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The 30 Rock finale recap: Kidney Now!

May
18

I didn’t even watch the 30 Rock finale until last night, so down on the show I’ve been this season.

Through two seasons it was the surest laugh on TV. This third season, though, the mojo isn’t quite gone, but it’s been on life support at times. But as the winter turned to spring, things began to look up. And while it never regained its old form, to my taste, it did finish strongly with a hilarious, if less than momentous finale.

The highlight, for me as a child of the 80s, was Alan Alda’s character walking on set and saying to Tracy and Kenneth, “A guy crying about a chicken and a baby? I thought this was a comedy show.

Such a great, split-second callback to the MASH finale, the most watched episode of television in history, in which Alda’s Hawkeye basically cried about a chicken that turned out to be a baby.

OK, enough history. And enough with Jack’s family issues. We get it: guilt-ridden, dysfunctional Irish people are hilarious. The point was made in the brilliant “The Fighting Irish” in Season 2, and the poor horse has been beaten mercilessly ever since.

Speaking of dead horse-beating, I have to observe yet again that the B plot surpassed the A plot. Tracy’s Kenneth-assisted confrontation with his high school demons was funny start to finish. The montage of Tracy’s crying jags after he said he’d never cried was perfect.

All the guest appearances — Sheryl Crow, et al — didn’t do much for me, but the song was pretty funny at the end. “This country has 600 million kidneys. And we really only need half. That leaves 300 million kidneys, do the math.” And it was funny to learn that Elvis Costello is really an international jewel thief, while Clay Aiken is Kenneth’s cousin.

What I guess was the C plot, Liz becoming an advice-dispensing pop culture sensation, really floored me. It was as original idea as they’ve come up with in a while, and it was tailor made for Tina Fey’s comic strengths.

Angie: Dr. Liz, we need some advice from the Deal Breaker lady.
Liz: I don’t know if that’s a good idea. I know you, and I know your husbands.
Angie: I just found out that Tracy has a secret credit card I didn’t know anything about.
Liz: Not on my watch, biotch.
Angie: And he’s been using that credit card to pay for a hotel room here in New York two days a week.
Liz: S that D. Shut it down. Dealbreaker.

We got less Jenna and more Pete than usual, so I’ll settle for the trade-off. Ideally, though, we’d get more of both. Shame about Jenna’s half-sister, by the way.

OK, the main plot about Milton needing a kidney and Jack’s discomfort at having to fork over half his urinary filtering capacity to a father he never knew was all pretty good stuff. I hate that it wrapped up in such sappy fashion, because the discomfort of it all was what made me laugh.

Well, that and Dr. Spaceman getting a kick out of the word kidney and forgetting who was donating to whom.

All that was missing from this episode, really, was the ending to Liz’s fifth-grade body parts song. They cut her off at “And the colon pushes out…”

So TGS has two years left at best. I wonder how many more years 30 Rock has, ideally. To my chagrin, they’ve explored these characters’ personal lives ad nauseum. And they’ve really worked the show-behind-the-show dynamic to full effect for a while now.

30 Rock gained a higher profile in its third season, but I remember Alec Baldwin questioning after the second season how long he wanted to be involved. He was going to quit to write cough a parenting book, which I think he managed to write without quitting.

The conventional wisdom is that Fey and Baldwin are untouchables, without whom the show couldn’t go on. I disagree about Baldwin. He’s been phenomenal, but I don’t think he’s indispensable. If they need to shake things up, and he feels the need to jump ship, I think it could be a good thing for the show, as long as they replace him with someone of similar comic caliber.

Other than that, I have no idea how the show goes about rebounding in Season 4, or even if anyone else thinks it needs to rebound. It’s still funny, but it could use some more of that old mojo.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 18th, 2009 at 3:24 pm by Brian Howard. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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