Kath & Kim

The Husband:

The Office 5.17 “Golden Ticket”

The Office jumps back into its roots and deals almost exclusively with the business aspect of the show this week. In order to spark added interest in Dunder Mifflin’s relations with their clients, Michael decides to go all Willy Wonka – purple hat and jacket included – and puts five Golden Tickets in five random warehouse boxes of paper, which would in turn give the receiver of said Golden Ticket 10% off their paper orders for an entire year.

But this is The Office, and rarely do things go smoothly. When Michael hears that a client has found not one Golden Ticket, but all five, and since it’s their biggest client, the Blue Cross of Pennsylvania, this 50% off discount could get the Scranton branch shut down forever.

(How did this happen? Well, Michael chose boxes that were far to close to each other, and when told that the Blue Cross uses a lot of paper and that Darryl sends them three pallets of paper every week, Michael asks what a “pallet” is.)

Hoping to ease the blame off of himself, Michael holds a meeting to figure out how to solve this crisis and not get fired, but Jim, especially, is not willing to take the fall, because Blue Cross was his client and he just lost a whole bunch of commission via Michael’s shenanigans.

“Well, I didn’t buy a house to impress Pam. That’s what carnations are for.” — Michael

Not willing to fess up to his wrongdoing, Michael decides to convince Dwight that it was his idea all along, something that he finds especially difficult when Dwight declares that he was never allowed to have candy as a child, or watch movies. But Michael starts getting through to Dwight, saying that if he falls on his sword – something Dwight has actually done quite literally – he might be able to have a better life, free from the cooped-up confines of Dunder Mifflin.

“Michael: You can’t put a price on freedom.

Dwight: Try me.”

In a twist uncharacteristic for The Office, however, things start to look up again when David from Corporate comes to the Scranton branch to congratulate Dwight on his fabulous idea. It seems that the Blue Cross was so inspired by the Golden Ticket discount that they have decided to make Dunder Mifflin their sole provider for office supplies.

“David: This is huge!

Dwight: That’s what she said.

Enraged that Dwight is now getting all the praise and attention, and that a staff angry at his behavior is going along with Dwight being the victor, Michael finally fesses up to David, who is, as usual, so perplexed by Michael’s business tactics and immature conduct that he leaves Scranton, speechless.

I think this is one of the better, if more old-fashioned, episodes of The Office for few months now. Instead of saddling Jim and Pam with some lame B-story (see my review of last week’s episode for further complaining), the writers simply decided to let them take a backseat to all the DM madness. And picking up where they left off with the blood drive, the writers throw us a miniature treat when Kevin finally musters up the courage to ask a fellow building employee out. It’s not a huge storyline by any means, but it was nice all the same.

And I couldn’t fit this in anywhere in the review, but my favorite line of the episode was in the cold opening, when Michael makes a very horrible prop comedy knock-knock joke.

“There’s…there’s butter on my desk.” – Pam

The Wife:

Kath & Kim 1.18: “Home”

Man, I really hope that Kath’s house burning down in a fire means this series is done. Her addiction to faux finish (which can make your kitchen look like it’s The Olive Garden) in her pursuit to get her tackified domicile into the Parade of Homes ultimately caused the place to burn down after a spark from Athena Scooberman’s blessing sage lit up the faux-brick countertops and, subsequently, the whole damn place.

I am surprised Kath herself didn’t catch on fire given all the synthetic materials she wears. (Not to say that organic materials don’t catch fire, simply that synthetics are more flammable. Ever looked at the warning label on something made out of acetate?) This plot? Not at all funny, but I did appreciate a nice visual joke where Kath shows the Parade of Homes gays how she styled her staircase while wearing an outfit that matches the wallpaper with trim that matches the leopard carpet. Tack to the max, and cheeky, too.

Meanwhile, Kim is distraught that Craig “forgot” the anniversary of their second date, but Craig is only playing like he forgot so he can surprise her with some “high-end” mismatched earrings. Derek advises Craig to act cold in order to make Kim come crawling back to him, while Tina advises Kim to tease Craig so that he’ll want to come back to her. Tina’s plan? Get tickets to a Slick Rick concert that would require them to spend the night together in a motel in “Tamps.” Craig manages to refuse this, which drives Kim crazy when she realizes that he’s not going to be around to do things for her and she comes crawling back to him in tears. Craig calls Derek for advice on whether or not to take Kim back, but all Derek wants to do is read Twilight. So Kim and Craig get back together and plan to move in to Kath’s house . . . until it burns up and everyone moves into Craig’s apartment.

Honestly, when the funniest thing in an episode is a masculine character reading Twilight, there’s not much hope. Please don’t renew this show, NBC. Please don’t. I want nothing but the best for Parks & Recreation so this doesn’t have to come back.

30 Rock 3.14: “The Funcooker”

This was certainly one of 30 Rock’s wackiest episodes, although perhaps not the kind of consistently funny wackiness that I really love about the show. There’s no such thing as a bad episode of 30 Rock, I just laughed at this one a little less than others.

Fire . . . pretty . . .

Fire . . . pretty . . .

A visit to The Container Store makes Liz want to change her life, until she gets hit by a bike and realizes that her day has quickly become the worst day ever. For one thing, Jenna and Tracy are in trouble for ruining the broadcast of the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Jenna passed out during the broadcast and then Tracy uttered an FCC-finable word, so Jack puts Liz in charge of finding a way to fix her stars’ behavioral problems. On top of that, Cerie was a little too proactive about doing things around the office when she should have been buying Liz ProActiv, so Liz gets sent to jury duty because Cerie updated her voter registration.

Armed with her Princess Leia costume, Liz heads off to New York Jury Duty, promising her staff she’ll be back in a couple of hours, only to find out that New York Jury Duty is full of weirdoes and her patented get-out-of-jury-duty plan fails. While she’s gone, she leaves no one in charge of the writing staff, leaving Jack to solicit their help in renaming his pet project, the pocket microwave. It seems that its original name, the bitNuker, is offensive to people of Dutch or French descent, such as staff-writer-I’ve-never-seen-before Miss LaRuche-Vandenhoot. Realizing she’s going to be gone far longer than she planned, Liz calls Kenneth and puts him in charge. His first order of business? Sending all menstruating women home. Hilarious.

Meanwhile, Tracy realizes that his FCC fine is only $50K, which is completely insignificant to him because his porno video game has made him richer than God. This proves to Tracy that having money means he can do whatever he wants, and so he goes on a spree of lewd behavior and FCC fine-collecting in Liz’s absence.

Jenna visits good ol’ Dr. Spaceman to find out if there’s any way she can do her Janie Jimplin movie and TGS at the same time. He tells her it’s absolutely possible to burn the candle at both ends with an experimental pill that means she’ll never have to sleep, ever. These pills, by the way, make her completely hyper and even more insane than she already is.

When Liz returns from her first day at Jury Duty, she finds her staff in Jack’s office, creating unusable bitNuker replacement names and Kenneth removing the ordinance he made against employees wearing beards or mustaches. Jack informs her of Tracy’s FCC rampage and asks her to corral him because advertisers are pulling their ads, and without ads, there’s no TGS. Liz pleads with Tracy to stop collecting FCC fines and apologize because his actions could hurt the whole crew. Thinking like a crazy genius, Tracy decides to do the show with only one advertiser: himself. If he buys all the ad space, the show can keep going no matter what he does on the air.

Back at Jury Duty, Liz begins to recognize herself in the crazy woman on trial for arson, who burned down her workplace because her employees didn’t respect her, especially the ones named Tracy and Jenna. After the trail as the woman is hauled off to jail, she taunts Liz: “I’m free! This man opens doors for me! I’m freer than you!”

Meanwhile, all of the writing staff’s ideas for portably microwave names get rejected by legal (including my favorite: PortaHottie), so Jack resorts to creating random names with Scrabble tiles, which proves to be less fruitful than he had hoped, drawing first VAG, then NI and then, in one fell swoop, HITLER. I will never use Scrabble as a naming oracle, ever again. Kenneth saves the day by suggesting “The Funcooker” as a product name.

Jenna’s experiences on the anti-sleep pill have been going well, if not completely wacky. She’s clawing and licking windows on the Janie Jimplin set, regardless of what the lines suggest she do, and still has enough energy to don her bear suit for The Bear & Robot Talk Show sketch. But when Dr. Spaceman’s rodent test subject dies, he realizes he needs to save Jenna. He frantically runs onto the set during filming and starts accosting the bear, screaming, “Sleep, Jenna! Sleep or die!” while banging her head on a prop table and smacking her with a chair in a display of brutally macabre and hilarious violence. The icing on the crazy cake here is Tracy dropping trou on live TV and declaring that America see his “funcooker.”

After that disaster, Liz seriously considers burning down her office and then thinks better of it, but accidentally lights her door on fire when she casts off the match. This incident of arson is enough to make the whole TGS staff kiss her ass because they now fear her. Jack gives her the now defunct Funcooker and suggests she go home, take a long shower and microwave some ham.

I would recommend not doing both of those things simultaneously in the same location.

Funny bits:

  • “Synonym’s just another word for the word you wanna use.” – Jenna-as-Janis, officially creating the best School House Rock version of “Me and Bobby McGee” ever.
  • “The pocket microwave? . . . It has a ham button! You used my idea!” – Liz

My Name Is Earl 4.19 “Chaz Dalton Space Academy”

I could tell you that this nice and sweet but ultimately static episode of My Name Is Earl was set around a local Space Academy, one that Earl and Randy once patronized as children until Earl got a hold of a space hero’s spacesuit and accidentally shrunk it in the dryer. I could tell you that when he goes back to the Space Academy to make up for his wrongdoing, he finds out that the man he thought was Chaz Dalton, the famous astronaut, was a fake named Wayne. I could tell you that he tracks down the real Chaz (Curtis Armstrong from Revenge Of The Nerds and American Dad), only to find that he’s a drunk and only went to space because his father had a lot of money, and that he ruined the mission he was on with all of his phobias and anxieties and forced them all to come home when he threatened to kill himself. And I could tell you that Earl realizes that continuing to perpetuate the fraud that handsome, non-drunk Wayne is actually Chaz Dalton, is the best thing for the impressionable children of Camden, which in turn inspires the real Chaz to shape up, set to the second use in one week to the tune of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” (the other being Life On Mars).

I think its gonna be a long, long time.

I think it's gonna be a long, long time.

But, honestly, I just wanted an excuse to post the opening credits to the 1977 television cheese fest known as Space Academy, a fifteen-episode Saturday morning kid’s show that I watched on DVD a couple months back. Enjoy.

Okay, I can at least give you some good quotes from this episode:

  • “Earl, why are you so gay for space?” – Joy
  • “Nobody likes a black nerd, Darnell.” – Joy
  • “I can’t believe you did that. You put the ‘ass’ in ‘astronaut.’” – Earl

The Office 5.16 “Blood Drive”

I’m not usually one to say this, but I’ve become very worried about the show’s handling of Jim and Pam. Yes, they’ve continued to be treated like a real-life couple, with relatable sweetness, half-assed cutesy bickering and uncomfortably familiar growing pains (with Jim buying his parents’ house being a particularly awkward moment), but the actual stories they’ve been given in any number of episodes have been almost completely worthless. This week, they were shunned from the office of Dunder Mifflin – as Michael was throwing a Valentine’s Day singles mixer in order to find the cute girl he met during the blood drive, only to lose her when he passed out from lack of blood flow – and instead headed out to have a long lunch with Phyllis and Bob Vance, where they talked about absolutely nothing that could advance the plot, and then waited and stared at their food while Phyllis and Bob Vance banged one out in the restaurant’s handicap bathroom.

That’s it. That was their entire story. Jim, the true hero of The Office, has been relegated with Pam to be merely the show’s romantic relief in episodes such as these, and it just seems wasteful. I know that they will be setting a date soon, and that date will not come around until next season allegedly, and that throwing yet another man in the mix (much like Roy and that Mad Men fellow back at the arts college) would seem unrealistic, but can the writers at least give me something? I’d rather Jim and Pam not even be in the episode than given something like the restaurant sequence, which was unfunny and pointless.

Okay, Michael’s story was kind of nice, because even though he never ended up finding the blood drive girl, his concept of romance has matured ever since Holly first came into his life. We’re gearing up for a very good season finale with his story, methinks.

Some other funny stuff:

  • “It’s so sexy, it becomes hostile.” – Dwight to Jim
  • “I can retract my penis up into itself.” – Dwight
  • Turns out Angela has had another set of men duel over her. I guess it’s just a thing.
  • “You’re not allowing natural selection to do its work, like the guy who invented the seatbelt.” – Dwight on the concept of a singles mixer
  • Creed stealing blood during the outro, which garnered the episode’s biggest laugh.

The Wife:

Kath & Kim 1.17 “Bachelorette”

As the end of Kath & Kim draws near – and it will end next week with, I’m sure, Kath and Phil’s wedding spec-tack-ular – Kim does something sort of selfless and throws her mom a bachelorette party, only to end up missing their intended Cher concert altogether when Athena Scooberman makes the attendees do shots of some tea laced with hallucinogens. The good news? Kath totally doesn’t know she missed the concert, especially when the ladies see a Cher drag queen at their favorite gay bar later in the night. Oddly, not even Melissa Rauch and Maya Rudolph could make the scenes of the women tripping balls in a limo/pet store funny. Too bad.

With the girls gone, Craig and Derek attend Phil’s bachelor party and are shocked to find that Phil and his friends have an idea of fun that consists of playing “name that ingredient” and talking about cheese and expensive wines, which furthers Derek’s hypothesis that Phil is gay. Granted, Phil’s bachelor party is all kinds of lame as far as bachelor parties are concerned, and his friends are indeed very tame and reserved people, but, clearly, ya’ll, liking wine and food that comes from a place other than a drive-thru does not make a man gay. Nonetheless, this line was hilarious:

“Tarragon, you mysterious bitch.” – Phil

Derek tells Phil that he thinks he’s gay and offers to purchase a stripper for the evening to liven up the party. When she arrives, Phil and his friends are not so keen to see her strip without getting to know her first, so, instead, they spend the entire hour chatting with her, offering her dinner and sending her off to her next engagement with a slice of the tart they made. In one final attempt to make Phil have traditional bachelor party fun, Derek and Craig drag him out to a strip club, where they find that they can no longer enjoy objectifying women because Phil taught them to see the strippers are people.

Phil gets a drunk dial from Kath asking to call off the wedding, explaining sudden reluctance to Kim’s decision to move in with Tina (her bachelorette gift to her mom), so Phil and the boys storm out to find her, but not without giving encouraging advice to the strippers on their way out. (“Aurora, good luck on that LSAT!”) They eventually find Kath, passed out above the doorway to Maneater’s, with no recollection of making that drunk dial. She and Phil get into a giant calling-off-the-wedding fight in which each tries to out-call-off the other, until Kim steps in and reminds them both that Kath didn’t really mean it. Way to save the day, Kim.

All I remember is that nice raccoon . . .

All I remember is that nice raccoon . . .

It can’t be a good thing when a female-led comedy doesn’t give anything funny to its female stars who are, in fact, very funny people. The stuff that works better on this show is the Craig and Phil stuff, a good 80% of the time. And even then, their stuff isn’t that funny. I found the bachelor party storyline much more entertaining than the bachelorette party storyline. And that makes me wonder about the nature of women in comedy in general. And why it’s funny for men to be naked but objectifying for women to be naked, a discussion that’s flared up again thanks to Vanity Fair‘s parody of its famous Tom Ford-Kiera Knightly-Scarlett Johannson cover by Judd Apatow’s leading men. I’d talk more about that, but it really doesn’t make sense to me to think deeply about anything in relationship to Kath & Kim.

30 Rock 3.13 “Goodbye, My Friend”

Man, what a jam-packed episode of 30 Rock, featuring a storyline for absolutely everyone, as well as the terrifying image of Judah Friedlander NOT LOOKING LIKE HIMSELF AT ALL.



For Liz, her baby mania gets the best of her with she and Pete make a late night donut run and she spies a young pregnant girl behind the counter with adoption brochures. Desperate to convince this young girl, Becca, to give Liz her baby, she sits down with her and tries to become her friend. Becca decides Liz is cool because she vaguely knows who Ne-Yo is and understands how hard it is to be broken up with on various forms of technology, which I suspect is either a slight dig at He’s Just Not That Into You or Liz trying to remember something she saw in the trailer from that film. In an effort to further ingratiate herself to the pregnant girl, Liz brings Becca on staff as a “youth consultant” and tries to push the girl into giving up her baby so she can pursue her career in terrible, psuedo-angsty girl rock about rainbows and cobwebs.

Meanwhile, Jack is trying to stay away from corporate and personal seduction while Elisa is in Puerto Rico in order to prove himself to her, so he decides to spend his Friday night bonding with the writing staff. At their lowbrow dinner, the men all bond over their fatherlessness and discuss the kind of disappointments they are to their families. In solidarity, Jack invites them over to his place to watch Harry and the Hendersons, bonding further over the scene where John Lithgow’s Henderson patriarch forces Harry back into the wilderness, the place he always belonged. During their bonding time, Frank reveals that he used to go to law school because every man in his family is a lawyer, so Jack offers to give him back that dream. Thus, Frank sheds his Frank garb and turns into Corporate Judah Friedlander, which is basically the most frightening image I’ve ever seen.

As for Jenna, her birthday is soon approaching and she’s feeling neglected, falling into her usual attention-seeking routines. Kenneth assures her that they’re planning a great party for her, but then he finds out that Tracy doesn’t have a birthday, a result of being born in Yankee Stadium and passed around through foster care his whole life. Kenneth wants to give him a birthday, so he makes Jenna share hers with Tracy. She is not pleased.

“My heart goes out to all the inner city kids, especially those too fat to dance their way out.” – Jenna

Even though she’s sharing her party with Tracy, Jenna still believes that she will get all the attention because its her actual birthday. She lets Tracy enter first, psyching herself up that he’s just the opening act and she’ll get more applause, but then Frank steals her thunder by entering and announcing he’s leaving to go back to law school, followed by a further interruption of Cerie, wearing Jenna’s dress that she asked no one else wear for her party, announcing that her father bought everyone exclusive event tickets. Enraged, Jenna abandons her party altogether and goes back to seeking attention through feigning family deaths and personal injury. Kenneth notices Tracy is despondent after the party:

“What’s the matter, Mr. Jordan? I know you only make cheese friends when something’s bothering you.”

Tracy explains that he’s upset because his birthday was over and his wish hadn’t come true yet. Jenna wheels herself in and Kenneth asks her to help narrow down what Tracy’s wish might have been so they can help make it come true. Collectively, he, Grizz and DotCom narrowed it down to owning a Robocop, hunting the elephant that paints or breakfast in bed. Frustrated by all the attention Tracy’s getting, Jenna breaks out of her back brace and wheelchair and announces that she’s done seeking attention because no one notices her anyway. Tracy sees this and announces that his birthday wish came true, after all. He was going to wish for all of the things Kenneth mentioned, but then he saw Jenna enter her party in her back brace and wished that she’d get well instead. Awwwwww . . .

Jack has dinner with Frank’s mom, Patti LuPone (why the hell not?), and she reveals that she was glad her son became a loser comedy writer because all the other Rossitano men, including Frank’s father, were lawyers for the mob and they were all either dead or in hiding, which is exactly why Frank’s dad is hiding out in Phoenix. She instructs Jack to fix this and derail her son from the law school path, which he later does by reenacting that final scene from Harry and the Hendersons, pushing Frank to go back to the wilderness of the writer’s room.

Pete encourages Liz to get Becca back together with her loser boyfriend, Tim, but when Tim shows up at 30 Rock unannounced, she’s ready to make him quietly go away until she runs into John Lithgow in the elevator. The mere presence of the man is a sign for her.

Liz: Oh, fine, Lithgow! I’ll do the right thing!
Lithgow: I guess someone’s been watching The World According to Garp.

Liz tells Tim that he needs to get back together with Becca and raise his baby by pointing out Jack and Frank, telling the boy that both of those men are horribly fucked up because of the lack of a father in their lives. Becca and Tim come together in song, that same terrible one about rainbows and cobwebs.

Oddly, I think this is also the same emotion Lithgow experienced when Sweet Smell of Success closed on Broadway.

Oddly, I think this is also the same emotion Lithgow experienced when Sweet Smell of Success closed on Broadway.

As Liz and Jack recap their days and their experiences trying to become surrogate parents (“In a way, we both lost children today.” “Yeah, except mine was real. Yours was Frank.”), Lithgow wanders in, desperately trying to get out of the building:

“Can someone tell me how to get out of this building? It’s like a maze! I keep walking past the same Sbarros!”

Although the C-story with Tracy and Jenna was kind of throw away, I really liked the Jack and Liz stories this week. Patti LuPone was really funny in her cameo as Frank’s crazy Italian mother, and I even liked the abuse of John Lithgow, who is always really good when confused and befuddled, an opinion I developed as a fan of Third Rock from the Sun. I hope to never, ever, ever see Judah Friedlander cleaned up again. Like Harry, he belongs in the wild.

Other funny things:

  • “In Gaelic, Donaghey means ‘dung basket.'” – Jack
  • Frank’s hat this week: “Incompl te”
  • “I’m the one who’s been here for Becca for almost two days! This Tim guy is all washed!” – Liz
  • Patti LuPone’s art therapy painting:
It's Rose's turn, ya'll.

It's Rose's turn, ya'll.

The Wife:

Kath & Kim 1.16: “Desire”

Kim really wants to throw a lingerie party as a way to make a little money and not be so bored, but Craig refuses to bankroll it, ending their date abruptly and therefore ruining Kath and Phil’s sexy naked time. Fed up with her daughter’s continual interruption of her sex life, Kath chases Kim out of the house and starts a scene with Craig, which gathers all the neighbors to watch. Honestly, I can’t believe more of the neighbors haven’t noticed these wacky tacky people before.

Afterward, Kath and Phil decide that they need to help repair Kim and Craig’s relationship. Kath agrees to bankroll Kim’s lingerie party and help her with the preparations (which basically amounts to Kath doing everything), while Phil suggests to Craig that he start acting like a responsible adult and wear dressy slacks and man jewelry. Kath and Kim have a great time at the lingerie party, until Craig and Phil bust in, dressed entirely alike. Craig tries to win Kim back by being like Phil, which is disturbing on so many levels.

Craig: I’m acting like an attractive adult male.

Kim: That’s lame.

They get in yet another fight and totally ruin the lingerie party. None of this was funny, and the lingerie party was basically just an excuse to get Selma Blair and Molly Shannon into skimpy outfits so they could show off their nice legs while acting like idiots. I’d have liked the Kath and Phil try to get Kim and Craig back together plot if it hadn’t converged in such an odd way.

At least Selma is, as always, giving her all.

At least Selma is, as always, giving her all.

Oh, well! Only one more of these left!

30 Rock 3.12: “Larry King”

I have never found Larry King to be as amusing as he was in this episode. Well, unless it’s Conan O’Brien making joke after joke about how freakin’ old the dude is. His appearance on 30 Rock comes as a show-within-a-show where Tracy Jordan, the worst person in the world to feature on Larry King Live, appears on that show to promote TGS.

Meanwhile, Jack hasn’t yet had sex with Elisa and he worries about where the ‘Jalisa’ relationship is going if they haven’t consummated their love and she heads off to Puerto Rico for a week to see her family. Liz boasts that she has officially had sex two more times than Jack in 2009, but loses her cell phone in a cab, setting her out on a trek to Queens to retrieve it from a cabby who wishes to extort money from her simply for knowing Tracy Jordan. When Jack hears that the Asian markets have crashed, he abandons Elisa, fearing that the end of capitalism is near. And as he returns to 30 Rock, Liz ropes Kenneth into escorting her to Queens by pretending she’s his friend.

While Tracy is on Larry King, they get news of the Asian market crash and King starts grilling Tracy on his opinions about the financial future of America. Tracy announces that he’s hidden some of his bajillions at work and the entire writing staff vows to find it. He also gives out such choice fear-mongering advice as:

“At midnight, your Lexus is going to turn back into a hot pile of rats fighting over a finger.”

As they walk through the streets of Queens, to a place where the subway no longer goes, Kenneth and Liz see the panic of the Asian market crash all around them. Kenneth isn’t sure its safe, but Liz tells him that he needs to go on with her because there’s something very important on her phone, a recording of a lullaby her nana just to sing to her, to the tune of “99 Luftballons” by Nena, rather than the actual nude photo of herself that Liz does not want the person holding her phone hostage to send to the whole office. Kenneth figures out that Liz has been lying to him and that they aren’t, in fact, friends and storms off, as if he is acting not as a friend, then he is acting in the capacity of an NBC page, and his insurance does not cover trips to Queens.

Angry that he left her to work on the night that they consummate their love, Elisa tells Jack that she’s leaving him and going to Puerto Rico. He then finds Don Geiss’ final message in the event of an emergency, which, recorded in 1981, warns everyone to “avoid the Noid” and to go to their loved ones. Realizing his error, he races out into the streets to find her and catches her just in time, as the economy is so bad a cab to the airport costs $800. He apologizes and asks her to marry him. She agrees, but:

“I want a ring so big it gives me back problems.”

Give us the money, Lebowski!

Give us the money, Lebowski!

The writing staff keep calling into Larry King, with Tracy mistaking Pete for Peter Frampton, desperately trying to find Tracy’s money. Tracy gives Pete enigmatic clues that about how it’s in the safest place in 30 Rock and, although its always moving, it stays in the same place.

“If you’re just joining us, we’re with Tracy Jordan, who’s giving guitar icon Peter Frampton enigmatic clues about a secret treasure.”

Liz meets with her phonenapper, but doesn’t have the phone ransom, until Kenneth arrives, hears Tracy’s clues broadcast over Larry King and realizes he is the safest place in 30 Rock, peeling open his jacket lining to reveal lots of moneys. He gives the phonenapper two grand and gets Liz her phone back. She apologizes and tells him that he’s her friend.

The next day, the panic about the Asian markets is revealed to be all for naught and that the American economy is just fine. Tracy gets blamed for all the hoopla and Elisa decides to leave for Puerto Rico anyway, telling Jack that she knows he only asked her to marry him out of panic. She does, however, give Jack and America a parting close-up of her boobs as she struggles to turn off the camera during her recorded message. A lovely parting gift.

I totally dug this episode. Full of insanity, complex story threads and some of the best things I’ve ever heard come out of Larry King’s mouth.

Two extra funny lines:

  • “Everything’s gone cocoa for cuckoopoops – is that right?” – Elisa
  • “Tracy Jordan, saying three serious things and then a joke.” – Larry King

The Husband:

My Name Is Earl 4.18 “My Name Is Alias”

Ah, so on this week’s My Name Is Earl, we finally learn why Darnell was in the Witness Protection Program in the first place, pre-Camden, and it’s not exactly what I expected. Is that good or bad? Well, the answer itself is a little lighter than I originally anticipated, but I’m happy that it gave us a bigger insight into Darnell’s private life, and not simply that he did some really big action-movie things.

Danny Glover, looking and sounding as scary as he has over the last 15 years – man, that guy turned into an intimidating force of nature (that voice) – a mysterious man in a dark suit, comes into town looking for Darnell, and knows to go visit Earl and Randy at the trailer park, but they feign ignorance and have no idea what he’s talking about. Why Earl didn’t just say that Darnell was in the Witness Protection Program and that’s all he knows – even though he technically knows exactly where Darnell and Joy are – is beyond me, but I guess Earl is trying not to be such a liar anymore. So Danny Glover handcuffs them to each other, as well as to a bomb slowly ticking down to explosion. Earl and Randy, after some sibling fighting, decide at the last second to go down with the bomb, but when it hits zero, they learn that it was a fake.

So Danny Glover isn’t a bad man. Just a scary one. And, lo and behold, Darnell’s father. This is, of course, a surprise to Earl.

“Darnell always tells us that his dad died in the American-Canadian War.” – Earl

But Danny Glover has loose ends to tie up, and while he leaves Earl and goes on his merry way, he plants a tracking device on a note that Earl is to give Darnell. So when Earl goes to the newly christened Cristals, Danny Glover is not far behind.

“You told me your dad died in a ferris wheel accident.” – Joy

So here’s the story. Danny Glover is in Secret Ops, and noticed that his son, at an early age, showed signs of great intelligence, so he trained him to become just like his old man. Rising quickly in the “company,” Darnell become one of their best agents, until he balks on a mission, given to him by his increasingly distant father, during which he was to assassinate a young, nine-year-old tribal boy king. Infuriated that his father would ask him to do something so horrible to somebody so innocent, Darnell testified before a subcommittee, ratting out his father and nearly destroying the company in the process. His only safe way out? Get a new name and move to a new place – Camden.

He strikes with the grace of the flying squirrel.

He strikes with the grace of the flying squirrel.

After some sweetles hand-to-hand combat with Danny Glover…

“Stop blocking! I’m your father!” – Danny Glover

…Darnell learns that it is possible for him to do one last mission, and his entire slate would be wiped clean. It’s a big, international mission to be sure, and Danny Glover isn’t going to take any chances, so in order to ensure that Darnell goes through with the mission, they bring along an unconscious Earl as collateral. We get glimpses of the mission in bits and pieces, as Earl groggily wakes up and sees them questioning suspects, being buried alive, in a gunfight, etc., each time ending with Darnell putting Earl out once again via a hypodermic needle.

The mission isn’t important – obviously – but the end is, as their helicopter is going down, and Darnell decides to give one of the two parachutes to Earl so he can safely arrive back at home. One parachute left, Danny Glover intends to go down with the copter and save his son, but Darnell takes the one chute left and ties it to his father, jumping out of the helicopter and thus saving the both of them.

Darnell, now forgiven for his testimony, is now free to live a life without having to look over his shoulder, and he, Joy and the kids can come back to Camden and be the happy family they always wanted to be.

I’m glad this story is done, and while I’m always appreciative when Earl steps out of its comfort zone every once in a while, Darnell is best when he is just the goofy Crabman, putting his hyper-intelligent perspective on less-than-smart people in a less-than-smart town, and saying by far the show’s best one-liners. A good extended story is done, and we can return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Other fun bits:

  • Randy makes a “scarecrow Crabman” in a failed effort to replace Darnell, and later makes one for Earl. Both are great designs of stupid genius.
  • “While I was imagining myself as azalea fertilizer…” – Earl
  • The fact that the show used an Isaac Hayes score to show how awesome and bad-ass Darnell was, and yet the music was not Shaft. It fact, it was the title theme for Beavis & Butthead Do America. I’m not sure how many people caught that.

The Wife:

Kath & Kim 1.15 “Competition”

There was nothing funny about this episode at all, and I think it stands as the only thing in the world to ever make something so kick-ass as women’s roller derby – where, let’s be honest, ladies tear that shit up and beat the crap out of each other – look so fucking lame.

When they apply for their marriage license, Kath finds out that she’s technically still married to Kim’s dad, William Gerard Rusty Day (Husband Note: Played by the incredibly unfunny Ron White), who used to be Kath’s coach back in her roller derby days as the best jammer in the state of Florida, Kath “Destruction” Day. The only way Rusty will sign new divorce papers is if Kim joins his roller derby team to fill in for his current jammer, who quits because he won’t let her show up late to practice. Kim decides to do it, and Phil goes to wait in an infinite number of lines at the courthouse to try and find the original document that Rusty signed years ago but never properly filed. Craig becomes the derby team’s bitch because he’s lulled into submission by the hotness that is his wife in uniform. Phil eventually gets a copy of the original paper, Kim gets hurt on the derby track and Kath fills in for her. Randy signs the papers and Craig quits being the team’s bitch.

Worst. Derby Girl. Ever.

Worst. Derby Girl. Ever.

That’s it. That’s the whole episode. The only marginally funny moment for me was watching Phil respond so casually to being mugged as he sleeps in his Smart Car outside the courthouse. The rest of his plot, in which waiting in line makes him so physically disheveled that people think he is homeless, was not even remotely funny.

I can’t wait until this show is off the air, even if it did appease me last week with cat costumes.

The Husband:

My Name Is Earl 4.17 “Friends With Benefits”

Now that Darnell and Joy are in the Witness Protection Program, Earl and Randy move back into their old trailer, where they are joyous to discover that Mr. Turtle has returned after being lost so many episodes ago. But where did he go? According to the narration, he escaped “from pet-loving nudists, participated in a marathon, got into a little trouble with drugs and alcohol, then he saw some things he shouldn’t have seen, and even took a lover for a few days.”

Earl wants to send Mr. Turtle to wherever Darnell is now, but his plans to simply ship him over is blocked by Catalina.

“You can’t just ship a turtle, Earl. It’s not like a vase or a person.”

But soon Earl notices that, inside Mr. Turtle’s food canister, is a special note in case they ever found Mr. Turtle, a note to call Darnell on his secret hair phone. Making contact, Earl decides to visit the newly minted Cristals (I didn’t catch what Darnell’s new first name was), only to be surprised to find them in a very sunny, very rich place.

But Joy, with all of her trailer park-ness ingrained in her, cannot seem to fit in amongst the rich trophy wife neighbors (Morgan Fairchild, Andrea Parker, Joan Van Ark), and especially cannot relate to their problems. It seems that they feel their lives are empty, and that is forming into terrible insomnia for each and every one of the women.

Joy, afraid that having Earl around will blow her cover and expose her “white trash” nature, she tries to get him out of town, but as he turns on his car, the backfire exhaust temporarily blinds Morgan Fairchild’s dog, but instead of getting blamed for it, Fairchild takes her tiny dog back from Earl (the dog’s name, of course, is Gucci) and becomes fascinated with his seemingly New Age way of dealing with life – karma and something intriguing called “The List.”

Earl, as a result, pretends to be Joy’s former spiritual guide, and imparts his “do good things for others” on the trophy wives, who find their lives slowly becoming better. This includes apologizing to all those who they did wrong, including their maids.

“The boys kept crying for brown mommy.” – Morgan Fairchild

Earl begins to freak out when he accidentally promises them that all their good karma will bring them all their wishes (including a private jet and new fake breasts), but all that changes when the women, conscious cleared, finally get the good night’s sleep they had been craving.

Meanwhile, with Earl gone, Randy is befriended by a burly guy (Eric Allan Kramer, Little John from one of my favorite 90s comedies, Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men In Tights) who mistakes Randy’s Earl-longing as a broken heart over an ex-lover, and that Randy is gay. Randy agrees to have sleepovers with the man, unaware of the guy’s true intentions, leading to some silly sitcom nonsense, until Earl comes back and Randy ignorantly shuns his “lover.”

While the Randy plot was pretty unfunny and predictable, I really liked seeing Earl out of his element once again amongst the trophy wives, and thought Joy showed some marvelous depth this week as she tried to work through her childhood issues of being poor amongst the rich kids at school. The Witness Protection Program is really softening this woman, and while I would have loved to see her kids appear simply to discover how the new location has affected them, I feel as if I was rewarded well enough.

The Office 5.14 “Lecture Circuit Part 2”

Starting with what I believe is The Office’s first “Previously On” cold opening, we pick up where we left off last week, with Michael and Pam on a Dunder Mifflin lecture circuit, canceling one appearance so they can go to Nashua, NH in order for Michael go to see his former lover Holly. Arriving there, Michael learns three things, one disappointing and two horrible:

1.) Holly is gone for the next three days on an HR retreat

2.) She has a new boyfriend

3.) Her boyfriend, Rob Huebel, is a coworker

Michael attempts to do his presentation – with a very bizarre opening joke that references that priest in The Princess Bride who had the speech impediment – but he overtakes it with several inappropriate questions aimed directly at Huebel, finally leading to him completely losing it and leaving the room. Pam, trying to save face, takes over the presentation, which is both easy and humiliating as Michael actually writes down all the stupid impersonations he will use (i.e. Forrest Gump) on flashcards.

Pam gives a good first impression.

Pam gives a good first impression.

While Pam finishes the presentation, Michael goes to Holly’s desk, cuts a sleeve off of the sweater she left, and when he accidentally bumps into her computer and smiles as he sees her Ed Grimley wallpaper, he notices a document titled “Dear Michael,” which he quickly puts on his flash drive.

At a nearby diner, Michael tells Pam of his theft, and she tells him that while him reading the unsent document would be an invasion of Holly’s privacy, she tries to make him feel better by offering that she read it instead. A few minutes later, all Pam tells Michael is that…dun dun duuuuun…Holly isn’t completely over Michael. Whether or not Pam is being honest or not to Michael isn’t revealed (not that I can tell, anyway), but it’s intriguing nonetheless. It’s a downer ending to an episode, though, and while I’m quite aware this show deals with very sad and relatable ideas, I’m always taken aback by a story so depressing and humiliating. It’s a rough show, to say the least.

Back in Scranton, Dwight and Jim continue to try to throw Kelly the best birthday party ever, but as usual their polar opposite personalities get in the way of any progress. An example would be all the ideas Dwight had for a birthday party, which are as follows:

  • Beer
  • Fights to the death
  • Cupcakes
  • Blood pudding
  • Blood
  • Touch football
  • Mating
  • Charades
  • Horse hunting

Under intense pressure (and a very sad Kelly), they finally do something creative and present her, finally, with a cake that actually has her name on it (while they misspell it as “Kelley,” at least it has writing on it this time) and a tiny chiclet on it, which apparently represents a choice for her special birthday present: either she can watch TV at work for one hour, or take a one-hour nap. She chooses the latter, and is very happy that they worked so hard to please her.

In a rare C-story, Angela has bought a new cat for $7000 (its mother was in Meet The Parents), and sets up a webcam at her house connected to her work computer to monitor its interaction with her other cats.

Cats make everything funnier.

Cats make everything funnier.

“[$7000] for a cat? I could get you a kid for that.” – Creed

But Oscar and Kevin notice some strange sounds coming from Angela’s computer and find that her new cat is getting all kinds of raped by her other cats. Aghast, Angela goes home (forgetting to turn off the streaming video), and as Oscar and Kevin look on, she starts cleaning her cats with her tongue all over (stranger parts implied, too). Oscar is forever scarred, wondering what kind of psychological damage was inflicted upon Angela at such a young age to make her such a bizarre cat-lover and person-hater.

Other bits from the episode:

  • We learn that Kelly was in juvie from age 14-15 for stealing a boat
  • “Stop. Forever stop that story.” – Jim to Dwight re: the story of his birth (complete with his mother biting his umbilical cord)

The Wife:

Kath & Kim 1.14 “Celebrity”

For once in its entire run, Kath & Kim managed to create a memorable episode highlighting the absolute absurdity that this show should have always been striving to achieve. Kath moonlights as a makeup artist and hair/wig stylist for the local community theatre organization, which is apparently the closest she’s ever gotten to achieving her dream of performing on “the American stage.” The theatre troupe’s resident diva, Lenore, played by guest star Jennifer Coolidge, who is never bad in anything ever, scores every choice role, from Lady Macbeth (she later performs an impromptu rendition of the “Out, damned spot!” scene at Sandwich Island, which is hilarious because its truly, truly terrible) to Maggie the Cat in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Speaking of Cats, the tackiest musical ever made, that’s what the next play will be and Kath is desperate to play Grizabella and sing that one obnoxious Andrew Lloyd Weber song admired by every first grader in Kevin Smith’s Jersey Girl and notably ruined by American Idol‘s Jason Castro who, to wit, “didn’t even know that song was sung by a cat.” Lenore informs Kath that she also plans to “audition” for Grizabella, which means she will get the role.

Phil encourages Kath to audition, despite Lenore’s threat, sending her once again to Athena Scooberman (Maya Rudolph) for advice on how to prepare for her audition. Not only is Athena a certified life coach, but she’s also a vocal and acting coach and she sets Kath on the proper path to scoring the role of Grizabella. And how does Athena help her prepare for the role? By having an entire conversation as a cat. Like, full-on hisses and meows and claw swiping and snarls. You want to know how to win my heart? Have two grown women do nothing for a full 60 seconds but make cat noises. So weird, and so transcendently funny. I mean, who hasn’t done this? Right? Right?

Because of Kath’s rigorous training schedule, she has no time to deal with Kim and her desire to buy expensive kitchen gadgets (like an ice cream maker which, she rationalizes, will actually end up saving them money because then Kath won’t have to buy Kim ice cream all the time), and tells Kim to buy it herself. Kim scoffs at this because, feh, like, she doesn’t have a job and Phil, sensing an opportunity to win points with his soon-to-be-step-daughter offers Kim a position at Sandwich Island. Phil and Kath are dubious about how this will turn out, considering Kim’s natural predilection for laziness, but on the job, her natural bitchery wins out over her laziness and she becomes extremely proficient at getting the other Sandwich Island employees to do their jobs better and more efficiently. (Technically, this means she’s still not doing much, but hey, doesn’t that just mean she was born to be in management?)

Seeing Kim at work and in uniform really turns Craig on, as he harbors a pretty intense fantasy about women in uniform, and eventually, he coerces his estranged wife to fool around with him behind a dumpster in the parking lot . . . which just happens to be on Sandwich Island’s dumpster cam. Catching Kim wrapped around Craig is too much for Phil to bear, and he forces her to turn in her sullied apron.

At Kath’s Cats audition, she can barely make it through “I Enjoy Being a Girl” because Lenore keeps giving her a death glare from the front row. Athena and Phil tag along for moral support and after watching Kath falter a few times, Athena stands up and lends her voice to boost Kath’s, eventually joining her on stage, which also encourages Phil to join in, ending with the trio performing the song as the lighting guy puts the spot on them and the pyrotechnics go off. Again, a foray into the ridiculous that totally served this episode well, especially because of Athena’s extreme showboating when she makes her way to the stage.

As a result of this rousing audition, Athena, Kath and Phil all get roles in the chorus of Cats leading to yet another sublime scene in which they discuss being in the play whilst in cat costumes, and even Phil offering Kim her job back . . . while still in his costume and makeup. Truly, truly sublime. I mean like SNL‘s Bobby Moynihan as Snagglepuss sublime. I wish every episode of Kath & Kim were as awesomely ludicrous and neatly structured as this one.

Jellicle songs for jellicle cats!

Jellicle songs for jellicle cats!

I’m going to go ahead and say it: everything bad can be improved by the addition of cat costumes.

30 Rock 3.11 “St. Valentine’s Day”

In case you were unaware, this Saturday is Valentine’s Day, a holiday Jack Donaghy would approve of in that it has no value other than to make people buy expensive gifts, fill restaurants to capacity and substitute a commodified idea of “love” for actual love. Or is it? Elisa doesn’t seem to think so, insisting that she and Jack to go church for Saint Valentine’s Day before they do any of the things he wants to do, like going to Plunder, New York’s most opulent restaurant, and having a fine meal, capped off with the most expensive dessert in the world (all I remember is that its topped with edible 24 karat gold) and then to go home and have naughty playtime with Elisa’s giant breasts.

“You’re not one of those convenient Catholics that only goes to church every Sunday?” –Elisa

Meanwhile, Liz inadvertently makes Valentine’s Day her first date with Dr. Drew Baird. (He would have liked to take her out on Friday the 13th, but, you know, she’s got that stupid show . . . thing.) When she brings this up with Jack, he suggests that she avoid the V-Day awkwardness of restaurants filled with couples in love and rings hidden in pastries by having a nice dinner at home. (“Nice . . . you mean, like stew?”) Likewise, Liz suggests that Jack go to church with Elisa and then go out to Plunder so that they can both have their idea of a good Valentine’s Day.

At Liz’s house, she makes a nice stew for Jon Hamm (her secret? replace all the water with cheddar cheese), but then things start to go horribly awry as Liz’s boob falls out of her shirt and a loose door hinge combined with an open window cause him to accidentally see her peeing. Ever the gentlemen, Drew assures Liz that these things are fine with him, as he is a doctor, after all, but she starts to freak out because these are things that shouldn’t happen until the fourth date, or, like, ever, in the case of peeing. Drew suggests that they embrace this accelerated relationship and take it as a sign that if they get through all of these things in one night, then they can definitely make it as a couple. And it’s a good thing he made that call, actually, considering that his ex-wife decided to drop his adolescent daughter, Bethany, off at his place without any warning and he gets a call from his sister about his ailing mother, who is so unwell that she’s to the point where she could go at any moment. Liz is a trouper through all of this, taking the fall for Bethany’s drinking and escorting Drew to the hospital to see his mother. Liz even gets pulled further into the madness when Drew’s mom takes her aside and tells her that she doesn’t want to die without telling someone that she’s actually Drew’s grandmother and that his sister is actually his mother – you know, a total Bobby Darin situation. And then she dies. All of this has been a lot of Drew to bear, but he thanks Liz for being there throughout it, which bodes well for at least one more Jon Hamm-iriffic episode.

Even will everything that happened, Liz’s plot was pretty tame, though sweet, and all the craziness I’ve come to love about this show pour itself into Jack and Elisa’s church date. Throughout the mass, Jack can’t take his mind off eating that expensive and opulent dessert, secretly making a call to Jonathan while uttering the Lord’s prayer, which was hilarious to me, but irritating to Elisa. By the time the priest starts blessing all the pregnant women at the mass (the first three of which are all named Alvarez), Jack begs Elisa to leave so they won’t be late for their very-hard-to-get reservation. She agrees, but insists that Jack goes to confession first. He obliges, but asks the priest to merely keep him in the confessional for three minutes, after which time he will be set free and will go on to eat the most expensive dessert in the world and fondle Elisa’s breasts, but then the priest convinces Jack to discuss why capitalism is his god, launching Jack headfirst into a screed of his misdeeds, not the least of which was running his mother over with a car, maybe on purpose. The priest is terrified by Jack and flees the confessional. Elisa sees this and is enraged, thinking Jack purposely tormented the priest because he’s a godless asshole. She takes it as a sign from God that they shouldn’t be together and storms away, telling Jack that he will never again touch her breasts or get to see the crazy “underwears” she has on.

Jack goes on to eat his expensive dessert alone, which is sad because it just doesn’t taste as good without Elisa around. Heartbroken, he heads over to McDonald’s and orders himself a McFlurry, only to hear her pop up in line behind him and order the same thing. She found another sign while praying at church: a sign that told her she and Jack should be together, eating McFlurries, the world’s greatest dessert.

Elisa: Someone’s trying to bring us together. Maybe it’s God.
Jack: Maybe it’s Ray Kroch.
Elisa: Maybe it’s the Hamburglar.

And there’s a third romance, even, in this very sweet episode: Kenneth suddenly becomes smitten with the hot blind girl who now works at TGS, but he can’t seem to find the ability to talk to her (maybe he shouldn’t have had that mouth on his back sewn up?). Seeing how sexy “Ms. Magoo” is, Tracy steps in and plays Magical Negro Cyrano De Bergerac for Kenneth, speaking in an oddly high voice and helping him woo Jennifer by taking her for a “limo ride” around Manhattan and setting up dinner at the most exclusive restaurant in New York . . . in other words, Grizz and DotCom making the 30 Rock soundstage into a restaurant through clever use of auditory props. I really loved this tongue-in-cheek version of a “blind date” (it works on two levels!) and Tracy’s performance throughout. At the date’s end, though, Kenneth confesses that Tracy has been helping him the whole time and Jennifer is suddenly put off by the fact that Kenneth now sounds white. She still thinks, though, that they might have a chance at love, and so she asks to feel Kenneth’s face . . . after which she realizes that she’s way too hot for him and leaves.

Not the funniest episode, but very sweet and just madcap enough.

Some good quotes:

  • “This just feels right, and my instincts have never let me down. Except for looking at that eclipse.” – Jennifer “Sexy Ms. Magoo” Rogers
  • “How dare you say that in front of Santa Lucia, the patron saint of all judgmental statues!” – Elisa

The Wife:

My husband hasn’t watched his share of these shows yet, so we’ll post his half later, but for now, you can enjoy my hatred of Kath & Kim and my love of Jon Hamm, I mean, 30 Rock!

Kath & Kim 1.13 “Idols”

I appreciate this episode’s attempt to make Kath & Kim‘s tabloid obsession a part of their lives, but that still didn’t make the show very funny at all, despite all of Kath and Kim’s desperate attempts to get Wynonna Judd to have dinner at their house. I’m just going to list the few things I actually enjoyed about this episode, but not enough to actually laugh:

  • Kim’s solipsisms: “kimship” and “hardscramble”
  • The names from Craig’s band: Hot Country Gravy, Hot Biscuits and Buttergrits
  • Kath and Kim have Judd wigs. That’s pretty great.
  • Kim, on Tina’s suggestion to make a tape begging Wynonna to come to their home: “That’s the only good idea you’ve ever had.”
  • Kath running around like a maniac, screaming to anyone she sees that Wynonna is in her house.
  • All of Wynonan’s reactions to Phil, after hearing on Kim’s tape that she thinks he’s gay.

In retrospect, I probably shouldnt have agreed to guest star, youre right.

In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have agreed to guest star, you're right.

30 Rock 3.10 “Generalissimo”

Despite Alec Baldwin in a telenovela and the presence of one incredible Jon Hamm, I don’t think this was one of 30 Rock‘s best episodes. It had a number of funny moments, but none of the usual wackiness that I’ve come to love so much about 30 Rock. I will say this, though: everything about Los Amores Clandestinos was utterly fantastic.

Jack finds that the one obstacle in his relationship with Elisa is her disapproving grandmother. He realizes that she hates Jack because he looks exactly like a character on her favorite telenovela who is the epitome of evil, El Generalissimo. He does things that are incredibly, incredibly evil, like stealing a woman’s mail in order to get to know everything about her . . . which is exactly what Liz Lemon starts to do to her new neighbor, Dr. Drew Baird (Jon Hamm) when she accidentally gets some of his mail, opens it and becomes extremely intrigued by him, largely because he is a charity-loving doctor who enjoys both classic comedies and baking.

In order to solve his problem with Elisa’s abuela (whose brain is a little quidgy after spending all those years in the silver factory, rendering her incapable of telling reality from fiction most of the time), Jack decides to buy the rights to the show and start producing it on NBC so that he can control the content and kill El Generalissimo. However, when they film the first show, he realizes that the actor playing Generalissimo, Hector, won’t stick to the script and just die, so they have a showdown, mano a mano.

“Do not try to out-Generalissimo me, my friend.” – Hector

Once Jack explains his plight to Hector, Hector agrees to change his character into every abuela’s fantasy because even though he is very much the gay, he would totally like to bang Elisa, too.

Meanwhile, Tracy Jordan is spending way too much time with the new interns, who party as though they’re still working on Wall Street. He fears that if he doesn’t keep up his youthful image, he’ll lose his ability to be funny and will only get offered serious roles in films. One day, he returns to the office after having accidentally taken some roofies, which he hands to Liz before he passes out, muttering:

“You can do whatever you want to me.” – Tracy Jordan

Liz continues to steal dating ideas from El Generalissimo by pretending to lose her dog so that Jon Hamm will help her look for the dog she doesn’t even have in the first place and, eventually, inviting him to a “welcome to the building party” but telling him it’s on a different night so that she can get him alone in her apartment and seduce him with fondue.

Have you tried my new Jon Hamm's John Ham?

Have you tried my new Jon Hamm's John Ham?

There’s a really well edited sequence that follows where El Generalissimo proceeds to seduce an elderly Puerto Rican woman by lovingly looking at pictures of her grandchildren and complimenting how querida each of them are, promising to help her scratch her lottery tickets and take her to McDonald’s, while Liz and Jon Hamm feed each other fondue that’s all underscored by a Spanish guitar version of “Guantanamera.” For all of El Generalissimo’s success melting Elisa’s abuela’s heart, Liz’s attempt to seduce Jon Hamm goes horribly awry when a crazy downstairs neighbor finds “her dog.” The dog erratically barks all evening, giving Jon Hamm a headache, for which Liz tells him to take some Aspirin in her purse. Unfortunately, while she’s out of the room, he grabs some roofies, and falls to the floor, realizing that he’s surrounded by his stolen mail and that this insane woman before him doesn’t even have a dog.

Liz: I am the Generalissimo!
Drew: I don’t even know what that means!

This would never happen on Mad Men!

This would never happen on Mad Men!

Jack’s attempt to sway abuela’s heart was a complete success, and now Elisa’s abuela is so proud that her granddaughter is dating such a successful television man. So proud, in fact, that she wants him to make some changes to the nightly news, because it’s too sad. His changes? Photos of cute Latino babies shown over the sounds of Tito Puente.

Tracy decides to get the interns off his back by reopening Lehman Bros under his direction and Liz also gets her happy ending when Jon Hamm shows up at her door holding her mail, and admits that, based on her mail, he would really like to get to know this Elizabeth Lemon in 3B.

Other things I liked:

  • Tracy Jordan transcends race.
  • Jon Hamm smells like frosting. Which is funny, because I actually imagine he smells like Pomade and scotch.
  • “You should not end a sentence with a preposition at.” – Tracy Jordan
  • El Generalissimo is the face of Sabor De Soledad.

The Wife:

Ahh, so this is the episode called “News” that NBC mislabeled in their online photo gallery the last time I saw this show. “News” was an alright episode, successfully devoid of humor, but also successfully devoid of the things that really make Kath & Kim suck. Apparently, Kim has a photographic memory. She can tell you the entire text of the page of a gossip magazine merely by looking at it for one second. Because of this skill, Kim wants to become the new newscaster for her local station. I found this new photographic memory development a little weird because, as Phil remarked, I wasn’t even sure Kim could actually read.

This is actually very Kathie Lee.

This is actually very Kathie Lee.

Meanwhile, Craig hits Phil’s car, Little Debbie, which he cherishes because it was his prize for losing so much weight. Craig doesn’t have insurance to pay for the repairs on Little Debbie, so Craig gets Phil to take the car in to a repair shop owned by a friend of his from high school . . . only it turns out to be a chop shop and Little Debbie gets impounded by the police as evidence. As Phil mopes over his car, the two men bond and become bros. It was nice to see the show focus on Phil and Craig for a change, as too much of the show’s eponymous protagonists makes me want to die a little bit. Craig suggests that they go and steal the car out of impound, but once they hop the fence, they find that Little Debbie has been stolen already.

Dejected, Craig and Phil help Kim compile her audition tape, with Kath’s coaching. Soon, they see Little Debbie on the news, wrecked as the result of a high speed chase, and race to the scene to cover it. Kim plays reporter as Phil examines the car, hoping against all hope that it isn’t Little Debbie, until a cop returns to him the Club he always kept on the steering wheel. With the insurance payout he receives, Phil trades in his weight-loss Miata for a more mature car that doesn’t make it look like he’s compensating for anything: a Smart.

You know who needs a Smart? People who live in cities where parking is tight. You know doesn’t need a Smart? Anyone who doesn’t fit my previous description. Look, I love Smarts. I do. I fell in love with them when I first saw them in Italy in the early part of this century (wow, that’s a weird statement), but they are simply not meant for freeway driving and they are not meant to function in the suburbs. I get irrationally angry when I see people driving a Smart on the freeway and equally angry if I see one parked in a parking lot. They just don’t make sense in places where there is space. At all. The Smart’s natural habitat and appropriate context is the city, and every time I see one outside city limits, I want to punch the driver in the fucking face.

To wrap up Kim’s news anchor saga, because no one at the station has bothered to call her back, Kath intervenes and makes the station manager watch Kim’s tape, only to discover that the freeway is too loud to hear any of Kim’s on-scene reporting. As a result, she doesn’t get the job, which Kath & Kim blame on Craig’s shoddy camera work. For once, they’re right. Dude works at an electronics store. He totally could have figured out a better sound solution.

Some lines I actually liked:

  • Kim calling “kismet” “kimsmet.”
  • “Craig, I told you to call that lizard and get insurance.” – Kim
  • “It’s my job as a journalist to be insensitive for entertainment purposes.” – Kim

Also, it never occurred to me that Kim didn’t keep her maiden name and that her married name is Somersby. Man, I’m glad this show wasn’t on last week.

The Husband:

My Name Is Earl 4.14 “Got the Babysitter Pregnant”

Earl is back, and it has returned with a nice re-entry into Camden County and its goofy but loveable inhabitants. Not going too over-the-top and holding within it a very simple lesson on what is the right way to raise a child, this episode shows the charm of which this show is so capable.

Earl, while drinking at the Crab Shack, is reminded of another one of his list items, which was that he got the babysitter pregnant. Flashing back to when he was a young teenager, we find that the situation is not exactly what he may have implied. Having fallen in love with Rachel, the very hot babysitter with 80s hair (who also introduced Earl to Lynyrd Skynyrd), he becomes jealous when she brings home a boyfriend, so he goes through the boyfriend’s wallet and puts a pin through his condom.

“Look at the bright side. We already know you’re a good babysitter.” – Young Earl

Coming back to the present, Earl feels extremely (and appropriately) guilty for this misdeed, but when he visits Rachel again, he finds that not only has she become Faith Ford (who I guess recovered from being shotgun-blasted to death by Mitch “The Shocker” Pileggi), but that she and her boyfriend-turned-husband are very happy (despite having given birth to their son at their wedding). Unfortunately, the son is still living at home, and is now a grown-up dickbag who lacks any form of responsibility or social graces.

Earl figures that in order to cross Rachel off of his list, he needs to take the son and turn him into a man and a responsible adult, but things don’t always go as planned. The son is, in fact, a complete douchenozzle, choosing to waste time at the motel instead of looking for a job and learning how to take care of himself.

“You didn’t feed yourself. You just talked a homeless woman into cooking baby birds for you.” – Earl

When Earl finally lectures the son on being a dickbag, Randy realizes that Earl could just as easily be talking about him, especially the part about not having a job. (Dude, Randy, it was established two seasons ago that you do, actually, have a job and a destiny. It’s helping Earl with his list.) So Randy, in a huff, leaves with the son to do their own thing.

Stop being such a D-bag and get a job!

Stop being such a D-bag and get a job!

Worried that his tough love sent Randy and the son away (presumably to their deaths), Earl, Rachel and her husband search far and wide for their guys, only to have them return in suits and riding a golf cart. During their time away, it turns out, Randy, now having his own “Randy,” found himself becoming more mature and responsible, leading them, through a series of bizarre circumstances, to help a man recover his wallet as well as attend a convention where they become the hits of the party. Earl learns his lesson, the son moves out of Rachel’s house (and into her basement) and another list item is crossed off.

Joy, meanwhile, has to avert disaster when she accidentally loses Darnell’s precious Mr. Turtle when she drove off with him still on the roof, so instead of looking for the lost turtle, she finds two others and has Catalina choose which is the most like Mr. Turtle.

“Well, Mr. Turtle always reminded me of Richard Dreyfus, and this one looks like Richard Dreyfus, but this one acts like Richard Dreyfus.” – Catalina

The one she chooses goes home to Darnell, who realizes quickly that something is very wrong with “his” turtle. Joy, pissed that the turtle won’t even walk on its treadmill, goes back to Catalina and blames her for picking the wrong turtle. Asked where the other fake Mr. Turtle is, Catalina responds that it’s in the pool along with every other abandoned animal that shows up at the motel.

“I think there’s a Shetland pony at the bottom.” – Catalina

When the fake Mr. Turtle finally dies, Darnell goes to bury it – complete with a Jewish headstone adorned with the Star of David (don’t ask, because I don’t know why) – Joy comes clean to Darnell, who assures her that everything’s okay and that if any turtle can find his way back home, it’s Mr. Turtle. We are left at the end of the episode with a very terrifying assurance, from a talking turtle, that no turtles were harmed in the making of this episode.

Oh noes, Mr. Turtle!

Oh noes, Mr. Turtle!

I’m glad Earl, which has had a rocky season, could return from its break with such a nice, easygoing and laid-back episode, because it’s when the show gets too ridiculously silly that it becomes kind of grating. It was a nice reassurance that this show isn’t going anywhere, and that every week at 8 p.m. I can see nice people do nice things and still get a good deal of belly laughs, including when Joy walks into the Crab Shack speaking poor Spanish, explaining:

“Now that Democrats are in office, we all better learn Spanish.” – Joy

The Wife:

Kath & Kim 1.11 “News”*

I’m glad they didn’t give up the pregnant dog storyline, because I was really afraid Kath & Kim was just going to forget entirely about some of the threads they’ve created. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the payoff of this plot very funny. It should have been, as Craig rails at Ginger for betraying him by getting knocked up in a doggie gangbang as though he’s been betrayed by a lover, but something about it just didn’t click.

I am not a whore, Craig. I still love you!

I am not a whore, Craig. I still love you!

Meanwhile, Kath has a client die in her chair, which startles Kim into having feelings and drives Kath on a bender to keep the poor woman from being buried in bangs.

“Defending Ginger? Naming a dog after Pearl? I’m becoming confused by you having feelings.” – Kath

But really, this episode was about Phil’s quest to save the corporeal form of an obese customer from, well, obesity by putting the man (who would normally order a dozen or so Sandwich Island sandwiches for a single meal) on a diet.

“I’m loading a gun with meat and cheese and aiming it right at his heart.” – Phil

At first, I thought this plotline was going to be yet another one in Kath & Kim‘s long series of fat jokes, as Roland stares longingly at Kim’s pizza, sneaks snacks and so on, but then Phil catches Roland ordering three times his normal sandwich order from the Island and bans him, causing Roland to put together an army of overweight protesters who are more than willing to actively march and picket outside of Sandwich Island to defend their right to order more “healthy” food than is humanly necessary. Phil realizes from the protest that he cannot force Roland to improve his health. You can’t force someone to change unless they’re ready to do so. Roland, however, is thankful for the whole semi-cruel ordeal, as putting together the protest allowed him to meet the love of his life.

* Strangely, NBC.com seems to think this episode is called “Florida,” which I guess would make sense, because it’s Phil’s constant refrain about the weather throughout this episode. However, Florida? Not an abstract noun. Every episode of Kath & Kim is an abstract noun. It doesn’t fit the naming conventions. (Yes, I will argue that “news” and “friends” are abstract nouns. As is “gay.”)

30 Rock 3.7 “Señor Macho Solo”

Liz has babies on the brain, so much so that she accidentally hits on Peter Dinklage by rubbing his head, thinking he’s a child. In an attempt to save face, she goes on a coffee date with him and, it turns out, actually likes him. He has a great job at the UN (on the High Commission on Water Temperature and Food Taint), which he is actively willing to compare to the Galactic Senate in Star Wars, and thinks Liz is cute. (Incidentally, I would totally do Peter Dinklage. That dude is hot. I’ve had a crush on him since The Station Agent, but really fell for him as sensitive painter Marlo on Nip/Tuck, who helps care for lobster-handed Connor McNamara during season 4.)

“Oh, Liz. Look at you and me and our biological clocks. You keep getting baby crazy and I keep getting turned on by car accidents.” – Jenna

Meanwhile, Jenna’s new goal in life is to score the lead role in a new Janis Joplin biopic, going so far as to audition for Jack in character. All goes well until her good news about scoring the lead is sullied when a rival entertainment company announces their plans to do a biopic, stalling Jenna’s project in the water as they feud over life rights, and potentially endangering her promotional plan to sing a Janis song on an upcoming episode of The Girly Show.

This scene really made me whistful for the brief period of time when Pink was going to star in a Janis biopic. Until something exactly like this happened.

This scene really made me whistful for the brief period of time when Pink was going to star in a Janis biopic. Until something exactly like this happened.

Jack does everything he can to help her, while balancing his quest to get Tracy’s wife Angela to sign a “post-nup” so that she won’t get all of Tracy’s copious amounts of porn video game monies should he ever leave her. Tracy has so much cash now that he doesn’t know what to do with it and has decided to start fashioning accessories out of it: gold sneakers made of actual gold that he has to lift up his legs with his arms to walk in, a shirt made entirely out of $100 bills (which I would love as a dress, by the way) and a top hat made of cash. Jack ultimately gets Angela to agree to the post-nup, securing herself only 85K should Tracy ever leave her “for that chunky chick from Hairspray” or “any other woman of appropriate thickness.” Angela thinks the post-nup is stupid because she knows Tracy would never be dumb enough to leave her, uttering a creepy but sweet, “I’m gonna watch you die, Tracy Jordan.” This sentiment is so romantic to Tracy that the two strip down and have sex right there in Jack’s office, in front of Grizz and DotCom.

Back at home, Jack has hired Puerto Rican live-in nurse Salma Hayek to take care of his multiply-fractured mother. With Liz out dating The Dink (as I like to call him), Jack has no confidant and begins to air his troubles about Jenna and Tracy to Elisa the nurse. Horrified by Tracy and Angela’s eternal commitment to each other, Jack tells Elisa that he doesn’t want to connect to anyone, having already decided that he will exit this world not in the arms of those he loves but in some scenario involving a McFlurry machine and a videotape of risqué foreign commercials. (In Puerto Rico, Elisa tells him, a McFlurry is called a Señor Flurry. I hope that’s true, and that they come in strange flavors there. In Italy, they’re still called McFlurries, but you can get them in cappuccino flavor with chocolate espresso beans. And they’re good that way.) Despite his resistance to romance, Jack starts to fall for Elisa when he finds a lump on his balls, causing him to rethink his whole attitude toward dying alone with a Señor Flurry machine. Elisa examines him, lulling him into a false sense of security with rapid fire Spanish (it subdues white people), and asks him to consider going to a doctor.

On their second date, The Dink realizes that Liz thought he was a child when she picks him up and carries him away from a hot food stand.

“Did you pick me up to keep me from touching fire?” – The Dink

Realizing that Liz is too good to be true and only started dating him out of a case of mistaken identity, he breaks up with her. Distraught because she actually really liked him, Liz calls his office and suggests that the two recreate the Brooklyn Bridge scene from the Sex & the City Movie where the two agree to meet at that location at a certain time if they still want to be together. Though bored to tears by Liz’s description of the film, the Dink agrees to the plan, and lets Liz make a prank call to the Italian ambassador. At the agreed upon time, both Liz and the Dink show up to their rendezvous point, but Liz loses him because she, once again, mistakes a child for him. That’s really too bad. I would have liked to see the Dink have an arc, but that would also mean Liz Lemon would have to succeed at dating, and we all know that’s never going happen.

Man, at least on that other show they let me have tons of hot sex with Joely Richardson.

Man, at least on that other show they let me have tons of hot sex with Joely Richardson.

In an effort to encourage Jack to not become Señor Macho Solo, which, by the way, is what they call a McRib sandwich in Puerto Rico, Elisa invites the gonad cyst-bearing man to her niece’s Quinceañera, to which he brings a bottle of 65 Moët Chandon and some pizza blasted Pringles, not quite knowing which end of the taste spectrum he should go for. (On my drunkest of days, those two things would be the greatest meal of my life. And my wine-cultured friends would hate me for it.) Jack is at first confused as to why none of the 200 members of Elisa’s family hate each other, but then grows to enjoy the closeness and begins to wonder the eternal question:

“Can two people really fall in love over a benign gonad cyst?” – Jack

I’ll be interested to find out if that’s true. And that’s not just because I want to know how other menu items translate into Puerto Rican Spanish.

Some other things I loved about this episode:

  • A Blfair to Rememblack, Tracy’s all-black remake of An Affair to Remember, which he announces wearing elf ears and a metal suit of armor.
  • Jenna going on to sing a Janis song with slightly changed lyrics that Jack wrote at the last second:

“You know you bought it if you buy it with things.”
“Take another little chunk of my lung now, mister.”

Yes. Hilarity.

  • “I apologize that your regular warm-up comic OD’d at a gay man’s apartment this morning.” – Kenneth
  • “Cat sound!” from Liz, explaining why she’s a maneater.

The Husband:

My Name Is Earl 4.13 “Orphan Earl”

In what is without question the best episode of Earl this season, it’s Christmastime in Camden, and inspired by the town mocking a traveling do-gooder hippie for building houses and raising money for much needed baby formula…

“What an idiot. The baby formula is man plus woman. Everyone knows that!” – Randy

…Earl takes it upon himself to tackle list item #201: Conned an old man out of 100 bucks.” Flashback to three years earlier, when Earl and Joy, while watching one of those Sally Struthers-type infomercials, get it into their heads that they can pull a major con on people by pretending to be representatives of a charity for starving African children. They only get one bite, an old man named Mr. Hill (Hal Landon Jr., Ted Preston’s father in one of my favorite films of all time, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure), and get an easy $100 out of him.

You, too, can help this child finish spelling on his tee shirt.

You, too, can help this child finish spelling on his tee shirt.

Back in the present, Earl visits the man and discovers that the con didn’t end at the $100 – Joy has been scamming him this whole time, getting money for various new (and fake) charities such as Katrina relief and other such items to benefit the people who live in her trailer park. (My favorite touch is the picture of a “starving African child,” which is just her black son without a shirt on.) Earl knows that it’s his duty to retrieve all of the man’s money, but that takes a turn for the worse when Mr. Hill up and dies before he can change his will that declared that $280,000 of his assets were to go to the fake charities.

So what follows is a twisty, incredibly well-plotted back-and-forth where it turns out Earl fakes Mr. Hill’s death (giving him a free vacation), and then sneaks into the house to steal the will, gives a fake will to Randy for Joy to “steal” from him, tricks one of Joy’s friends into banging the will-writing lawyer (actually the hippie in disguise) for fake checks, and then finally getting all the money back to Mr. Hill.

When Earl and Mr. Hill visit the trailer park, though, they find that everyone there is living in terrible disarray, made worse by all the repo men coming and taking away the items Joy and her friends got through the con in the first place. Distraught that his charity money never actually went to any charity, Mr. Hill feels the Christmas spirit and gives his money back to the trailer park, for they are far needier than him. This inspires others to give in their own way (e.g. a buck or two with the Salvation Army Santa), and everything turns out a little bit better.

What worked in this episode was that no gimmicks were relied upon, characters acted in surprising ways, and it had a good moral without getting too treacley. I appreciated its complete lack of unnecessary guest stars, because even though I’ve seen Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure more than any other movie in my life (probably around 50 times), I still had to look up the guest actor’s name. The plot twists were also very well planned, and I never anticipated any of them. (Unlike the otherwise funny episode of 30 Rock this week, where I could have told you every twist of Liz Lemon’s plot from the moment they said “Letters From Santa.”)

The funniest part of the episode, though? The fact that Randy can’t enjoy the funnies in the newspapers, because his eyes follow the comic and then onto the next page, which is the obituary page, rendering every comic depressing.

The review of The Office will come some time this weekend. Such great material needs some ponderin’ time, dontcha know?

The Wife:

Kath & Kim 1.8: “Friends”

Kim, busy changing her MySpace status to single just to torture Craig, tells her mother and Phil that they are lame because they don’t have any friends and would rather spend time with each other and their brand new juicer than be social. Craig, seeing Kim’s status change, gets so upset that he actually cries for eight seconds, until his buddy Darryl convinces him that Kim’s just playing games with him. Like the good bro he is, Darryl takes Craig out drinking, which incites Craig to visit Kim’s house in the middle of the night. He drunkenly calls out to sleep-dead Kim, throwing rocks at her window to try and wake her so he can talk to her. Phil thinks that Craig is a robber and makes a fool of himself in an attempt to “scare” said robber away. Craig eventually leaves, just as Darryl is pulling out of the driveway, due to meddling from a nosy neighbor. Darryl almost hits Craig, which prompts Kim, gleefully, to drive her husband to sue his friend.

This is the most complicated, integrative plot I’ve seen so far on Kath & Kim so I have to give it props because it set up a pretty good episode. Not very funny (save for the ending), but for once, interesting to watch. From the robbery scare, Phil feels slightly emasculated and asks his mall cop friend for some self-defense lessons so he can protect his bride-to-be and his step-daughter should an actual robbery ever occur. Kath gets introduced to the cop’s wife, and the two ladies hit it off. Kath invites their new friends to a holiday party, per Kim’s suggestion that they get a life. With only their new couple friends, their nosy neighbor and Tina’s giant head of hair as guests, Kim and Craig think the party is super lame and want to leave. Tina tells them about the Circuit Surplus party, and Craig admits that, because he’s suing Darryl, his coworkers have uninvited him from their party. When a party bus of mall workers shows up to crash Kath and Phil’s party, Tina, Craig and Kim sneak out to try their chances at the Circuit Surplus party.

Oooh, yay! Now we get to wear festive holiday bows!

Oooh, yay! Now we get to wear festive holiday bows!

Once there, Tina hits on Darryl, who won’t let Kim and Craig attend the party. As Kim pulls out of the parking lot, Darryl takes his revenge by sticking his foot under her tire and threatening to sue. He agrees that he won’t sue if Craig doesn’t, and both parties drop the charges. Instead, they all head to the Circuit Surplus party to watch Tina make out with dudes dressed as Santa Claus. Left with only their new couple friends, Kath and Phil enjoy the holidays in a slightly quieter fashion. The couples enjoy their horrible Christmas sweaters and tell corny jokes to one another. Finally, the mall cop admits that he and his wife like Kath and Phil so much that they should all have sex together, Tom and Trina Decker style. This freaks out Phil and Kath so much that they immediately break their friendship with the couple and return to their juicer.

I am jealous at the high quality of tacky holiday sweaters featured in this episode. They put my black one with bejeweled Christmas trees to shame. Having the couple that’s just like Kath and Phil turn out to be swingers was a nice surprise – the actors actually made this pretty funny by pawing and clawing at John Michael Higgins and Molly Shannon like zombies hungry for brains. As for the rest of the episode, I am impressed with the structure and complexity of these integrated plots. Next time, let’s take this formula and make it funny, shall we?

30 Rock 3.6: “Christmas Special”

Filled with the holiday spirit, Liz Lemon signs up her writers to fulfill wishlists for poor kids who write to Santa through the US Postal Service’s Letters to Santa program. Because she is childless and doesn’t have her own family at age 38, her parents disinvite her from their holiday festivities, fueling Liz’s drive to make some poor kids happy. Jack, on the other hand, plans to spend Christmas in Rio. (Dear Gods of Television, Stage and Screen: Why do all wealthy business people like to spend so much time in Rio?) To facilitate this, he heads down to Florida early to spend some time with his mother, Colleen (Elaine Stritch). Everything goes swimmingly for Jack, until he accidentally hits his mom with his car, breaking the “Cartier” watch her bought her for Christmas and her hip.

“She’s fine. She’s better than fine. They’re giving her a titanium hip. Like the Terminator. Soon she’ll be more powerful than ever.” – Jack

Due to her need for constant care, Colleen is forced to stay with Jack, which drives him insane. Especially because he has to live with the guilt that he actually waited a full eight minutes before calling 911 for his mother. Liz defends Jack’s hesitance to call as shock and sets out to personally deliver the holiday gifts she bought for her poor kids. Upon hearing the neighborhood, Tracy tells Liz that she can’t go alone and that he, Grizz and DotCom will escort her there. When they arrive, two men open the door and pull the presents inside with nary a word of thanks or even a hello. Flabbergasted at this nonresponse, Tracy tells Liz that he believes she’s been scammed. More accurately:

“What’s the past tense of scam? Scrump? Liz Lemon, I think you just got scrumpt!” – Tracy Jordan

Scammed, Tracy. I think the word is scammed.

Scammed, Tracy. I think the word is scammed.

In an attempt to get away from his overbearing mother, who needs even more care that Jack has accidentally broken her other hip trying to draw a blanket out from under her like a magician pulling a tablecloth off without moving any objects, he forces the cast and crew of TGS to put on a live Christmas special, even if he has to pay them quadruple overtime. (Note to Jack: Judging from the blanket trick, Celebracadabra is not for you. Hal Sparks and C. Thomas Howell will totally own your ass.) Upset about the scam, Liz goes to the Post Office to try and sort things out to no avail. She asks Jack if he by chance he knows the Post Master General, to which he responds that they were once close, but had a falling out over a Jerry Garcia stamp.

“If I wanted to lick a hippie, I would have returned Joan Baez’s phone calls.” – Jack

With everyone working so hard on the Christmas Special, Jack thinks he has escaped Colleen’s clutches, until she shows up in her wheelchair, dressed like a tiny, old female FDR, and accuses her son of waiting 8 minutes to call 911. She presents him with the evidence: his call log from his cell phone, the watch he broke (on which he reset the time) and a flashcard demonstrating that “16-8=8.”

“Numbers, unlike children, don’t lie.” – Colleen Donaghey

Elaine Stritch, congratulations for making me jealous of this outfit. Now that Bettie Page and Nina Foch have left us, you are the hottest old lady in my book.

Elaine Stritch, congratulations for making me jealous of this outfit. Now that Bettie Page and Nina Foch have left us, you are the hottest old lady in my book.

Kenneth simply cannot believe that Liz got scammed, and so he heads uptown with her and Tracy to prove her wrong. (Grizz and DotCom had a prior commitment to go skating together at Rockefeller Rink and wouldn’t attend because their therapist told them to set boundaries.) This time when the apartment door opens, Liz is greeted by two children. Overjoyed, she asks them if they got their presents and liked them. She then tells them that she made it happen, which causes the boys to cry out to their guardians that the white lady at the door told them there’s no Santa Claus. The guardians tell Liz that she’s insane for telling children there’s no Santa. In short, Liz Lemon ruins Christmas.

“I’m trying to make a Christmas special that makes It’s a Wonderful Life look like Pulp Fiction.” – Jack

Back at 30Rock, Jack is losing himself in the Christmas special, trying to make everything perfect. He becomes extremely irate when someone tells him that they can’t run the Mrs. Claus sketch where Jenna (as Mrs. Claus), sings sultry piano ballads for the menfolk while taking off her stockings and hanging them by the fire. This is a part of Christmas that everyone knows, Jack insists, because his mother did this every year for whichever boyfriend she had at the time. Liz tells him that this actually isn’t a Christmas tradition at all and that Colleen was a Christmas whore in order to buy Jack and his siblings presents, knowing the meager circumstances whence Jack was raised. Every year, Jack admits, he had more than enough presents, especially the year that his mom dated F.A.O. Schwartz. In the end, Tracy invites his family to Liz Lemon’s for Christmas so she won’t be lonely and Jack apologizes to his mother and tells him he loves her. As Jenna sings “The Christmas Song” onstage, Jack and his mother are suddenly transported to a piano, where they continue Jenna’s tune.

For me, the best part of this episode was definitely that ending, seeing Broadway veterans Jane Krakowski and Elaine Stritch sing delightful Christmas tunes. Elaine Stritch is not that much of a singer, but she is famous for her role in Sondheim’s Company, where her character gets to belt out “Ladies Who Lunch,” a song that can certainly be performed by what Sondheim calls a disseuse (a talk-singer). “The Christmas Song” definitely works well for that kind of style, where the sentiment is sold in the performance rather than the high notes (just like “Ladies Who Lunch”). And man, Jack and Colleen putting aside their differences to relive a little bit of the Christmas whoring from Jack’s youth, that definitely hit me in a soft spot. When I’m that old, I want to look just as good in a lady-FDR outfit and a Mrs. Claus get-up.

The Husband:

My Name Is Earl 4.12 “Reading Is A Fundamental Case”

We find Earl at the episode’s opening reading a book out loud to the young people of Camden (plus Randy), a book taken from the recently found Bookmobile. (Since Camden didn’t have it in their budget to buy the actual Classics, they have knock-off choices such as Chuckleberry Flynn and the book Earl is currently reading from, Trazan The Ape Man (who has a pet cheetah named monkey). We rewind back in time in order to deal with #219 on Earl’s list — stole the Bookmobile.

This is way better than that Disney movie with the Phil Collins soundtrack.

This is way better than that Disney movie with the Phil Collins soundtrack.

Earl and Randy are doing roadside community service as a result of the “Humiliate & Rehabilitate Program,” which takes the criminals and gives them shirts that tell their current crime. (While Randy has “Flasher” on his shirt and “Pulled Down Randy’s Pants” on Earl’s, my favorite is the guy who has “I Love Hookers” slapped across his chest.) Another criminal is Raynard (Ewen Bremner from Trainspotting, although I remember him best from the underseen film Naked), a Scottish loon who becomes very attached to the Hickeys when he can’t find a place to live. The problem is, his way of life is so free and open, with very little rules or boundaries, that people can’t really seem to get behind his way of life. For instance, when asked why he has a bathtub in his former living room, he replies:

“The news isn’t so depressing when you’re surrounded by bubbles!”

After Earl, Randy and Raynard convince three sluts that they were in a band opening for U2, they steal the Bookmobile (because it kind of looks like a tour bus) and drive it out to the woods for some sexin’, and then just leave it behind.

In the present, it turns out Raynard has been living in the Bookmobile ever since then, becoming feral and hallucinating due to a heavy diet of “crazy berries.” (One major drawback of “crazy berries’? He thinks he’s married to a hot woman, who is actually a raccoon.)

The Hickeys try to bring him back into society, but he simply doesn’t fit, ending up arrested and put into a psychiatric ward because of his diagnosed Anti-Social Personality Disorder. Earl realizes that while Raynard is not right for the world, he doesn’t belong to be institutionalized due to his free spirit, so they bust him out, give him all the hiking/camping gear he’d ever need, and take the Bookmobile back.

Sometimes episodes of Earl live and die by their guest stars, and I’m happy to say that Bremner was cast for being such a fucking loony individual and perfect for the role and not because he’s, say, just a A-to-B-list actor (Burt Reynolds) or one of Jason Lee’s many Scientologist friends (Juliette Lewis, Jenna Elfman, Giovanni Ribisi, etc.). I’ve always liked Tarzan stories, so this was a good modernization of the same tale, done with enough Earl kookiness to work just right. I did think the episode was missing something, though — not enough Crabman. There’s always room for more Crabman.

The Office 5.9 “The Surplus”

Dunder Mifflin is thrown into a civil war when Oscar discovers that the branch has a surplus of $4,3000 and must spend it by the end of the day or have it deducted from next year’s budget. Oscar rallies people behind getting a new copier (because the old one sucks) and Pam gets people behind getting new chairs (because the old ones suck). Things become extra awkward when Jim decides to back Oscar’s plan, leading to a miniature (and cute) war between he and Pam, including goofy veiled threats and Pam throwing out the leftover tiramisu Jim brought her from lunch.

Oh, there are a couple other options, actually. Toby wants Michael to use the money to pay for a complete cleaning of all the air vents, because they could be filled with silent killers.

You are the silent killer.” — Michael to Toby

Michael, however, doesn’t want to be the bad guy, so he lets Oscar and Pam butter him up for their respective wishes. Unfortunately, he still can’t make a decision, so he brings up the building’s security guard to decide (and then throws him out of the office for taking too long in making said decision). Things get thrown for a loop when Michael calls Corporate and discovers that if he personally gives the surplus back to Corporate, he will receive 15% of the surplus as a bonus. Set on getting that $645, he tries to convince the office to pick neither of their choices and let the money slide. (Trying to get Pam off his case, he describes the crap chairs as “urkelnomically correct.”) Oscar figures out Michael’s sneaky plan, though, and calls him out on his douchebaggery.

In the end, Michael lets the office choose amongst themselves, and they finally settle on new chairs. Problem is, Michael didn’t think they’d ever reach a decision by day’s end, so he had already spent his bonus on a giant fur coat that got fake blood splattered on it by PETA members once he stepped outside of the Burlington Coat Factory.

In the B-story, Angela and Andy visit Schrute Farms to plan out the specifics of their wedding, but things do not go as planned. Dwight spends most of the time bickering with the both of them in different ways, including when he is to slaughter the meat in time for the wedding, as well as my favorite line of the night:

“Have you made a decision on the butter sculpture?” — Dwight

After a small rehearsal ceremony, Angela goes up to Dwight and tells him that she made the wrong decision in picking Andy over him. Dwight says he knows, and that the fake ceremony that just happened was actually real and bonded Angela and Dwight together in holy matrimony. (This involves the priest speaking only German, as well as Andy thinking he’s signing a receipt but actually signing that he was witness to the marriage.) Angela is not happy with this betrayal, though, and ends up choosing Andy yet again to be her man. (Whether or not the Dwight marriage is valid wasn’t really concluded, but let’s just assume it wasn’t.)

Thank you, you have now officially signed your bride over to me, as well as six chickens and some 8-track tapes.

Thank you, you have now officially signed your bride over to me, as well as six chickens and some 8-track tapes.

This was a solid episode that felt more like the early seasons than anything more recent for this show. This is both good and bad. Good because the earlier seasons were still hilarious, but bad because the show, I feel, has evolved to the point where it can do a whole lot more than just providing a few goofy workplace laughs and actually going deep into its many complex relationships. I know it’s a shit stance to take — that is, viewing this episode as inferior when it’s still very good — but I rightly expect a lot from such a good show. Point is, this will not be seen as this season’s highlight. Construe that however you will.

The Wife:

Kath & Kim 1.7: “Sacrifice”

Wow, you know what show I really didn’t miss very much over the course of Thanksgiving break? This one.

My biggest issue with this episode is that the show went back to exploiting Phil’s eating disorder for laughs as it previously did in “Jealousy.” Reviewing that episode, I wrote:

“Honestly, Kath & Kim, the jokes about how big Phil used to be before hand were funny, but having a character dig at his wounds so much that his eating disorder resurfaces is not funny.”

I stand by that statement. The set-up for that tragic end of Phil pigging out in the dark was actually all right. Kath is suddenly unable to sleep and after sleep-partying, sleep-playing basketball, sleep-driving and sleep-parking her car on the lawn when trying some sleeping pills Kim orders her from the almighty TV, Phil signs her up for some appointments with his spiritual adviser, Athena (Maya Rudolph). Phil magnanimously hands all of her Athena appointments over to Kath (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) to get her “healed” faster. During the course of her “therapy,” Kath and Athena become good friends, chatting about their relationships with men (and that bear Athena got “closer than that” to) and taking dance lessons during their therapy times. I thought Rudolph was really funny in this role. It’s definitely good to see her doing something other than raising Paul Thomas Anderson’s baby and starring in the FunnyorDie video “Prop 8: The Musical.” Also, she looks surprisingly good in a caftan.

If only you knew the things that bear did to me . . .

If only you knew the things that bear did to me . . .

Of course, Phil needs his Athena appointments so that he has the power to resist the temptation of food. There’s a funny sequence where Phil walks through the food court at the mall, surrounded by people eating greasy mall food as if it were the 14-course tasting menu at The French Laundry. The funniest part of this sequence are the things Phil mutters to himself to help him resist the temptations of pizza, ice cream and a giant cart of cheese, none of which I wrote down, unfortunately. But then Kath and Kim come home and find this:

Kath: Phil, are you okay?

Kim: He’s eating pie from a salad bowl in the dark.

The line from Kim is funny, but the act of Phil eating in shame in the dark is not. Is this all you’re going to do with Phil, Kath & Kim? Make fat jokes? You’re reducing this character to have all the depth of a pie dish, and that’s really not good. There is no way you’re going to convince me that an eating disorder is funny, because its not. Like I said the other week, there are ways you can make jokes about it, but the actual sight of someone giving in to a disorder they’ve fought very hard to control is not funny. It’s just sad.

Yeah, I kept the gnome. Isnt it cute?

Yeah, I kept the gnome. Isn't it cute?

As for Kim, she gets a boot stuck on her Mustang due to having over $700 in unpaid parking tickets. The meter maid turns out to be a girl she was mean to in high school who has a giant crush on Craig. Kim pimps her husband out to Marjorie the Meter Maid in order to soften her and get her to remove the boot. Craig feels violated when Marjorie molests him, but Kim tells him it’s his husbandly duty to take care of her “for better or for worst.” I didn’t care much for this plot either, but it did allow Mikey Day to outshine that radiant beacon of comedy known as Selma Blair in certain moments. I’d also like to give a shout out to the actress who played Marjorie the Meter Maid. She was fantastic.

30 Rock 3.5: “Reunion”

Liz Lemon gets invited to her high school reunion and doesn’t want to go because she remembers high school being absolutely awful. Everyone was mean to her and nobody liked her. The entire staff urges her to go — Kenneth because he had a great time being the only white kid at his all-black high school, Tracy because he didn’t make it to his own reunion to shame and humiliate those who hated him in high school with his newfound wealth (he wound up at a girl’s school for the deaf instead) and Jenna because she couldn’t attend her high school reunion because the boat she was educated on sank.

Hello, Jack. Im sorry to inform you that youve been voted off MILF Island. A beam of energy told me to say that.

Hello, Jack. I'm sorry to inform you that you've been voted off MILF Island. A beam of energy told me to say that.

Don Geiss (Rip Torn) wakes up, which leads Jack to believe that Don will finally rectify the CEO terror that is Don’s daughter Kathy Geiss (who takes her CEO photos with a giant stuffed unicorn and a chalkboard that says “Kathy = CEO” surrounded by stars) and name him CEO. Jack encourages Liz to go to her reunion to show up all those losers who made fun of her while he’s riding high on the possibility of being named CEO. But when Geiss calls him to the roof, he reveals that he’ll be staying on as CEO, with Jack slated to take over when Geiss dies, of course, because a beam of energy told him to. In despair, Jack offers to escort Liz to the reunion and drop her off in Pennsylvania while he flies to Florida to recover from the strain of not being named CEO.

“You tell that Kelsey Winthrop that the ugly ducking has turned into a mildly ethnic swan.” — Jack

Unfortunately, the plane gets grounded in Pennsylvania due to a snowstorm and the only place in town (and dry county) that Jack can drown his sorrows in alcohol is Liz’s high school reunion. At the reunion, Liz realizes that she was actually the bully in her high school class and everyone hates her now for the years of emotional torment she inflicted on her classmates, especially her first gay best friend that she said was “gayer than the volleyball scene in Top Gun” and who now has married an Asian mail-order bride and raised three dogs in an effort to look more straight, despite his exaggerated lisp and super gay dancing. Jack, meanwhile, envies “simple high school losers” for enjoying life because they’re not hindered by the responsibilities of running a giant corporation. Jack envies them so much that he pretends to be Larry Braverman when a reunion attendee mistakes him for that man. Jack quickly becomes part of the cool crowd with all the reunion attendees coming up to him and reliving high school memories he obviously knows nothing about.

An old flame of Braverman’s (Janel Moloney from The West Wing) tries to seduce him again by playing Seven Minutes in Heaven, but Liz ruins the game by showing up and having Jack’s bottle land on her. She makes him cry in the closet when they discuss their current failings: Liz uses humor to alienate people so that she doesn’t feel bad about herself, whereas Jack is pretending to be someone else so he doesn’t have to be sad about a job he’s never going to get and already wasted his money having business cards made for. After seeing their beloved Larry Braverman cry, the reunionites decide to pull a Carrie on Liz Lemon, dumping a bucket of pig’s blood on her head when she accepts an award. (Who can get pig’s blood on such short notice?) But just before she goes to accept her gift certificate to Outback Steakhouse, Jack stops her and delivers a speech to his classmates about how they should accept Liz for her failings. She doesn’t mean to be mean. (“We all have ways of coping. I used sex and awesomeness.”) Humor is just how she relates to people, but deep down, she’s actually a really nice person. The speech is so rallying that Braverman’s former flame decides to unveil Braverman’s illegitimate son, at which point Jack declares that he is not Larry Braverman and he and Liz flee the reunion as the pig’s blood falls.

Lemon, lets get our Outback gift card and go.

Lemon, let's get our Outback gift card and go.

Back at 30 Rock, the B-story this week involved Tracy being jealous of Kenneth stealing his thunder by making people laugh in the elevator. Tracy complains to Jenna, who assures him that no one would ever try to steal the glory of an actor and that he has nothing to fear in Kenneth . . . until she takes an elevator ride with Kenneth and sees for herself. In an effort to draw attention away from Kenneth’s jokes, Jenna bursts out into song (“Wind Beneath My Wings”), which Kenneth takes to mean that the entire elevator should sing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” Jenna, furious, schemes with Tracy to give Kenneth a taste of his own medicine. Tracy starts leading NBC tours and Jenna starts delivering Kenneth’s sandwiches. Kenneth is confused and hurt that someone would try to take his job, which Jenna and Tracy claim he was doing to them by “acting” in the elevator. Everyone agrees not to take each other’s jobs and all is well.

(Husband Note: This was the episode that was to have guest starred Gossip Girl‘s Blake Lively and Leighton Meester, presumably as high school friends of Liz Lemon in flashback, but I guess when they dropped out for whatever reason (they say scheduling, I say a lack of screentime wouldn’t really be helpful for anybody’s career), the story was changed a bit. My wife did point out, that one of Liz’s grown-up classmates was played by Robyn Lively, Blake’s real-life sister.)

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