Review: ’30 Rock’ – ‘My Whole Life Is Thunder’

A quick review of last night’s “30 Rock” coming up just as soon as I’m a nymphomaniac virgin widow with a hotel room and a latex allergy…

On the whole, I’ve never been a huge fan of Colleen Donaghy,(*) but dammit if her farewell episode wasn’t fantastic, achieving that rare but always welcome “30 Rock” balance of complete absurdity and genuine emotion. In particular, the way Alec Baldwin played Jack’s reaction to his mother’s heart attack was absolutely perfect (as was the decision to leave the camera on him the whole time so we can see him shift from irritation, to recognition, to everything else. And Jack once again using his complicated feelings about his mother to drive himself to greatness by giving the greatest eulogy of all time – with the help of Kermit the Frog, Paul McCartney, the Harlem Boys Choir and more – was a great example of the power of comedy editing: give us just enough to understand the latest awesome thing Jack is doing, and move on really quickly before it stops seeming awesome. (Though I imagine Kermit’s explanation of the afterlife would have made me weep.)

(*) My mother-in-law, who I don’t think has watched the show before, was visiting last night, and she loved every single word out of Elaine Stritch’s mouth in this one. She was less of a fan of Jenna and Paul’s wedding vows.

Meanwhile, the Liz and Jenna story dealt with an issue several of you raised last week: even if Jack has essentially usurped Jenna’s position as Liz’s closest friend, Jenna was still going to be upset that Liz didn’t invite her to the surprise wedding, on top of her usual sociopathic rage issues. And putting it at the 80 Under 80 event, packed with both national and local New York media figures like Sue SImmons, Wendy Williams and Gayle King, as well as the usual genius of Andrea Martin, and then mixing in Liz’s lighting nerd skills, only upped the cartoonish frenzy of it all.

The Tracy/Kenneth plot (a commentary on both TV contrivances and the low-rated nature of “30 Rock” itself) wasn’t quite at the level of those – though the triple panic attack of Tracy, Florence Henderson and Kenneth (once again praying to Jacob) in the elevator was excellent – but that’s more about how good the main stories were than any real problem with the C-plot. And if Hazel dumping Kenneth is for real, and not just another scheme before she returns, huzzah! Kristen Schaal is great. “30 Rock” is great. But together, they didn’t work.

Some other thoughts:

* Loved the way they abbreviated the theme song slightly, treating Liz’s lyric version of it right before the credits as the start of the song.

* True story about Simmons, who was a New York institution for so many years as an anchorwoman on the local NBC affiliate: back in my Star-Ledger days, every six months or so I would get an unsigned postcard from the same reader asking me to find out how old Simmons was. Like clockwork. Same handwriting, I think the same phrasing. Never an explanation for why he needed this information. I left the paper well before WNBC declined to renew Simmons’ contract earlier this year, but I wonder if those postcards are still coming. Certainly, the 80 Under 80 event will not help answer his question.  

* Meanwhile, Simmons’ longtime partner Chuck Scarborough wasn’t neglected, as we learn that he’s anatomically a woman. (Jenna: “So I am a lesbian!”)

* Glad to see “Lost” vet Rebecca Mader (the virgin nympho widow) on a great comedy, since last season she was briefly trapped as a regular on “Work It.”

* Did the “30 Rock” writers know that NBC would be running an animated “1600 Penn” ad in the middle of an episode when they came up with the “Bitch Hunter” gag? And/or did the NBC promo people know that this episode would feature that gag? Because the end result was making “1600 Penn” seem like a fake show when I can assure you – much like Jack once did about John McCain – “1600 Penn” is very real.

* Paul dressed as a stone angel: “Doctor Who” reference or not? You make the call.

What did everybody else think?