30 Rock, “Future Husband”: Your dentist gets drunk with you, too?

“30 Rock’s” fourth season definitely isn’t as good as its first three were. There’s that barrier between so-so and really funny that several episodes just haven’t been able to cross. A lot of the problems I’m seeing with “The Office” this season are the same ones that are beginning to crop up in “30 Rock.”

The thing is that “30 Rock” has failed where “The Office” has, well, also failed. “The Office” has given itself a chance — several, actually — to rise above itself and become more than the sum of its parts. We’ve seen several game-changers introduced that ultimately have gone no where. Things are changed up for a few episodes, but in the end everyone always ended up right back in their normal places, where they should be. “30 Rock” hasn’t even done that. The characters are who they are who they are who they are. With Liz, I can understand it, and really, I’m okay with it. If she suddenly was imbued with a huge amount of confidence and did something crazy like go after Jack’s job, it wouldn’t be true to the character —

(On a related note, there may be some people out there who say, “So if Liz changed it wouldn’t be true to her character, yet you constantly bitch about characters like Jim Halpert not changing. If Jim changed, wouldn’t that be untrue to his character?” I say, NO! It wouldn’t be untrue to his character because “The Office” doesn’t exist in the same heightened, slapstick reality that “30 Rock” does. We’ve seen this in other shows, a good example being “Seinfeld.” We knew that the world they lived in was just a little off and we accepted the fact that by the end of the show, Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer were every bit the uncaring, selfish bastards they were at the beginning. So, suck on that, nerds.)

— Anyway, even though Liz is essentially the same person she was at the beginning of the show, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that her character is one-note. Unfortunately, this doesn’t extend to the series’ other characters, the best two examples being Tracy and Jenna. And more and more it seems like we’re seeing the two of them thrown into situations in which all they do is feed off each others’ craziness. It’s just turned into the same thing over and over again. And that’s exactly what we saw when Jenna agreed to coach Tracy before his one-man show.

What’s worse is that Tracy has turned into the representation of the show’s lowest common denominator form of humor. Jenna tells him he can go onstage and read the phone book for all she cares, and surprise surprise, he reads the phone book. In an earlier episode, he tells Liz something like, “Don’t worry, I’ll prove that I finish everything I–” before walking away. Get it? He was going to say that he finishes everything he starts, but he didn’t! Whatever happened to Werewolf Bar Mitzvah? Remember how witty that was and how hard we all laughed at it? More of that, please. Last night’s little “repeat after me” bit between Jenna and Tracy had me thinking the show had sunk to a new low.

Now that Don Geiss is dead, and Avery Jessup’s given Jack the chance to rise up and fill his position, the show may have a chance to seriously change things up. Still, because Alec Baldwin is such an integral part of the show I think this is unlikely. At the most I think we’ll see Jack as the same crazy, corporate man, just maybe with a bigger office. And that’s okay. “30 Rock” doesn’t need to completely change its characters for the show to get its groove back, it just needs to give them all some different to do.

In tonight’s episode, I enjoyed Michael Sheen as Liz’s future husband, although his performance was so low key that by the end of the episode I was wishing we had seen him do more. Hopefully he’ll have a little more to do in next week’s episode. And I’m still liking Elizabeth Banks’ stint as Avery Jessup. I don’t know. There’s something different about her as compared to the other women we’ve seen Jack with, so I hope she’ll stick around, at least for a little while. I know it looks like I have many many more bad things to say about “30 Rock” than good, but I’m still loving the show. Behind “Modern Family” and “Parks and Recreation,” it’s my favorite comedy on TV this season. It’s just disappointing to see it in this slump when it’s hit its beats so well in previous seasons.

Stuff I liked:

  • “If I wanted to see a black guy make a fool of himself, I’d have sex with K-Fed again.”
  • “It’s a 24-hour news cycle, Jack. We don’t have time to do it right anymore.” Holy hell, it’s the truth.
  • Early morning jogging.
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