30 Rock has always been good at playing through old sitcom tropes and reforming them into something new. Here, of course, we have the old “let’s put on a Christmas special” story. Only this time, it’s so Jack can avoid spending Christmas alone with his (maybe not so bad) mother.
In fact, the revelation about why Jack’s Christmases were so bad is creepily touching. A lazier show would’ve kept him and his mother fighting until a cheesy hug-it-out moment. Rather, Jack stays in character and quietly respects his mother for (spoiler alert!) sleeping around to get him toys.
And while that story is pretty good, the B-story about Liz buying gifts for a family in need is easily the best part of the episode. Both Liz’s desperation to spend Christmas with someone and her reaction to not being thanked really says something about our need to get something out of giving.
“Christmas Special” isn’t the only 30 Rock Christmas special. But, for my money, its semi-sweet treatment of the characters and Liz’s comeuppance at ruining Santa Claus for poor kids make it the best.
Mike Drucker is a lovely man with many positive characteristics. He has written for Saturday Night Live, The Onion, McSweeney’s, and Nintendo. He’s also a stand-up or something, I guess.