’30 Rock’ – ‘Queen of Jordan’: Reality killed the comedy star?

A review of last night’s “30 Rock” coming up just as soon as Alan forgets his catchphrase…

Stylistically, “30 Rock” committed fully to the gimmick of presenting an episode as if it were really an episode of Angie’s “Queen of Jordan” reality show, which was its answer to the familiar documentary-style episode that many dramas and comedies (including “Community” a few weeks ago) will trot out from time to time. No traditional main title sequence, every character introduced with a chyron(*), Jack and Liz’s secret whispered conversation presented with subtitles, etc. Clearly, some of the people who work on “30 Rock” spend a lot of time watching Bravo, and that knowledge paid off with a pretty thorough send-up of the cliches of the “Real Housewives” franchise, “Milionaire Matchmaker,” etc.

(*) The chyrons may have been my favorite part of the episode: “Liz, another person,” “Pete, powerless, bald,” “Jack, Tracy’s gay boss” and, my favorite, “Dotcom, Grizz’s best friend” followed by “Grizz, Greg’s best friend” (followed by Grizz skipping out to have lunch with Greg). They definitely had fun with that.

Story and humor-wise, though, “Queen of Jordan” weaved in and out of the spoof. The episode spent a lot of time on characters like Jenna and Frank who I can’t imagine the actual “Queen of Jordan” producers would care about. (Yes, Jenna’s a co-star on Tracy’s show, but “30 Rock” has been consistent in its presentation of her as having an anti-publicity aura, where the harder she tries to get attention, the less people notice her.) And there were occasional gags like the wine-tossing montage that felt like the show putting the gimmick on pause for the sake of a joke that would more comfortably fit inside a traditional “30 Rock” episode.

And I don’t necessarily mind that. I think I would have grown tired of the conceit if they’d stuck more rigidly to it – I was already bored with Randi, for instance, by the time Frank and his sexually predatory ex-teacher Lynn (Susan Sarandon) showed up at her strip aerobics studio – and at least an effort was made to place a “Queen of Jordan” regular into every scene.

But I do think the show could have had more fun with the intersection of Liz’s world and Angie’s. For instance, the Jenna subplot would have been much funnier if it was taking place entirely on the fringes of each scene, with Jenna getting frustrated with how even the cameramen didn’t care enough to keep filming her. And there was definitely more to be done with the idea of Frank trying to reconcile with the infamous Lynn with cameras in tow.

Still, Jack sinking deeper and deeper into the show’s caricatured conception of him was hilarious, particularly when they switched things up at episode’s end after he had convinced D’Fwan of his heterosexuality. A silly but effective storyline for Alec Baldwin.

Tracy Morgan’s medical leave has forced the show to vamp a bit, and this was a particularly creative bit of vamping with some fine gags. But I look forward to the regular “30 Rock” returning next week.

What did everybody else think?

(Please note: We’re having some issues with our commenting system at the moment, so I apologize if your comments don’t seem to go through. Many times, it won’t seem like they’ve published, but then they’ll appear minutes later. Apologies, and we appreciate your patience as we work the problem.)