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30 Rock Review: "Audition Day" (Episode 4.4)

November 6, 2009  |  3:30pm
30 Rock Review: "Audition Day" (Episode 4.4)

You know how sometimes a song can be well-written, the lyrics literate and its singer passionate, but you still think "meh" about it?  That's kind of what this episode of 30 Rock was like for me.  It had a good premise that had been set up for episodes and the usual manic comedy that the show thrives on, but I wasn't really feeling the whole thing. 

30 Rock this week continues with the ongoing search for a new TGS cast member, with all three plot lines running in tangent towards this goal. Liz and Pete have finally found someone who they think would be perfect for the show and are determined to get him in. The catch is that Jack has final approval, and they need to send several auditioners in front of him. Their plan is to rig things by making everyone else so lousy that their choice can't help but get in.

But Jenna's still annoyed that they'd even get another cast member, especially when she learns that he made fun of her previously when they were working on what appears to be a middle-school play. This plotline rises above the "Jenna is jealous of Pete" standard because she enlists Tracy in her effort by, well ... Tracy's not the kind of guy who needs a lot of convincing. But Grizz hears about this and due to his previously unmentioned theater skills, at least so far as I can recall, he wants in.

Everyone else hears about it, which causes everyone from Frank to the janitor to audition. Meanwhile Tracy and Jenna are out on the streets gathering up whoever they can find to also join in. The result is a huge mess, and by the time Brian Williams enters you can tell things are going far into the realm of ridiculousness, in a good way. When Fey's pick enters, he's immediately rammed by Kathy Geiss, also there for an audition, and things only go downhill from there when Jack, Tina, and Pete need to watch a bunch of auditions.

It's at this point that the episode's third plotline creeps in, linking everything together in a way that should make even the show's most ardent critics happy. Jack's apartment has become infected with bed bugs and he's become a pariah everywhere he goes. Even Kenneth isn't able to hug him. The only person who gives him the slightest touch of humanity is a robot dancer dragged from outside by Pete in order to audition. Jack, moved by this, decides that the robot should win.

Things link together nicely, but I felt that the jokes were a little bit more off-target than they could've been. If anything, the episode dealt handily with any structural complaints people may have but, while it had some damned funny moments, there were also some kinda slow points. In particular I thought the new potential cast member was predictable and not too interesting, as well as the audition process in general. Still, it ended well, and left me wondering whether the casting search plotline is at an end or not.

Also, some general housekeeping for 30 Rock: this episode's moment(s) of product placement was the most recent in a long line for the show. It's always very blatant and, in this case and previously, funny enough to ignore. They exist somewhere on border between parody and, well, just plain product placement, but they make me laugh so I give them a pass. Anyone like/hate them?

Another thing that a friend brought up to me is that a. Stone Mountain, Georgia is a real place and b. it's nothing like the show's depiction. Apparently it's actually in the Atlanta metropolitan area and quite large. Who'd have thought? Doesn't make it any less funny, though.

Random Thoughts:

"Sorry I'm not a robot." - "We all are, but you're getting there."

"I don't have bedbugs, Kenneth -- I went to Princeton."

"Back in Stone Mountain even the mayor had bedbugs ... and she was a horse."

"Beat it, Griz or Dot Com."

"You don't think I've been brought in on a million auditions just to make Kim Catrall seem human?"

"Floodgate wheels are horizontal!"

"He's evil Tracy?  ... Oh, he's evil, comma, Tracy."

"I once saw that guy BECOME Tragorin at the Wesleyen center art space."

"My mom used to send me articles telling me how older virgins are considered good luck in Mexico."

"Black people -- I know I've said some terrible things about you in print, but ..."

"Was describing your sandwich necessary to our understanding of what happened?"

"For my first character I'd like to play an old janitor who's finally had enough and kills everybody."

"Josh Girard, former TGS staff member..."

-Geiss as Susan Boyle is kind of a cheap joke, but I felt it.

"I didn't think Kathy Geiss was gonna finish her song by taking off her underpants."

"You're right, he's crazy, we can't hire him." -- "Who, Brian Williams?"

"Hire the one who lives by the code of the robot" - pretty certain this was the best line of the episode.

Very much dug Alec Baldwin's a capella quartet.  Hope they return.

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