We’re not sure if our recent feelings of disappointment in 30 Rock owe more to our own unrealistically high expectations for the program or an actual dip in quality, but either way, last night’s holiday-themed episode was yet another in what has become a series of underwhelming installments of what many consider to be the pinnacle of television comedy. Last night’s major plotlines involved Jack Donaghy reuniting with a high-school sweetheart (played wonderfully by Julianne Moore) by way of a new social network called YouFace, Jenna freaking out on the new cast member after she finds out he’s an accomplished singer, and the writers attempting to convince the simpleton Kenneth that they are unable to participate in the network’s Secret Santa gift exchange because they’re all practicing members of a fake religion called Verducianism. Sadly, none of these three plotlines could really be considered 30 Rock A-material.
Of the three plotlines, we enjoyed the flirty interaction between Jack and Nancy Donovan, his unrequited love/co-star in Hey Beantown!, the best. We’ve seen some chatter that people didn’t really buy Moore’s thick, Beantown-flavored accent, but we definitely enjoyed watching her get her Chowderhead on. And the two definitely shared a bit of a romantic spark, especially when their conversation turned to fingertagging (and veered swiftly into double-entendre territory). Also, it doesn’t hurt that we too were raised to believe that no one does French kissing better than the Italians.
That said, the other plotlines felt thin and poorly constructed. We don’t have any problems with a religion that promotes “the healing power of root beer, that a man can have up to nine wives if two of them are male, and always leaving work early to go to the movies on Merlinpeen,” but we had hoped that someone other than Frank, Lutz, and Toofer were given the task of exploring it. Speaking of Frank, while we like Judah Friedlander’s boss hat collection, the show doesn’t work as well when he has to carry its full weight on his shoulders (as he also did in last week’s “Dealbreakers” episode). To be honest, seeing Friedlander in anything other than a silent cameo kind of gives us a case of the sharkfarts.
But the thing we missed most about this episode was our heroine, Liz Lemon. It was strange to see Liz have so little to do this episode, especially when you consider that “Secret Santa” was written by Fey herself. That said, the show’s outro — complete with Larry Wilcox cameo — was sublime. No weird sex stuff!
Postscript: While we aren’t going to say that our co-worker Nick Catucci is crazy for going on the record as being in favor of Liz’s new haircut, we are going to encourage him to visit the optometrist before year’s end.