Turn off the Lights

30 Rock – Queen of Jordan

This week’s 30 Rock is a single extended inside joke; the entire 30
minutes is an episode of a show-within-a-show.  Viewers who’ve been watching all season know that
Tracy’s wife has her own reality show, Queen of Jordan, and now it has completely
devoured 30 Rock!  The directing, editing, music, bumpers,
and even the opening titles have been replaced with the sort of production
values and camera work that viewers would expect from a crappy reality show,
and the entire 30 Rock cast &
crew have taken this idea and charged ahead full steam with it.  Such commitment, combined with the meta
premise makes this the best episode of the season so far.

There are tons of subtle
touches that make this work, The constant shaky cam, the blatant attempts by
the editors to make people look bad, the constant attempts by people to make
themselves look bad, and the reference to “Blurry face syndrome”.  Then there’s the relentless
wine-throwing, a staple of the Bad Reality Show genre.  Sadly, 30 Rock takes the wine-throwing
gag too far, by using a shot where someone throws wine in a dog’s face.  I think PETA will be calling NBC about that.

The episode is crammed full
of plotlines, and almost all of the cast has something to do (Danny, Lutz and
Ceri are notably absent, though). 
Tracy is back on the show, sort of; he appears for the first time in a
couple of weeks in some footage for Queen of Jordan. Because of the premise of
this particular episode, 30 Rock
isn’t using its usual format of cutaways and flashbacks.  However, tossing in some “Old” footage
of Tracy doing bizarre things like showing up at his wedding in handcuffs,
gives the audience a taste of 30 Rock’s typical fast-paced visual gags.


Susan Sarandon has a cameo as
a teacher who molested Frank when he was teen-ager.  Oh how right Pete is when saying that child rape is only bad
when it involves a male teacher and a female student, but when a female teacher
molests a male teenager, “It’s Awesome”. 
A reverse-gender story of this subplot would be horrifying, yet seeing
Frank with vixen Sarandon is just hysterical, especially when he spouts sweet
nothings like “That’s of one the benefits of being in love with a registered
sex offender”, or “Skeletor isn’t my favorite. 
You are”.  Aside from being funny, this storyline
also sheds some light on the whole Man-child aspect of the TGS writing staff.

Jenna seems quite at home in
this trashy reality show setting, and wants in on all of the media attention
being thrown around.  Her
transparent efforts to get some time on “camer-ah” still work due to Pete’s wacky
scheme to get both stars off the show so that he can collect insurance money.

 
As always, there are some
subtle visual gags going on in the background; the “Graffito” tag that Toofer
put up in the last episode is still on a door in the TGS office.  Randi can also be seen
taking a full glass of wine out of her purse, and did you notice what
14-year-old Frank was wearing for his class picture?  
As is always the case on this
show, there are some terrific one-liners, such as “Legal
says we can’t use the word ‘Best’” regarding Tracy’s work, or Randi smugly claiming that she can’t write
because  “I’m a Christian
Illiterate”.

Most of these subplots are
left dangling because this is the first half of a two-part episode. Or is
it?  Perhaps the cliff-hanger
ending and the scenes from next week’s episode are just part of the meta gag
about reality shows.  Perhaps we’ll
never know who wins Jack and D’Fwan’s dance contest…

Lastly, for those of you who
are curious, Jenna’s website www.Jennas-side.com
is a real thing.

Rating
9.0

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