Review: ’30 Rock’ – ‘Governor Dunston’

A review of last night’s “30 Rock” coming up just as soon as I make myself an Old Spanish…

Four years ago on the old blog, I had to implement the No Politics rule, because every time I wrote about an SNL episode in which Tina Fey played Sarah Palin, it turned into the same kind of ugly, irrational name-calling that’s pretty much destroyed political discourse in this country. Both sides were convinced they were right, and the victims, and couldn’t imagine the other side possibly having a point. So rather than continue a futile attempt at asking people to be civil, I just shut it down altogether.

When I realized that “Governor Dunston” was going to deal with this election, and with Mitt Romney selecting a new running mate, I worried that there would be no way to write about the episode without breaking the rule. Fortunately, the episode wasn’t really about Romney at all, but a kind of meta commentary on the Fey/Palin experience, and what it’s like to work on a topical sketch comedy show where one of your stars (or former stars, in the case of “SNL”) is a dead ringer for a larger-than-life political figure. In this case, the real Dunston was rendered as such an incredible cartoon that it ceases to be about politics at all and becomes about a fat, juicy, hilarious target (puking up the change he swallowed for some reason) that no comedy writer in good conscience could turn it down.

Without straying too far over the line of my own rule, I wonder if the scene with Jack and Cooter (Matthew Broderick reprising his role from the season 2 finale) suggested that Fey and/or Robert Carlock are suggesting that Fey’s Palin impression was ultimately a boon to Palin back in ’08, which was certainly not the narrative at the time. (Some people still believe Palin actually said “And I can see Russia from my house” because of the first Fey/Palin sketch.)

Dunston was so ludicrous that, like Dr. Spaceman or Dennis Duffy, I found myself laughing at pretty much anything he did, and that story tied in neatly with an excellent Liz/Criss plot about Liz’s various sexual hang-ups. Her attempt to find the perfect “Mad Men” comparison – and landing on Glen and Sally – was, unsurprisingly, my favorite, but we also had Criss assuming MOMA and the Cloisters were vaginal euphemisms, and the Staples montage (accompanied by Tracy Jordan’s beautiful singing voice, of course).

The Jenna/Kenneth subplot didn’t click, unfortunately, despite the presence of Bryan Cranston and the great Catherine O’Hara. Too much of Jenna at her most narcissistic, and it didn’t feel like Cranston and O’Hara got as much to do as some other past guest stars (including Broderick here). But everything involving Liz, Jack, Criss and Tracy was hilarious.

I will once again ask you to discuss the political satire in the context of the show, and not as an excuse to start debating Obama vs. Romney, Biden vs. Ryan, Biden vs. Palin, etc. Anything that starts heading into that territory, or turns into petty name-calling, gets deleted.

With what did everybody else think?