Turn off the Lights

30 Rock- Mrs. Donaghy

This episode is the first one aired since 30 Rock made its time-slot change to 10:00.  The change in schedule might seem like a bad sign for the show, but it is still strong as ever.  The theme this week is “Marriage”.  Through a wacky series of flashbacks, the audience learns that Liz and Jack accidentally got married since we saw them last. They agree to a quick divorce but, when Jack cuts the budget for Liz’s show, she decides to blackmail him by refusing to grant him a divorce.
Everyone else on the show gets their own marriage-themed subplots, too.  Tracy tries to get his wife a job at NBC so that she can support their children if he dies.  The budget cutbacks force Jenna and Danny to share a dressing room and they soon start acting like a married couple, with Kenneth caught in the middle like their child.  Pete, whose unhappy marriage has been a long-running gag is the expert that Liz turns to for advice on how to torment her new husband.

All of these subplots are interconnected with everything weaving together in a tight, logical manner.  It sounds like a big pile of cliché sit-com capers, but 30 Rock has reached a point where spoofing and subverting these typical sit-com shenanigans is a regular feature of the show.  There’s even a line directly referencing Liz and Jack’s “Will They/ Won’t They” romance, and the accidental marriage is a lampoon of that sort of nonsense.

Long-unseen supporting characters return in droves for this episode; as mentioned earlier Tracy’s wife Angie has several scenes poking fun at the TV stereotype of the sassy black woman.  Remember Danny, the other member of the TGS cast?  He hasn’t done anything on the show in so long that the writer’s gave Kenneth a line about how “We forgot you worked here”.  Dr. Spaceman is back in a scene about Tracy’s health, and the sequence actually makes diabetes funny.  “Your blood tastes like rootbeer”.  In fact, there are tons of hilarious one-liners which have always been the show’s strongest suit.  “My alarm clock died in a cockfight”.
Also returning is Jeffrey Weinerslav, the GE Human Resources guy.  He’s popped up in several episodes to mock the phony sensitivity that large companies put on, just to avoid lawsuits.  Weinerslav (Pronounced “Weener Slave”) has an extended scene as he tries to ensure that Liz and Jack aren’t engaged in any sort of inappropriate conduct, which of course, they are.  Of note is the fact that Pete gets tons of screentime this week.  Liz repeatedly consults with Pete about marriage, as does Kenneth who tries to help keep Danny and Jenna from fighting.  The TGS writing staff shows up for a brief scene as well, but just long enough to read Frank’s hat.

The dialog is full of the customary jabs at NBC, including one about how TGS only netted six-hundred dollars over one season.  There are also pot shots at NBC’s emphasis on reality shows, complete with a pie chart that shows 80% of NBC’s efforts are focused on The Biggest Looser.  A few scenes show Liz succumbing to the guilty pleasures of Jack’s new idea for a reality show featuring people with “Short fuses, delusions of grandeur” and who excel at hair pulling.

As far as the overall story for the season is concerned, nothing really happens.  NBC’s impending merger with Kabletown is referenced often, but obviously isn’t going to arrive until closer to the season finale.  Liz’s romantic relationship with Carol doesn’t come up, despite the fact that she got married!  Jack’s inadvertent marriage to Liz comes across as a minor blip on the way to his marriage to Avery, who doesn’t appear in this episode. But, 30 Rock is not about plot-twists and soap opera dramatics, anyway.  As long as the wit is sharp, and the outrageous humor continues, the show will appeal to its loyal cult of followers.  This episode in particular delivers on that count.



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