You know those two weeks after you quit your job but are still working at the same office? You can kind of do whatever you want. What is your boss going to do? Fire you?
30 Rock is clearly enjoying a similar freedom now that the end is near. The comedy has always been a rather fearless show when it came to mocking NBC or society in general, but now it’s going after its corporate parent and the political landscape with the fervor of a show that has nothing to lose. NBC can’t cancel the show, right?
Over the years, art has imitated life on 30 Rock (think Tracy Jordan having to apologize for something he said much like Tracy Morgan had to) and this week Tina Fey pulled from her real-life experience of being a doppelganger for Sarah Palin and brilliantly spoofing the vice presidential candidate in the 2008 election. Now it’s Tracy who is a dead ringer for Republican vice presidential nominee Governor Dunston. (In the world of 30 Rock, Paul Ryan had to drop out of the race because he was born in Kenya. “Not a lot we can say about that one,” Jack tells Liz.) Given that the vice presidential debate aired last night, the storyline couldn’t be timelier. Jack begs Liz not to do any political sketches because those typically spike ratings and he’s trying to tank NBC.
But Liz does do a sketch and it becomes so popular that she now has to produce five TGS shows a week. The comedy also returned to its recurring theme that Liz doesn’t enjoy sex. This is now more of a problem since she and Criss are trying to have a baby. Criss comes to her office ready for a little afternoon delight and Liz wants to be like Megan and Don Draper but quickly realizes they’re more like Sally and Glenn. Hooray for a Mad Men reference!
Liz discovers that she must organize her life with color-coding and spreadsheets, and this turns her on. The concept is funny, but the montage of Liz and Criss getting kinky with office supplies at Staples really didn’t work.
Governor Dunston’s antics are so ridiculous (his pants come off during a debate and he throws up at a state fair) that Liz doesn’t have to write anything for Tracy to say. He just repeats things Governor Dunston has already said verbatim. Jack learns via Cooter Burger (Matthew Broderick reprising his 2008 role) that the TGS sketches are making Governor Dunston more likeable and the Republican party wants the sketches to continue. Should Jack save the Republican party and tank his career? Or tank NBC and not help out his fellow Republicans? It’s a Sophie’s Choice for Jack, but Liz decides the sketches will continue.
30 Rock always gives good guest stars, and this week was no exception. The hilarious Catherine O’Hara and Bryan Cranston played Kenneth’s mom and her friend. It was fun to see Cranston, who has been so terrifying on Breaking Bad, whooping it up on 30 Rock.
As much as I’m enjoying this take-no-prisoners march towards the series finale, I delight in the show the most when its comedy is smart and quick. I would have appreciated the Governor Dunston shenanigans more if he hadn’t been a total buffoon.
Take my favorite exchange of the night: Jack asks Liz, “Did you see the news?” She replies, “I saw The Today Show, so I know how to make an autumn pizza that your team will love.” That quip skewers morning news programs and the fluff that fills the hours, but it also seems like a totally legitimate segment that The Today Show would have. That exchange is funny because it’s true, and it’s also smart comedy. 30 Rock also excels at even the throwaway lines being ripe with political satire. “Let me die in an emergency room with a treatable disease like an American,” Kenneth’s mom says of Obamacare.
Hopefully the clever comedy that 30 Rock has perfected over the years will continue to dominate the remainder of this final season.