Morning TV Round-Up: ’30 Rock’ & ‘The Office’

It’s morning round-up time, with thoughts on last night’s “30 Rock” and “The Office” coming up just as soon as I talk on my Bluetooth to a guy at the octopus auction…

Tina Fey and Liz Lemon are not the same person, though they often share similar concerns and beliefs. It’s not hard to look at a “30 Rock” episode like “Mazel Tov, Dummies” and imagine Fey the executive producer (and/or the episode’s writer, Tracey Wigfield) and Liz the character struggling to reconcile their desire to have Liz be married and to have it not be a traditional wedding. And I think both pulled it off. Liz got to be a princess, but it was Princess Leia (the costume making its third appearance on the show, I believe, along with the second appearance of Saul Rosenbear), the rings were from a police auction (and one wasn’t a ring but a grill), Dennis and his drunken wife and their adopted son Black Dennis were the witnesses along with Jack (who read from “The Fountainhead,” because of course he did), and yet there was an obvious joy to it – and not just because Tony Bennett(*) was there to serenade the newlyweds. An amusing, sweet, very “30 Rock” approach to the kind of trope you so often see in a final sitcom season like this.

(*) Hands up, everyone who thought they would just put Alec Baldwin in his “SNL” Bennett makeup rather than produce the genuine article.

Tracy’s misery at having to grow old and start living like an adult wasn’t exactly a new theme for the show – we saw him go in a similar funk after he EGOTed – but the variations were amusing, and any chance to have Alec Baldwin play a great figure of American history – this time trying to sexily eat corn on the cob as Harriet Tubman – is a welcome one. Plus, that subplot in the same episode as the wedding meant we got the rare treat of a half hour featuring both Dennis and Dr. Spaceman. 

Meanwhile, last night’s “The Office” was one of the better outings of what’s been an uneven but improved final season. Andy’s off on his boat so that Ed Helms could go and do a movie (just as Jim’s time in Philly will be used to justify the same for Krasinski), and his temporary absence has relaxed the atmosphere nicely and spread the wealth a bit more among the ensemble. The Jim/Phyllis/Stanley drunken lunch and Pete’s house of complaint cards both felt like the kind of smaller stories the show would have told in its early days (though the latter made Pete even more blatantly into New Jim), and most of the characters have started to feel like themselves again.

Dwight arranging a hitman for Angela was definitely on the broader side of things, but I have to admit to laughing at their their attempt to get Toby (who, for some reason, has always been the person Dwight goes to with sex questions, going back to him asking, “What is the clitoris?” back in season 2’s “Sexual Harassment”) to explain gay sex to them. It’s completely cartoonish, in the same way Kevin is now, yet sometimes a cartoonish gag on a realistic show can be pushed so far that it becomes funny despite not fitting in with the rest. And some of Angela’s conversations in that story’s second half were the most human she’s been in a while.

What did everybody else think?