30 Rock: “Generalissimo” (Episode 310) and “St. Valentine’s Day” (Episode 311)

TV Reviews 30 Rock

As a longtime fan of 30 Rock (IE: since the beginning, IE: old school), I cannot tell you how exciting it is when the show gets on a roll. This season has been pretty good and fits and spells, but the last three or four episodes of the show have been firing on all cylinders—especially “Generalissimo,” which might be one for the ages in the already illustrious 30 Rock oeuvre.

Liz and Jack have new love interests (Jon Hamm and Salma Hayek, respectively), both of whom are well-suited to the ever-neurotic pair. It’s so funny to watch both characters essentially make the same mistakes in their relationships: they both almost always say the wrong thing, and they both make it glaringly obvious their true affection for someone, no matter the length of time after they’ve met said someone. They are flawed, which makes them human, and is the reason we like them.

By pairing Liz and Jack with Jon Hamm (a divorcee) and Salma Hayek (a religious zealot), they’ve found people who are just as flawed as they are. It doesn’t hurt that both guest stars are photogenic dreamboats, something the “St. Valentine’s Day” dialogue didn’t even try to deny. “But there’s handsomeness involved,” Liz whines to Jack. And, just a bit later: “If I had those knockers, I’d be thanking god, too,” Liz said, referring to Hayek (natch).

“Generalissimo” was especially notable because it cast Jack in his true light: as a hopeless romantic. When he likes (loves?) somebody, there’s nothing he won’t do, say or buy to win their affection. In this case, it meant trying to get rid of an evil character on a Spanish soap opera who looked eerily like himself. (The Generalissimo was, of course, played with panache by Baldwin himself.) And who wouldn’t go to such lengths for a lady like Hayek? Who wouldn’t want to have sweet Spanish nothings whispered in their ear, in between scoops of McFlurry’s (a.k.a. “the world’s greatest dessert,” and much, much cheaper than $1,000 dollar gold ice cream)?

Elsewhere, “St. Valentine’s Day” featured a funny, Taming of the Shrew-esque storyline with Kenneth and Tracy, whose bizarre friendship continues to unfold in new and hilarious ways. Kenneth is left tongue-tied by a red-haired blind beauty, someone he calls the “sweetest, prettiest, blindest girl” he’s ever met. So Tracy ably stands in as his voice, spouting off one lame catch phrase after another (“darn tootin’,” anyone?) But, alas, the girl picks up on their game by astutely asking Kenneth, “Why do you suddenly sound white?” Kenneth, much like Liz, Jack and, well, everyone else on the show, is no stranger to rejection. Poor little bumpkin.

There’s no possible way to mention every funny joke or one-liner in the past two episodes. The show is just too lightning-quick for that. But, for now, let’s just bask in the glow of a series whose lights have been turned back on. While I sometimes worry about the excessive amount of guest stars, that’s only a problem when they don’t work. (I’m looking at you, Steve Martin and Jennifer Aniston.) Here’s hoping Liz and Jack’s new relationships pan out, even though we know they’re totally not going to.

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