For the second time in its glorious final season, an episode of 30 Rock had me reaching for the Kleenex like some godforsaken ER holiday episode from 1997. Liz is a mom! The TGS cast and crew oh-captain-my-captained her to freedom! Kenneth inherited the earth! Oh, dear readers, it was all too much for your softhearted recapper to bear. I Peacock this show so very much. But the rowers keep on rowing, so ...
We opened tonight on Liz packing up her office, TGS canceled thanks to EFFING HAZEL’s sexual harassment suit. Lemon walked out her door to find the skeletons of her writing staff pointing a collective accusing finger. “You failed us, Liz,” said Skeleton Frank, wearing a “Panic Dream” hat that gave away the truth, in case the skeleton part wasn’t explicit enough. “You let the show get canceled and we all died.” Liz awoke from the nightmare, terrified.
But this was no time for hysterics! Criss was at her bedside, in hysterics! In just five days, the twins they adopted would be coming in from Houston — where it will always be Intercontinental Airport to me — and there was power nesting to do, including but not limited to figuring out the approximate size of an 8-year-old’s head! “Kids coming, show to save, DVR at 98 percent, but I’m just never in the mood to watch Treme,” said Liz, before arriving at a plan: “Okay. First things first. I’ll watch a bunch of Tremes.” Even though I hear it gets good if you stick with it, that may not have been the best idea. Criss ran out the door in his PJs to measure balls at a sporting goods store.
And so the plot was set: Could Liz prepare for motherhood and save her show-baby at the same time? Once Jack explained she'd have to produce TGS for no money at all if she wanted to keep it alive, it certainly seemed impossible. “Impossible?” scoffed the new CEO of Kabletown. “Would any of your female heroes say that? Would Amelia Earhart, or Dian Fossey, or Joan of Arc? [Beat.] Boy, women who try to do things sure get killed a lot.” Bottom line: It was time for Lemon to make lemonade.
I have a recurring nightmare where I am screaming at everyone I know to do something very important, but they just stare at me like I don’t matter. So watching Liz fight to motivate her staff — to get the writers to write, to get Jenna and Tracy to stop pitching their imaginary action movie starring a multi-racial pair of Siamese twins — was absolutely heartbreaking. In desperation, she decided the quickest way to save TGS was to bring in a sponsor, and because she was in no position to be picky, she turned to Axe Body Spray body double Bro Body Douche and asked them to get in TGS’s panties. (No homo.)
The Head Douche’s first suggestion: Change the name. “TGS. It sounds like a news channel, or an STD you know I’ve got,” he said. “Look, don’t get me wrong. I like Tracy Jordan. Dude’s a baller. I like that you’ve got a slut on the show, even if she is a little boned out. And I love the sexual harassment thing. Noice. But if you’re gonna get in bed with a douche, it’s not just gonna be the tip. This is senior year.” He declared that the Douches would need creative approval, brand mentions, the whole TGS tone needed to be more like the porn version of Transformers, and Liz needed to change her creator credit to “Todd Debeikus,” may he rest in peace. Yes, Liz nodded. Anything.
Oh, but what was the point? When she returned to the office, the writers were shooting Lutz with Nerf guns; Tracy and Jenna had blown an entire Access Hollywood interview on Heads of State, Colon, The Rise of Doctor Rofulus; and Liz had missed the opportunity to shop for toys and gender neutral toothbrushes with her husband. “What would it take for you people to step up and help me, ever? EVER?” she screeched. When she slammed her door and the TGS sign fell off her wall, the look on Liz Lemon/Tina Fey’s face was pure heartbreak.
Meanwhile, as if that story line weren’t enough for, like, an entire sweeps arc on most shows, Jack kicked things off tonight by hiring Kenneth back as a page, specifically so he could lead a tour of prospective new NBC presidents. I think we’ve all been waiting for Kenneth to get his page outfit back for a very long time now, and the fact that they breezed right through that to get where they were going says a lot about the emotional weight in tonight’s show. Sniff. Anyway (hold it together, recapper!), as Kenneth put it, this tour would be “like NBC’s TV version of Willy Wonka, starring Bob Uecker!” The only problem was that Jack and Kenneth were somewhat diametrically opposed in what they perceived to be the qualities of a good network president, here, in the golden death throes of television: Kenneth thought Jack should choose the candidate who was purest of heart; Jack was looking for a grave robber who’d strip every last bauble off the corpse.
I’ll admit I was initially too overwrought to notice we’d transitioned into an unabashed Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory homage, despite the (now-obvious) fact that the candidates on the tour were grown-up versions of Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, and Mike TeeVee, who suggested they could make Today more profitable by showing it later on E! and having gay guys make fun of it. But then there was that blond man in a Charlie Bucket–like turtleneck and NBC-page-like blazer, who shared Kenneth’s love for America’s butler, Al Roker. “Janu-where is the snow?” said Charlie. “Pure of heart!” gasped Kenneth.
Although I was plenty clued in by the time they got to Kenneth’s Slugworth impression, I didn’t suspect that the man who passed up five whole dollars was too good to be true until we learned his last name. “Mr. MacGuffin [what'sthatnow?] is the man for the job,” Jack told Kenneth, explaining that Charlie was going to strip NBC for parts, then turn the building into a Forever 21. “Mr. Donaghy, don’t do this,” Kenneth begged. “He may have a fancy degree and know lots of business terms, like ‘meeting’ and ‘envelope,’ but if all he cares about is the bottom line, he’s not right for the job.” Kenneth was so sure of his conviction that he quit the Page program, placing his beloved Peacock lapel pin on Jack’s desk like an Everlasting Gobstopper. Of course, that was all it took. “You’re the next President of the National Broadcasting Company,” Jack told Kenneth, who leapt into his arms and wouldn’t let go, even as Jack poured a glass of scotch and stared out the window into the future and I started weeping copiously.
But what of Liz? Where was her happy ending? Could she convince the Kabletown board that Bro Body Douche Presents The Man Cave (“TV For Your Peen”) was worth saving, even though there were no real sketch ideas, no band (hey, Jeff Richmond!), no union crew, and the sponsor was high on ayahuasca? She never got the chance. Criss called from JFK (Idlewild?) to say there’d been a mixup and the kids were arriving in an hour, at which point the TGS staff watched Liz have a nervous breakdown on the phone and decided it was finally, finally time to take action by doing what they do best: nothing. One by one, everyone quit, and Liz ran to the airport to meet her new family.
Was it laying the symbolism on a little thick to have the twins be tiny versions of Jenna and Tracy? Yes, it was. Did I start sobbing anyway? Dorp.
Odds and Ends
- “ ... and that little boy’s name was Marshall Mathers.” —Liz
- “I do admire Wonka. He’s a true capitalist. His factory has zero government regulations, slave labor, and an indoor boat. Wonderful.” —Jack
- “Fun news fact: the Today show was originally designed to entertain prison inmates whose IQs were too low for them to be executed.” —Kenneth
- “Unlike every other place I’ve ever worked, this business makes no sense. This industry is totally irrational. The only qualification for this job is loving television.” —Jack. Would that it were true.
And then there was one. I’ll need all week to stock up on tissue, so good day, sirs.
I said good day!