‘30 Rock’: Liz Lemon refuses to settle
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This week, the universe was telling Liz Lemon to settle, but she wasn’t having it. Apparently, she hasn’t read ‘Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough,’ the latest romantic self-help book to enrage single, thirtysomething women, or seen author Lori Gottlieb’s gazillion talk-show appearances. Because if she had, she might be Mrs. Wesley Snipes by now.
Last week, I complained about Liz’s perpetual and increasingly unconvincing single status, and hoped that Wesley (Michael Sheen) might turn out to be her actual future husband. Wesley was back again last night, but, sadly, he and Liz are not meant to be. In fact, they sort of can’t stand each other, except when drugged. For some reason that wasn’t entirely clear to me, Liz wants to smash Wesley’s face (OK, he likes ‘Notting Hill’ and calls God ‘she,’ but is that really enough?), while her incessant talk about junk food reminds him of a Cathy cartoon (though he kind of has a point, doesn’t he?).
So they should both just go their separate ways, right? Yes, but like a romantic comedy gone awry, they keep running into each other. They both go to the same showing of ‘Hot Tub Time Machine,’ for example. After so many coincidences, Wesley becomes convinced that he and Liz are each other’s ‘settling soul mates,’ so, just like in a romantic comedy, he makes a dramatic overture to Liz. Only instead of ‘You had me at hello’ or ‘When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible,’ he says, ‘Grow old with me Liz. In separate bedrooms.’ Who says romance is dead?
As any woman would do, Liz consults Tracy about this quandary: Should she settle for Wesley or hold out for someone that she, you know, actually likes? In his own inimitable way, Tracy tells her not to settle, and I suppose he’s right, but I’m still peeved that Michael Sheen won’t be around any longer. I don’t know if Tina Fey and the ’30 Rock’ writers were specifically trying to take on Gottlieb’s book, or just the idea of ‘settling’ in general, but something about the whole premise fell flat. Maybe it’s because Liz already tried to settle for Dennis Duffy and decided she couldn’t do it, or maybe it’s because there’s a difference between ‘settling’ and ‘marrying someone you hate.’ Either way, it just wasn’t as funny as it could have been.
This week also brought a surprising biographical revelation about Tracy: Despite his image as a lothario, he is faithful to his wife. It was a funny twist -- especially the ‘leaked’ voicemail message to Angie from Tracy, while shopping for shower curtain rings -- and anything that leads to more Tracy is a good thing. But can it possible be true? I will leave it to more obsessive ’30 Rock’ fans to go back and see if it actually jibes with the facts.
Jack’s subplot was a continuation of last week’s episode, as he struggled to come to terms with two traumatic life changes: the death of his beloved mentor, Don Geiss, and the acquisition of NBC by Kabletown. Already feeling useless, Jack is left utterly dejected when he finds out that 90% of Kabletown’'s revenue comes from on-demand porn. All they have to do is sit back and watch the money roll in: They’ve already invented the ‘perfect mousetrap,’ so there’s no need for innovation or improvement.
Or is there? Jack realizes that there is a vast, untapped market for ‘porn for women,’ i.e. a channel with handsome men saying things like, ‘How was your day?’ and ‘She’s just jealous of you.’ Now this was one joke that I really loathed, not because it was sexist, but because it was broad and obvious, more suitable for ‘What Women Want: The Sitcom’ (or, yes, a ‘Cathy’ strip) than for ’30 Rock.’ Most of the time, this show skewers the lame gender politics that pollute so much of our pop culture, but occasionally, when the writing isn’t sharp enough, it just reinforces them.
Enough complaining. Next week it looks like Liz’s ex, Floyd (Jason Sudeikis), will return, so maybe all this talk of settling is just paving the way for a romantic reunion between these star-crossed lovers? Fingers crossed.
What did you think?
Best joke: Wesley’s last name is Snipes. He then points out to Liz that it is a name more fitting for a ‘pale English guy,’ than a black action hero. He might have a point. The jab at L.A. (which boasts of ‘Michael Bay, freeways and Legoland’) was pretty great too.
Most insane Tracyism: He tells lovelorn Liz, ‘One day you will have what I have. Because you’re an amazing, strong, intelligent woman, like Hillary from ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.’'
Quintessential Kenneth: ‘My cousin in Atlanta is a business model. She holds up staplers in catalogs.’
Nerdiest reference: Tracy mentions ‘Little Brown,’ which in real life is an esteemed publishing company. On ’30 Rock,’ it’s a talent agency for black dwarfs.
Meanest thing said about Liz (this week): ‘It’s like that brilliant film ‘Notting Hill.’ I’m British and charming, and she’s ... got certain angles that work for her.’ -- Wesley
Something I’d like to know more about: ‘I had this thing where I kept running into Michael Douglas, then I realized it was just some old lady who lives in my building.’ -- Jenna
Most meta moment: During a teleconference with NBC employees around the globe, Jack promises that the network has exciting times ahead, backpedaling slightly, ‘Not Seinfeld/Friends exciting, more like 3-D episodes of ‘Merlin’ exciting.’
-- Meredith Blake (follow me on Twitter@MeredithBlake)