30 Rock Review: "The Problem Solvers" (Episode 4.5)

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30 Rock Review: "The Problem Solvers" (Episode 4.5)

Last night’s episode of 30 Rock was the best one so far in the season. Ok, who am I kidding, it was the best. I’m not going to pretend I’m not still a little disappointed in it, though, but it’s just because the show was so close to greatness and we all know it’s done it before and can do it again. 30 Rock is like a mistress I’m going through hard times with at the moment. She continues to give me enough to keep coming back, but I know she’s delivered better in the past and that she’s just taunting me at the moment. But really, what can you do? You need your fix. Ok, it’s possible my analogy would work better with a drug dealer, but you get the point.

-Since I have a forum for it, I thought I'd mention here that Ron Weiner, credited as the writer for this episode, is one of the unheralded geniuses of comedy. He's written for Newsradio, Futurama,

Again, “The Problem Solvers” is top form for this season and utterly hilarious by mere mortal standards. Its problem is that its three plotlines aren’t equal and, while both secondary plotlines link up nicely, its primary one is off on its own and not really doing too much. No show can be successful at everything, but ... well, it used to do that, so the expectation is still there.

This first plotline continues Liz’s somewhat annoying, generally not that interesting Deal Breaker catch phrase/book/phenomenon saga. It’s apparently so successful now that Jack wants to make a show about it, which Liz is all for until Jenna and Tracy advise her not to throw out her options so early and jump at the first thing offered to her. This is pretty good advice, but Jack is really a friend and not a business partner, and when Liz searches for agents and other opportunities she quickly learns that there are none. Jack just offered it to her because he wanted her to have the opportunity. Meanwhile Jack searches for an alternate host, with generally funnier results, but overall not too much goes on and then they come together at the show’s end. Liz will get the talk show host gig, though at this point in time it’s hard to really care. Could we get back to TGS already?

Yes, yes we can, which is luckily a much more interesting state of affairs. Turns out the new cast member, who spent last week’s episode living by the code of the robot, is not just a nice, competent human being, he’s also incredibly handsome. His only flaw is that he’s Canadian, but even that can’t be counted against him. Too much. He’s also so nice that he doesn’t want Kenneth to do his menial tasks for him, which puts Kenneth into his typical identity crisis mode.

To fix this Kenneth calls upon Tracy and Jenna, who are going around as the problem solvers, doing what they can to help out the world and generally ruining everything in their paths. Definitely the episode’s strong point, it’s impressive how many visual gags the show pulls off with just a pair of t-shirts and some overreaching enthusiasm. They give Kenneth the help he needs, well kind of, and the new cast member is set to do whatever it is his job is. Sketch comedy or something, right? Sure.

So 2/3 of the show were amazing and 1/3 was good. Not a bad ratio, and for the most part things were a success, setting up next week to go off in a number of interesting directions. But still, I’d rather not begin judging the show from a Simpsons-style “good for this season” scale. So we’re waiting again for things to really hit their stride. Maybe they’re on an upswing?

Random Thoughts:

“Reality show where criminals try to dance their way to freedom”

Kenneth’s welcome song = awesome

“I hope he hates Twofer”

“Oh no, is that the new guy?” “No, I’m Lutz. Worked here for 3 years, gave you that car I won.”

"You have the powers of superman for one year but you can only have one sexual partner."

"Spit take are you serious?"

-The karaoke scenes are amazing

"He knows you’re special, like a black stripper with blue eyes."

-Wayne Bogs Carpet World. 'Nuff said.

"I feel about as useless as a mom’s college degree."

-Signature arm gestures are amazing. We, as a culture, need to bring those back.

-The show Sports Shouting is pretty spot on, sadly.

"You’re an actor now, you’re special … and taking advantage of Kenneth is part of it."

"Don’t worry, Kenneth loves being our slave."

"So what if Kenneth’s bitter, he’s an underhuman."

"Who said I’ve been alive forever?"

-Losing the leather bracelet is actually pretty good advice, all things considered.

-I actually have a lot of experience working with parents like Pete. Why can't I use that excuse with my cats to get out of work?

-Are You Stronger than a Dog? or I'm a Celebrity Dog, Get Me Out of Here? Oh the choices.

"All white people look the same to me, Pete."

-Last week the critic Nathan Rabin mentioned a certain Don Knotts-itude developing in Kenneth. Looks like the show agreed ... hopefully that will keep them from having him go too far in that direction.

"That was aboot the coolest thing I’ve ever seen."

-The turntable scene at the end also makes up for the rest of that plotline sucking ... almost.