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The exact nature of Liz and Jack’s Pentor/ Pupil relationship has been explored in the last few episodes of 30 Rock. Two weeks ago in “Reaganing” Jack viewed Liz as the ultimate problem-ridden target for his mentorship, and in this week’s episode, “Gentleman’s Intermission” Jack is given an ultimatum by his pregnant girlfriend Avery who insists that he stop helping Liz with her personal life.
Jack gives in, which leads him on a quest to find a suitable new “Mentee”, with the appropriate amount of D.I.H.C; Jack’s acronym for Drive Intelligence Humility and Chaos. He then spends the rest of the episode testing all of the major cast members to see if they deserve his guidance. Liz, left bereft of Jack’s advice has to solve her own problems, and this week she has to deal with her father (Played by guest star Buck Henry) as he attempts to cheat on his wife.
Tracy, Kenneth and Jenna have a subplot where they discover that NBC pre-records obituaries for important celebrities; Tracy worries that he’ll leave an embarrassing legacy, while Jenna learns that she isn’t famous enough to warrant a pre-recorded obituary. Kenneth, of course, wants to help both of them.
All of these plotlines give the writer excuses for crazy capers and zany hijinx, but the episode isn’t particularly funny. Liz concocts an outlandish plan to stop her father from going through with his “Gentleman’s Intermission”, which is an obvious parody of Sit-Com wacky schemes. Tracy, Kenneth and Jenna end up converging in their subplots, but this time it doesn’t seem like a deliberate spoof on sit-com tropes.
There are numerous funny moments that pop up, but they’re generally quick nonsequitar lines like “I’m wearing a Duane Reade bag as underwear today”. The storylines all converge, but it seems that the tight structure got in the way of the humor. The writers even use some bad gags about Tracy “Googling” himself which would have been funny a few years ago. Yes, Tracy thinks “Googling” himself means masturbating. Then there’s the gag that Jack’s Mentor acronym D.I.H.C. rhymes with “Dick”. It’s funny the first couple of times you hear Jack say he wants dick, but the gag is used over and over again throughout the episode with diminishing returns each time.
The directing uses lots of quick cuts, and over-the-shoulder shots, giving viewers little opportunity to enjoy the cast interacting, this is an even greater shame because Buck Henry's guest spot ends up being a few quick shots of him on the phone, or in a night-club trying to be cool. We never really get to enjoy him and Tina Fey really playing off each other in what could have been a very funny scene between them in a nightclub.
The performances are, of course, terrific. Alec Baldwin in particular has a funny scene where he does a “Tough New Yorker” accent when he’s trying to intimidate someone on the phone, and Tina Fey does a deliberately bad southern accent in one scene as well.
The episode isn’t bad, in fact it funnier than most sit-coms, but in terms of 30 Rock’s usual work, and the potential of a Buck Henry guest appearance, its was a little disappointing.