30 Rock Recap: Let’s Tank This Mother

Photo: Ali Goldstein/NBC
30 Rock
Episode Title
The Beginning of the End
Editor’s Rating

The final season of 30 Rock is upon us, and lest anyone is still wondering what Tina Fey, et al., really think about the decision of America’s Most Maligned Network to cancel their show, it was made crystal clear when tonight’s premiere revealed what I pray will be the season’s main story line: Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy are going to team up to tank NBC.

Sure, it’s just a gag: Jack is playing the long game, attempting to wrest control from the hands of the eerily jolly Hank Hooper, whose upcoming retirement (skiff!) means he’s destined to hand the network over to a family member. This sits about as well with Jack as do the women and nice men at his business school reunion dinners, and as a result, the diabolical Donaghy has decided to ruin the network’s programming. (“How long has this been going on?” asked Liz. “Seven years? Eight?”) The plan: Sucker Hank into selling off NBC to another corporation, ensuring Jack’s long-awaited rise to CEO.
But it’s hard not to see some meta-bitterness seeping through the pitiful parade of new prime-time series being introduced by the fake Peacock this fall: Hunchbacks! Cricket Night in America! and, best of all, God Cop, a detective drama starring Jack as God, in which there are no rules and, apparently, no editors! The use of real NBC promo graphics added a certain sad something to these parodies, and when they got to Tank It, featuring grandpas in baggy wifebeaters (and inspired by the tanking plan itself), it was suddenly clear that anyone with iMovie and an actual green light in their office probably has a shot at prime-time glory these days. People, TLC has unironically remade Amish in the City. It’s a free-for-all. Time to grab your piece of the pie.
Of course, it didn’t have to be this way. The premiere’s opening shot featured Liz standing triumphantly at the base of Rockefeller Center, holding a baby and sighing, “After all these years, I finally have it all. I’m gonna miss this place.” I applauded the shout-out to the summer’s most controversial magazine headline (and the way the script barely breathed before taking a crack at the summer’s most controversial legislation, Bloomberg’s soda ban), and then I suddenly got really, really uncomfortable. After six seasons of malfunction, I’m not sure I’m ready to see Liz settle down as a happy homemaker, although maybe that’s just my own lack of life goals talking. In any case, it was nice to see her toss the prop baby aside, call Jack a “one percent douchebag,” and get back to the nonsense.
And what nonsense there was, as tonight’s subplots featured the TGS weirdos in fine fettle. So much dysfunction! First out of the gate, we learned that Jenna’s gonna be a soul-sucking monster of a bride leading up to her Secret Surprise Wedding to Paul and wanted Liz, naturally, to be her maid of honor. Meanwhile, it seemed Kenneth believes kissing your sister is a “wonderful treat,” which may explain why he’s still shacked up with borderline personality disorder poster child Hazel, who’s got blue boobs and a husband in a coma that she may or may not have caused. When everyone turned to Tracy for advice on how to get out of their respective jams, we learned that he considers Liz the intellectual equal of an owl wearing glasses and, for him, getting to second base means having a threesome with Robinson Cano. But here’s the really scary factoid for this evening: As a father of three who’s been married for 22 years and owns his own business as “the black Tyler Perry,” Tracy Jordan is technically the most stable adult on the TGS staff. Think about that for a second, and then please direct your nearest family-values congressman to literally any 30 Rock episode featuring Tracy Jordan.
Things went horribly awry during a Pinter-on-LSD dinner party at Kenneth and Hazel’s (“Much weather!”), during which the man of the house clubbed a sturgeon to death with a hammer and the psycho hosebeast came on to Tracy in hopes of landing a part in one of his upcoming movies. This escapade seemed largely designed to give Hazel her latest archenemy, after Tracy spilled the beans to Kenneth about his lady-friend’s indiscretions and Kenneth declined to believe him. I must admit, I’m somewhat exhausted by the show’s efforts to pit Hazel versus everyone, and I sort of wish she’d be kidnapped by Kim Jong-un already to code-tap her sexual depravities in a pit lined with shoes forever more.
Much more promising, however, was the result of Tracy’s advice to Liz: Tank Jenna’s bachelorette party. While I believe they could have gone a little farther with the party itself, I did enjoy watching Jenna go full angry-flying-vampire after the non-stripper policeman tried to hand out pamphlets about identity theft, and I look forward to ol’ Cardboard and Horse Glue’s tenure as her own double-spotlighted maid of honor. Better yet, Liz realized that “tank it” was also Jack’s master plan for NBC, and after he convinced her that, under the reign of, say, the Paas Easter Egg Dye company (those colors! so rich!), she really could have it all, Liz happily joined his quest. “Let’s take this mother down,” she said conspiratorially, and I half expected the show’s final cut to be accompanied with a BOOM!, à la Lost.
Speaking of, nice Dharma Initiative ice cream at the dinner party; bonus points as well for Jack’s reference to The Dark Knight Rises’s Bane as a close friend, Liz’s denial that there could be more than one position in which she and Criss might try to conceive Planty, and the inevitable Honey Boo Boo mention. (June!) But good God, Lemon, this show had more one-liners than “sent” has homonyms, and I’m quite certain I missed dozens. Remind me what I left out below, suggest your own shows for NBC Fall 2013, and, of course, feel free to discuss the direction of our tragic march to 30 Rock’s dreaded end. Until next week, friends, good Peacock.
I said good Peacock!