30 Rock went metaphysical on us this week, but the result was far from an out-of-body experience. It was another dense and talk-heavy episode, packed with headier ideas that seemed to be reaching for the philosophical comedy of Groundhog Day, but was ultimately grounded by its own brand of hyper-cerebral zaniness.
I’m as surprised as anyone that the best moments of Season 6 so far have involved Liz and Criss, a relationship that allows the writers to make some fresh and identifiable observations of coupledom—the Ikea episode keeps popping up in conversation, for example. But “The Shower Principle” went too far in the opposite direction, relentlessly tossing out non-sequiturs and half-baked ideas that were probably cooked up by fully baked comedy writers. There’ve been moments of inspired greatness this season and moments of creative burnout, and this episode definitely tilted into the latter category.
A visit to Liz’s accountant set up the premise: She’s been re-living an existence on infinite loop. Jack, meanwhile, is hampered by his own professional rut, in yet another plot that appealed probably to MBA students more than the general population. Jack’s arc this year is leaving me cold: As best as I can surmise, his motivation is, “I wish I could make Kabletown more profitable.” I miss the days when Jack actually had things to do: nemeses to conspire against, Secretaries of State to bed, CEOs to woo. Now it seems he spends most of his days literally putting around his office, theorizing about business strategy. This week, he was lecturing on the “Shower Principle” (MBA students, is that a real thing? On second thought, I don’t care) and plotting how to get around the problem of Hank Cooper—a foe whose primary characteristic is that he is a really nice guy.
With the episode already feeling stretched thin, it wasn't helped by an added byzantine subplot involving a production of MacBeth starring Mayor McCheese, a scheming Hazel (who even Liz dismissed this week as “just another weird page”), a superstitious Jenna, and Tracy needing to get his taxes done. Tax season as a sitcom-worthy holiday topic? I mean, I suppose, but not the way it was done in this episode.
And just as things couldn’t get any more slapdash, the show took a strange detour into the topic of meditation. I’ve actually been interested in meditation lately, weirdly enough, so I perked up a bit when this happened, but how it related to any of the other developments in the episode remains a cosmic mystery well out of my visualization level. Still, there were pleasures to be had in watching both Liz and Jack’s version of a meditation session.
So Buddhists, accountants, and MBA students’ comedy needs were taken care of this week. The rest of us, well, we were left a little underwhelmed. It’s hard to get excited about an episode when the show’s own star is making not-so-veiled allusions to the fact that the show is feeling its age. “We've already done that, Kenneth,” Liz griped to the rest of the cast. “We’ve already done all of this!” Sometimes, it’s best not to get too self-referential.
1. If you could have one 30 Rock character spun off into his/her own show, who would it be?
2. Did you find the final scene in the warehouse weirdly flat?
3. As always, what were your favorite lines or gags?
Jack: I went and took a shower at the racquet club where I saw Lou Dobbs step on his own testicles. It was terrifying.
Jenna: I don’t care if this production is cursed. Like Lady McCheese, I will screw my courage to the stinking McNugget.
Cerie: Sure, I’ll do it. I just have to be out in time for my band to be on Letterman. [Cut to Cerie combing her hair next to a drum machine before a cheering crowd.]
Liz: I got this meditation candle for 80 percent off. [reading the label:] ‘Summer Horse Grave'?
Jack: I once pantsed Deepak Chopra while Craig T. Nelson taped it. I don’t meditate.
Jenna: Nice try, Hazel, but you made the same mistake Mickey Rourke made on that catamaran. You didn’t kill me when you had the chance.