30 Rock, “The Fabian Strategy”: My gynecologist committed suicide!

I don’t think anyone will disagree that ’30 Rock’s’ fourth season wasn’t its most impressive. It started with the season premiere and just carried on through the entire year. Occasionally, we’d catch glimpses of the show’s past greatness, but it was always fleeting. Kind of like Rome.[/profound]

While I thought the season finale was definitely a step up, I thought it weird that the writers had concocted this story about Kenneth getting fired almost out of thin air, as if they were scrambling for a cliffhanger for the season to go out on, and Kenneth was the most convenient character to use. In a way it brought the character’s arc over the past year full circle, as we saw him picketing for pages’ rights outside 30 Rock in the premiere. But aside from that one tenuous connection, it didn’t really make any sense, and just seemed to have been thrown in there to stir the pot.

Tonight, ’30 Rock’ played a dirty trick on me. It delivered a hilarious opening, with Jack (seriously, how great was his hair?) calling up Liz to tell her how great things with Avery are going. This was the ’30 Rock’ I knew and loved. Jack as smug as ever. Liz having nightmares about Tom Jones. References I didn’t entirely get but laughed at anyway. And then Liz and Jack hung up, and Liz said, “Okay. Season 5. Here we go.” And it was like, “Ehhhhhhhhhhhh…”

With the season 4 premiere cleverly being titled, “Season 4,” and references to going on hiatus and other show-bizzy things being peppered throughout the series, ’30 Rock’ has always had a sort of meta self-awareness of itself. It’s aware that it lives in a sort of heightened reality in which having sex behind of privacy screen of British butlers is a completely normal thing that happens. And that’s okay. That sense of itself is part of what the show great, but the way the line was delivered just seemed like it was a retread of old material that didn’t deliver in the same way, and suddenly I was worried that we were all going to be in for more of the same this year.

Luckily I was wrong and the show turned out a great episode. And it did it by putting the characters in some genuinely new territory. One of my biggest problems with the show in seasons past was how it beat us over the head with the characters’ problems. Liz can’t keep a man! Tracy and Jenna are CRAZY! And no matter what, none of that is ever going to go away. And that’s alright. Again, one of the things that makes the show great. But tonight we saw the characters move past a lot of that. Liz discovers that Carol (does anyone know how many episodes Matt Damon is going to be in this year?) is almost as emotionally unstable as she is, and while her normal reaction may be to turn in the opposite direction and run, they make things work, after a fashion. Normally I’d say that maybe, just maybe, these two crazy kids have a chance, but I’m pretty sure the show can’t afford Matt Damon’s fee.

With TGS beginning its fifth season, Jenna’s been given a producer credit, and Pete realizes how much more free time he’s got with her doing much of his job. While I loved Pete in knee socks, I liked the cutaway of him screwing his wife even more. But what the hell does that say about me? Most men lead lives of quiet desperation, and of no man is that true than Pete Hornberger, so it’s nice to see him get a little ahead, even if it was back to making the donuts by the end of the episode.

Tracy seeing Kenneth wherever he went gave me a few chuckles, but it’s obviously a story that may take a few episodes to resolve itself. I’m interested to see where it goes.

My wife and I have shortlists of actors we’d go gay for, and after seeing Jack trying to woo James (not Jim or Jimmy, just Jamesssss), I may have to add Alec Baldwin to it. He took being outmanuvered by both Liz and Avery like a man, and his telling Liz that she’s really grown I thought provided a little commentary not only on her character, but on the show as a whole, and maybe even the upcoming season. That’s an awful lot to read into one line of dialogue, but I’m an optimist who’s very happy to have the show back.

But really, does liking the bit with Pete and his wife make me a bad person?

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