load was nicely-played. And the double-flash to Pete having sex with his sleeping wife was the most I laughed at a non-“Community” joke last night.

With Jack and Liz, meanwhile, we have our two leads in relationships with characters played by infrequently-available guest stars. (Though based on last year, Elizabeth Banks will likely continue to have more time than Matt Damon.) And now that Liz has avoided the personal self-sabotage that began to make me hate her last season, I actually think this set-up is perfect. Liz and Carol are together for now, but Carol’s not around much, so we don’t have to spend more time on Liz being romantically pathetic, but we also don’t have to spend a ton of time on Liz’s dude stuff(*), period. We don’t need to see Liz’s pube shirt all the time, but it’s nice to know he’s out there(**).

(*) Jack’s response to that phrase – “Is that on my sadness scavenger hunt? Why yes it is.” – was one of his funnier Liz insults in a while.

(**) Though I do wonder if Carol will become like Liz’s desire to adopt (mentioned here for the first time in a long time), where perhaps we don’t see Damon again for an incredibly long time and it’s just accepted that Liz isn’t looking for other dudes.

And Jack’s decision to treat (the off-screen) Avery as an adversary gave Alec Baldwin various amusing bits of business to play, including Jack’s attempt to play daddy bear with Avery’s friend James.

Not a great start, but good enough, particularly compared to last year.

What did everybody else think?

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