True to the title of this week’s episode, Tina Fey and co. meet, but don’t exceed, the standards of 30 Rock’s uninspired-yet-still-enjoyable sixth season. ‘Standards and Practices’ has fantastic one-liners and sight gags, but it also has stories that have already been told in other (and sometimes better) ways.
Here are the winners of this week’s 30 Rock-Does-Things Awards…
Sanest Children (who Share Jenna’s DNA) Possible: Jenna (Jane Krakowski) tracks down her six teenage children (thankfully she contributes only her eggs, not the parenting skills) in an effort to gain attention sympathy from the public. This naturally brings about the possibility of talk show appearances with Diane Sawyer and a Bravo reality show, until the Mean Girl-esque children kick her out of the group. She’s the old boat captain/Hugh Hefner to their real stars of Girls Next Door. While Jenna delivers a few great lines this episode, like calling the kids of America’s Kidz Got Singing “condom accidents,” this story didn’t deal with anything we haven’t seen before: Jenna would be/is a horrible mother! And she’s vain! The biggest problem is that the writers’ instincts to make her batsh*t crazy kick in again, and they have her search for her hidden gun once the kids turn on her. So she’s murderous because she’s been abandoned by children she could care less about? At least Jenna is partially redeemed by episode’s end, as she bonds with the brunette offspring Judy over a “coffee enema.”
Best Excuse to Reference the Genius that is The Pink Panther: Naturally, Jack (Alec Baldwin) has hired someone to be the Cato to his Inspector Clouseau to prepare him for any sort of attack that may befall him. Cue two fantastic cutaways to Jack coming home to a silent assailant attacking him in the dark. It’s just too bad the audience don’t get to see the epic battles that ensue.
Sweetest Bonding over a Toilet Seat: After one measly incidence involving drunk children singing on the finale of AKGS, Standards and Practices, aka Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) cracks down on anything that could possibly be offensive at the network. Liz (Tina Fey), wanting to protect her staff’s creative genius (including sketches such as “Fart Doctor”) squares off against him. Or at least she does until she encounters a crying Kenneth in the men’s bathroom, and she and her new alternate personality – Kenneth Toilet Hole – comfort him. This story is great, making it two in a row for Kenneth now that he’s been promoted. The show finally addresses and resolves TGS’s lack of respect for Kenneth without feeling hokey – Liz’s comforting him in the bathroom is both sweet and ridiculous, as Liz as “Kenneth Toilet Hole” tells the former page that he is valuable, and that he should punch Liz in the mouth. Kenneth even gets to play hero and save the show, slow motion run and everything, via his mad censoring abilities when Tracy (Tracy Morgan) goes rogue with his stand-up live on TGS.
(Second) Most Powerful Antagonist to Jack: Chloe Moretz’s Kaylie Hooper returns with a bang as Jack’s teenage nemesis – after causing the aforementioned drunken children’s live television escapade, she uses Jack to get herself expelled from her boarding school in the middle of nowhere (North of Where Street). Again, the two each have great moments as they challenge each other – Jack relating to Kaylie over their absent parents as he remembers that he once took “a log with googly eyes to a parent-son picnic;” and Kaylie delighting in her victory over Jack as her patsy and announcing that she celebrated with “Fruit Roll-Ups for dinner. At a strip club.” The problem is that their relationship as a whole lacks tension. Technically, they are supposed to be nemeses because they are fighting for the same position as Hooper’s Kabletown heir, but in this episode, they only seemed to be fighting and using each other for the hell of it. That antagonistic dynamic could work if the two were given a more substantial back story (exhibit A: Jack and Will Arnett’s Devon Banks). One past trip to the Museum of Natural History does not an absolute nemesis make.
Best Tracy-isms: A three-way tie tonight – he should fast every week if it means that he keeps dropping gems like these:
“I feel like Oscar the Grouch today, and not just because I woke up in a garbage can, startling someone named Gordon.”
To Liz, on her fasting as a means of protesting Apartheid in college: “You’re the one who solved that? Thank you soooo much!”
On finally understanding the surprise ending of The Sixth Sense: “Those names are the people who worked on the movie!”
So how about it, 30 Rock-ers? Did you think this episode was a real “cluster whoops” or did you enjoy seeing “yet another tile in the rich mosaic that is [Liz’s] menstrual history”? Sound off in the comments!
30 Rock airs Thursdays at 8pm EST on NBC