30 Rock: Love in the Time of Ikea

By Seth Abramovitch

Feb 10, 2012

30 Rock S06E06: “Hey Baby, What’s Wrong?” Part 1 and Part 2

Is Valentine’s Day over yet? I really hope so, because I’m not sure how many more Valentine’s Day-themed sitcom episodes I can take. First Happy Endings (sorry, it was trying way too hard) and now 30 Rock. Since when does every single holiday warrant a theme episode, anyway? Halloween, fine, Christmas, fine. But Valentine’s Day? That’s not even a real holiday! And while I’m ranting, what is with all the double episodes of 30 Rock this season? A half-hour is plenty, particularly when the show is openly acknowledging that its beginning to feel its age in its sixth season. Stretching thin premises to an hour will not help matters. But okay, I’ll stop kvetching now, because the truth is, there was actually a lot to like in “Hey Baby, What’s Wrong?” I just want 30 Rock to stay on the air, and I fear that things are torpedoing a bit this season.

What worked: The return of Avery’s mom. Diana (played by Mary Steenburgen, looking impossibly good) is back in the picture, and blithely unconcerned about Avery’s detention and subsequent brainwashing in North Korea. She’d rather talk to Jack about her pacing horse, Squanto (“She’s foaling in the spring!”) and the difficulties of organizing paddle-tennis tournaments than discuss rescuing her daughter. Here’s a little story about Jack and Diana: They have great chemistry, and despite Liz’s admonitions against it, I hope they do the naked hokey pokey.

The Ikea sequence was also inspired. Criss and Liz headed over there to buy a dining room table, though Criss was unaware that the Swedish budget-furniture emporium is relationship kryptonite. Not only did that stuff work (“What’s with the neggy vibes?” he asked after Liz nixed a set of heart-shaped salt-and-pepper shakers) but I especially enjoyed the weird Ikea employee who followed them around (“Silence prisoner! I mean, can I help you, valued customer?”) and the mute fat guy in the Zoo York T-shirt with no sense of personal space. God! Ikea. The worst. We’ve all been there.

What did not work: The rest of the plots, for the most part. Kristen Schaal’s addition to the cast as Hazel the page, foil to Kenneth, is not really resulting in much by way of satisfying comedy. Bottom line: I don’t really understand what makes Hazel tick, and, quite frankly, I have a feeling the writers don’t, either. She’s both abused and humiliated by the cast and crew, yet she herself is an unlikeable and conniving woman. She worked in the haunted house industry? What does that even mean? I guess they were going for a obsessive stalker thing at the end there, but it was too little, too late. Time to write Hazel off the show.

Similarly uninspired was the Lutz plot. Let’s face it: Lutz is a two-gag-per-episode character at most. Does anyone actually care if Lutz finds love on Valentine’s Day? No, we don’t, particularly when the hunt is stretched out over the course of an hour. The Jenna/Pete plot, in which they tried to figure out why Jenna was unable to sing on America’s Kidz Got Singing, was similarly grating. As much as I love 30 Rock, I never quite understood what Scott Adsit contributed to the equation. (I was more of a Josh man, myself.) The resolution—involving archery, cupid, bad ‘80s references, and a bleeding arrow wound—was kind of a groaner. As I mentioned before, 30 Rock is having a bit of a rough go of it in its sixth season, but unlike The Office, it’s definitely still salvageable. Here are some suggestions to improve the show. Feel free to use any of them, 30 Rock!

– Get rid of Hazel.

– Continue relegating Tracy to the C-plots.

– Less Pete.

– Focus more on Jenna, and bring back Paul, her Jenna-impersonating boyfriend. – Break up Liz and Criss. A happy Liz gives me the creeps.

– Give Jack a new love interest and stop talking about the absent Avery. She wasn’t that interesting. (Diana would be a good love interest if it weren't for the Avery connection.)

– Do something drastic, plot-wise. Cancel TGS for real. Scatter the characters. Have them join a rival network.

– Add more Hollywood parodying, and not just reality TV. Send-up awards shows, Ryan Seacrest, whatever. Bring the whole show to L.A. for a couple episodes!

– Explore Kenneth’s background and family.


– What did you think of this week’s episode? Too long? Just right?

– What were some of your favorite lines or gags?

– What is your assessment of the season until now? Do you have any ideas how 30 Rock might get its ship back on course?

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  • Miss_Mouse88 Feb 14, 2012

    Everything that happened at or was associated to Ikea was hilarious, I was really laughing. Tracy's school of taking advantage of women was actually really enjoyable as well. I don't find Jenna funny at all and I never really like her stories. Oh, and Hazel wasn't that bad until she started going super-crazy psycho-lady. Now she just sorta gives me the willies and not she has gotta go. Everything that came out of that Ikea salesman's mouth was the best. Plus obviously, "Hey baby, what's wrong?"

    PS will everyone please stop complaining about Community and NBC, yes I love Community as much as the rest of you and think that NBC is veeeery stupid. But it's getting to the point where it's like saying Twilight is awful. We all know this and everyone whining and b*tching every 3 seconds will not make it better so just give it a rest.

  • KingsX Feb 13, 2012

    I'll be at my local Ikea this Valentine's Day asking lonely women "Hey baby, what's wrong?" Thanks 30 Rock!

  • bmill2 Feb 12, 2012

    The Happy Endings Valentine's day episode was great. I don't know what you were watching

  • Big_Pecks Feb 12, 2012

    I like Hazel's character, but she's kind of just there. She didn't add anything to the episodes.

  • TrevPlatt Feb 12, 2012

    It's a good show, I enjoy watching it and I probably will until it's finale, but 30 minutes of '30 Rock' is not as good as 30 minutes of 'Community', one hour of '30 Rock' and still no 'Community' is just taking the piss!

    What the hell are NBC thinking? Seriously, someone tell what they are thinking.

    Appologies in advance - 'Community' rant alert.

    I realise that this next part is just my opinion but I'm still going to state it:

    NBC ruined 'Harry's Law'; 'Grimm' & 'The Firm' are both poor; 'Smash' looks like a great show but I'm just not interested in the premise; I'm not a fan of 'Parks & Rec' or 'The Office', I think it's because of the mock-umentary style; 'Whitney' & 'Are You There Chelsea' are both poor, as is the vastly overrated 'Up All Night'; ('Law & Order: SVU' and 'Parenthood' I've never seen so I withhold judgement) and the rest of their prorgamming is Sports, Reality and Talk Shows.

    '30 Rock' and 'Community' are the only two of their shows that I watch and I rate 'Community' a lot higher than '30 Rock'. 'Community' is one of the best shows being made (assuming it is still going to be made), '30 Rock' is just OK.

    NBC is a scraggy mongrel picking at the scraps left under the table by the other networks as they feast, the only thing of worth in the mutts possession is 'Community' and that's just been buried in the garden.

  • Jared3648 Feb 12, 2012

    I enjoy Hazel! I was thinking they could use her as a regular, but if she is going to be Liz's stalker, then I assume she'll only be around a short time longer.

  • JT_Kirk Feb 12, 2012

    30 Rock has always seemed exceptionally lazy in their writing, like no idea gets a "no" at writing sessions, so they just meander through, throwing idea after idea into the soup no matter how lame or off-note or cheap or out-there it is, which makes for a lot of bloated episodes, such as this one.

    I like Mary Steenburgen as an actress, but she didn't even look like herself, I recognized her only by her voice. What is up with that?

    You are on the money about Hazel the page, I think Kristen Schaal can be really funny but this part is badly-written and just a total off-note. As a character, they should have left her as a 1-time gag in the previous episode.

    As for Liz happy, I think at some point, the joke of the single semi-successful woman gets old and stale - she's attractive, fairly well-to-do, initially seems low-maintenance, and lonely, so it's not unbelievable that she'd have a boyfriend for a while.

    Honestly though, the show has run its course, it no longer has a single comment to make on its original source material, it's just 100% antics all the time now which is a sure sign of mediocrity. The only thing that could affect change is to pull an SNL-like cast change, getting rid of a lot of the talent (including the non-believable-as-a-star Tracy Jordan) to bring in a whole new slew of characters for Liz to fuss over, or at least a serious take-over the way NBC took SNL from Lorne Michaels in the '80s, only to have Liz wrest it back months later.

  • Janter23 Feb 11, 2012

    I love Kristen Schaal! I actually felt her character, Hazel, was underused last week but was relieved to know she'd stick around for a while this season. She may have been annoying to some but training her to be a TGS page will give Kenneth something else to do besides recalling his obscure religious farm life over and over again.

    Kudos to 30 Rock for mixing things up by splitting up the characters in five (FIVE!) subplots with fun guest actors. I admit that not all the jokes had me laughing. But it was a fun - and unique - hour of 30 Rock which I wouldn't mind watching once per month.

    Best line of the night - Tracy believed Liz and Lutz were in a "will they, won't they?" situation for six years and compared them to Maddie and David in "Moonlighting"

  • Janter23 Feb 12, 2012

    Yipe! I retract my statement in which I said I'd watch hour-long episodes of 30 Rock once per month. Bring back Community to fill in the other half-hour, NBC please!!

  • DavidJackson8 Feb 11, 2012

    This was an okay episode. It did feel a little long at times.

    I'm cool with happy Liz. I'm kind of getting sick of Kenneth. I've never had a problem with Pete. I think Tracy can handle a B plot, if written well enough. Hazel's a bit too off.

  • FilmFanatic Feb 11, 2012

    Good Recommendations!

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