The Husband:

My Name Is Earl 4.20 “Witch Lady”

After a short break to make sure that Earl doesn’t end its season waaaaaay before it should, Earl comes back onto our Thursday night schedule to take on List Item #186: “Was Mean To The Crazy Witch Lady.”

But who is this crazy witch lady? Well, she’s played by Betty White (+1), her name unfortunately happens to be Griselda Weezmer (+1) and the entire neighborhood is afraid of her, resulting in teenage Earl setting her up to get arrested using altered green face cream and krazee glue in a truly inspired set-up (+3 for how hard I laughed at the end result). But could the entire town just be wrong about her, that she’s just a nice ol’ biddy who has been misunderstood for far too long? Earl goes to her house to apologize and find out the truth, only to be drugged by a batch of roofie tea and tied up in her basement. Seems she’s been suffering at the hands of the folks of Camden for far too long, and it’s time to take revenge on all those who done her wrong.

Somehow, I dont think shes going to tell me a story about growing up in Saint Olaf . . .

Somehow, I don't think she's going to tell me a story about growing up in Saint Olaf . . .

Soon, Randy is thrown into the basement — he once tried to melt her with a bucket of water — along with Kenny and his gay lover Stuart (Stuart once gave her a ticket for the graffiti somebody else did on her house), Joy (who’s been going at it with Darnell over how he can be such a nice person while she’s such a fucking bitch), Darnell (who just once accidentally said “Which lady?” too loudly in Mrs. Weezmer’s presence), Catalina (who tried to steal her tears) and finally Patricia the Hooker, who just happens to be Mrs. Weezmer’s daughter.

“Hookers have moms?!” — Randy

While all chained up in the basement together, each of the characters turn on each other, breaking down the reasons why, after receiving an ultimatum, another person should be the one person Mrs. Weezmer stabs to death.

“Oh no, we’re gonna die! And it’s gonna hurt!” — Randy

Earl, however, finds the lesson even amidst this terrible predicament, that perhaps they should not be so quick to label somebody and to get to know the person underneath a label, instead of calling each other sluts, dummies, hookers, the “gay guys” and, in the case of Earl, a “freakin’ karma zombie.” When Mrs. Weezmer comes down with a knife, Earl apologizes for all of them and hugs her, telling her that they’ve learned their lesson, only to be stabbed in the side. Patricia then knocks her mother out with a shoe, and Catalina jumps up for joy.

“Collect her tears! We can all live forever!” — Catalina

Mrs. Weezmer, now definitely and legally insane, is put in a home to get better, and everybody is a better person as a result of being drugged, kidnapped, and in Earl’s case, stabbed. Even Darnell learns to not always be such a nice guy to Joy, because she has so much trouble living up to somebody who she describes as “Jesus’ nicer brother.”

You know by now that I tend to appreciate the Earl episodes that utilize its ensemble well, so I don’t really have to repeat myself. And I also think Patricia the Hooker gets some of the show’s best lines, and wonder why they don’t use her more often.

Good show, Earl. Maybe the season’s final episodes can have another multi-ep arc? Please? I’m not asking for much.

The Office 5.18 “New Boss”

Finally, we have a replacement for Jan and Ryan, who lost their high-ranking positions due to, respectively, pregnancy/craziness and dugs, and who is that replacement? Why, it’s none other than the stellar Idris Elba, a.k.a. The Wire‘s Stringer Bell, the most badass business school student/drug lord of all time. (I forgive him his one foray into Tyler Perry territory, because Daddy’s Little Girls was waaaay before we realized that Perry was a complete joke.) This new boss, one Charles Minor, isn’t there to dick around, though, and almost immediately he puts down Jim’s pranks on Dwight (this time involving him dressing up in a suit, in a reaction to Dwight’s memo about a proper dress code, and judging everything Dwight says to be “unclassy”) and disbands the ever-working Party Planning Committee due to budget tightening. This last bit, especially, angers Michael, since the PPC has been hard at work putting together a party for Michael’s 15th anniversary with the company.

“He’s like a black George Clooney.” — Meredith (or was it Kelly? I look down to write way too often)

He really is like a black George Clooney.

He really is like a black George Clooney.

Michael immediately tries to reason with David back at Corporate, but to no avail. He’s just simply not getting the respect he deserves.

“To be honest, I think I thrive under a lack of accountability.” — Michael

Finally fed up, Michael drives three hours to New York to confront David face-to-face, and he pleads with him regarding his party, telling him all the sacrifices he has made for Dunder Mifflin. (These would include putting a family on hold, never hang-gliding and never driving her car to the top of Mount Washington.) When David, understanding Michael’s sadness, allows for the party to go through, and promising that he will show up in order to make Michael feel better, Michael realizes his true position at the company now that Minor has shown up, and ends the episode declaring that he quits.

That’s quite a way to set up the final episodes of the season, as Michael will go head-to-head with the powers that be and struggle to find his way in a non-Dunder Mifflin life, and all the shenanigans back at the Scranton branch will come to a screeching halt due to Minor’s interference. It seems the very essence of The Office is being challenged, and that’s definitely a tall order to deal with. It’s upping up the drama nicely, and this, combined with the promised reappearance of Amy Ryan’s Holly, can only mean good things for the remainder of the season.

And I still get a line as great as this:

“Mr. Peanut is not classy!” — Dwight

The Wife:

30 Rock 3.15 “The Bubble”

You know what was the saddest part of this episode? Watching Jon Hamm teeter away on that motorcycle, herking and jerking and crashing into parked cars. Not because my illusion of Dr. Drew (and Liz’s) was shattered, but because I won’t regularly get to see Jon Hamm again until Mad Men‘s third season premieres, whenever that may be. Boo to that.

It shouldnt have ended like this Jon Hamm, shattering the beautiful illusion that you were completely the perfect man.

It shouldn't have ended like this Jon Hamm, shattering the beautiful illusion that you were completely the perfect man.

Otherwise, this was a great sendoff for that character, as it turns out that Dr. Drew is so attractive that he lives in “The Bubble,” a special world in which people will do anything for him simply because he’s attractive. He gets compliments from strangers, has his parking tickets torn up, is regularly asked by Calvin Klein to walk in his fashion shows and can always order off-menu. He also somehow got to become a doctor simply by being attractive, because it wasn’t due to his smarts. He doesn’t even know the Heimlich maneuver. He also cooks with Gatorade, can’t draw and thinks he’s really good at tennis — unfortunately, he isn’t actually good at any of these things, but thinks he is because he’s been living in the bubble his whole life. Liz wants to tell him the truth, and eventually bursts Drew’s bubble. He really does not like being a regular person, however, and decides to speed away on that motorcycle he doesn’t know how to ride, safely back inside the bubble, a place Liz cannot join him.

Meanwhile, Tracy’s contract is almost up, and when Jack offers to renew it at his current rate, pointing out that Tracy really doesn’t need any more money, Tracy decides to quit. No one had ever pointed out to him that he doesn’t need to work for money anymore. Jack spends the rest of the episode trying to woo Tracy back, resorting to such tactics as having impersonators of black television icons call him and praise his work on the show. He makes the mistake, however, of having someone call as Bill Crosby, who apparently did something very untoward to one of Tracy’s aunts back in the early 90s and never called her again. Jack is forced to take over the wooing with his Billy Dee Williams impression. Unmoved, Tracy remains at home, devoting time to annoying the hell out of his children and trying to establish himself as a musician. Tracy Jr., who is oh so much more eloquent than his father, begs Jack to get Tracy back on TGS, claiming that Jack has turned Tracy Jr. and his siblings into just another set of black kids with an unemployed father.

“Are you trying to turn us into stereotypes?” — Tracy Jr.

Jack finds out that Kenneth has continued to do work for Tracy after his departure from TGS, so Jack asks Kenneth to cut Tracy off in order to lure him back. This is very hard for Kenneth, who pretends to be a different page, one with a Cockney accent, whenever Tracy calls in order to avoid contact. Without Kenneth, Tracy is completely lost.

“Family? Who’s in charge of my thirst?” — Tracy, saying a line that I am pretty sure came directly from Tina Fey’s baby Alice’s mouth:

Eventually, Tracy returns to NBC to ask Kenneth why he’s been avoiding him, and Kenneth apologizes to Tracy. With all this attention being paid to Tracy’s expiring contract and Jack’s attempts to woo him back to the show, Jenna comes up with a crazy publicity scheme in which she plans to cut her hair live on The Today Show for Merkins of Peace (Loves of Love wouldn’t take it because it was too processed), a scheme she quickly stops when Meredith Viera points out that, without Tracy, Jenna is the only star left on TGS. Jack decides to fire Kenneth, as there is no need for him to work at TGS with Tracy gone. Not wanting Kenneth to lose his job, Tracy decides to return to the show, making everyone happy, except for Jenna.

Other funny things:

  • Not giving a cutaway of Tracy’s crazy antics when Liz and Jack discuss them, instead choosing to let the two stars stare off in thought for a few seconds? Brilliant.
  • “Sorry it took me so long to answer — I was thinking about how weird it is that we eat birds.” — Tracy
  • Kenneth’s inability to not talk like Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel when he gets upset and the transition from smooth Kenneth to unable-to-talk Kenneth.

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:

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:

30 Rock 3.8 “Flu Shot”

“Oh no! I must have Ox Fever!” – Kenneth

The flu is going around 30 Rockefeller Plaza and the cast and the crew of TGS are all falling ill. Because of short staffing, Liz’s vacation to St. Bartleby’s (where she likes to read magazines in old-fashioned swimwear and black socks) gets canceled. Jack fears that the unionized crew members will get the more elite members of TGS sick, so he has reserved their limited number of flu shots for a select few, including himself and Liz Lemon.

Liz refuses to take the flu shot, however, feeling that it is unfair of Jack to ration them off. She becomes a hero to the crew, a sort of Norma Rae figure in their quest to get better healthcare. Kenneth, meanwhile, thinks that he’s dying and demands the traditional burial of a Parcell man, which involves being wrapped in the Confederate flag, fried and fed to dogs. As the only Page not currently out with the flu, Kenneth feels its his duty to not leave his post, therefore he can’t go out to get soup for the crew when flu-shot imbued Tracy and Jenna decide that they want to do something nice for the people who are working so hard while they’re all deathly ill.

Tracy and Jenna return, of course, from their soup outing without soup. They got bored and ended up going shopping instead, because every girl’s crazy about a sharp-dressed man. In gratitude to Liz for sticking by them, the crew buys Liz a meat plate, which she realizes she cannot eat because Cerie managed to get her vacation back on and now Liz will do anything she can to not get sick. After refusing the meat plate, she fearfully wanders through the halls of 30 Rock, as flu-ridden zombie crew people (and zombie Kenneth) lumber after her while she sneaks off to beg Dr. Chris Parnell for the last flu shot. I love seeing Chris Parnell, anywhere. And I’m glad he made Liz Lemon dance for that flu shot. Anytime Liz has to dance is guaranteed to be funny.



Meanwhile, safe from the flu-filled halls of 30 Rock, Jack continues his budding romance with Elisa, his mother’s Puerto Rican nurse. He thinks she works too much, unhappy that the only way he gets to see her is when she sneaks him in when she watches her other patients in their homes at night. He begs her to go out, and she compromises by bringing her disabled, dementia-addled charge with them on a variety of dates. Eventually, the patient’s son nearly catches them together, noticing, perhaps, that Elisa’s nurses uniform is suddenly a boob-boosting cocktail dress. As Jack sneaks out, Mr. Templeton suddenly reveals to his son everything that he witnessed on Jack and Elisa’s dates in a hilarious stream-of-consciousness monologue.

“He made me watch a giraffe with the legs of a man!”

That quote was my favorite part of the monologue, but the whole thing together was priceless.

Back at TGS, Liz has to cover up her flu shot injection site so that no one will see the unmistakable flu shot rash. Kenneth notices it, but Liz tells him that he’s hallucinating:

“No, no. You’re having a fever dream. We’re speaking French. And I’m your mother.”

Tracy and Jenna, meanwhile, decide to make up for the soup failure by giving the crew laughter, the only medicine better than medicine. They dress up as the most terrifying clowns I have ever seen and expose Liz’s flu shot secret to the crew by tossing a pie in her face, which forces her to remove her rash-covering sweater. The crew immediately turns on her and starts hating her again, including Kenneth, who is still speaking French because he thinks he’s in a dream, screaming:

“Je deteste!”

30 Rock 3.9 “Retreat to Move Forward”

Jack wants Liz to be his buddy for a corporate retreat, which Liz remembers performing at a few of back when she and Jenna were on an improv troupe together. (I can’t tell if an improv troupe would be improved or not by the presence of Jenna Moroney, considering her response to Liz’s Sling Blade impression in their “Sling Blade and Oprah go on a date” scene was, “You sure do, Oprah!”) Liz thinks of these retreats like going to summer camp, and she agrees to be Jack’s camp friend, knowing that he needs moral support because he can’t go alone to a place where he needs to psych himself up with a speech that includes a variety of corporate ad slogans. (“Just do it. Is it in you? I’m lovin’ it!”) Only, Jack’s corporate retreats are not at all about team building and fun like camp. They’re weird. Like, I can’t even describe exactly what goes on there. That’s how weird they are. Somewhere between the Dharma Initiative and a Scientology meeting, people at the meeting are concerned with what “levels” they’re at (things like Js and Gs and Hs and a variety of other alphanumeric combinations) and only address each other formally. It’s also filled with intentionally confusing acronyms, where lunch is an activity but CLASS is Consuming Lunch and Simple Socializing. Eventually, as they participate in team building activities together that are altogether too strange to describe accurately, Liz becomes totally jazzed about the Retreat to Move Forward, screaming at Jack to finish things faster and communicate better in order to facilitate that, culminating in a cute little Glengarry Glen Ross joke: “Always be talking, Jack! Always be talking!” (Alec Baldwin’s monologue, written just for him, in the film purports that the ABCs of sales are simply “Always Be Closing.” Watch it if you haven’t seen it. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.) She also screams something about a robot penis that I didn’t quite catch but laughed at anyway.

When Liz comes to greet Jack on the second day of the convention with omelettes from the omelette bar (which, by the way, she suggests that he goes to get, because her two plates are for her, goddamnit), Jack tells her that she’s embarrassing him with her enthusiasm and informality. That’s just not how the retreat to move forward works. In a snit, Liz declares that her friendship with Jack is over. She spends the rest of the day sulking, hanging out with a couple of lower level retreat partners who openly make out at their convention table. Jack asks Liz to sit at his table, but she refuses. He then gets miked up for the speech he’s about to give and she realizes his mike is on just as he heads to the bathroom to give his psych up speech. Liz tries to stop him, but arrives too late. The whole room heard him pump himself up. She tells him the bad news, but, as a friend, goes out to do her best to take the blow for Jack’s embarrassment. She grabs the mic on stage, does some bad improv (including her Sling Blade impression) and tells everyone that she was impersonating Jack Donaghey attempting to psych himself up. The crowd isn’t buying it, so she pulls out a last-ditch move by ripping open her shit and dancing around while singing “Everybody Dance Now.” Jack cannot believe that Liz would do something like that for him, to which she replies that’s what friends are for. He then informs her that she’s banned from all future retreats.

Jenna, souped up for her role in a Janis Joplin/Janet Jopler biopic, announces to the writing staff that she will be employing the “method” method of acting and will be in character from this point forward. Frank decides to fuck with her by telling her to do her research on Wikipedia, because people are discovering new things about Janis Joplin everyday. Frank and the writing staff have oodles of fun using Wikipedia to convince Jenna to do things like speedwalk in leg braces and chug bottles of tequila. Frank realizes it’s getting out of hand, though, when he catches Jenna about to chow down on a cat.

If Janis did it, you can do it, Jenna!

If Janis did it, you can do it, Jenna!

He comes clean and tells her that they tricked her, but assures her that her unbridled rage at something like this will make her a shoe-in to win an Oscar if she can bring that fire to her Janis Joplin role. Stroking Jenna’s ego, of course, is incredibly hot to her, and she and Frank end up hooking up. The next day, Jenna tells Frank that she’s just going to be cool about their hookup and not tell anyone, and asks the same of Frank. He earnestly begs her to also be cool and not tell anyone, which confuses and infuriates her. (“You are the one who cool should be!”) Frank warns her that he has a lot of people in the building that he wouldn’t want to hear about him and Jenna. When she walks in on him the next day telling a story, she expects to hear her name as the cool thing he did last night, but is even more furious to hear that the story is about videogames. She freaks out and tells the whole crew that they slept together.

Dr. Chris Parnell, meanwhile, tells Tracy that he might soon develop diabetes, or The Sugarbetes, as I like to call it. He might lose his foot, but could replace it with a wheel – à la Rosie from The Jetsons – if he wanted to register himself as a moto-vehicle. As a result of this news, Tracy starts rolling around the office on a wheel. Kenneth asks him why he’s doing this, and hears he might develop diabetes. Worried for Tracy’s health, Kenneth starts trying to get him to eat better, slapping sugar candies out of his hand. Tracy tells Kenneth that the link between diet and diabetes is a white myth, like Larry Bird, and Colorado, thus many African Americans continue to eat whatever they want even when threatened with the Sugarbetes. Unable to fight the power of the white myth, Kenneth tries to get Tracy to improve his diet by telling him stories about the Hill Witch, who eats children who won’t eat the vegetables. This does not stop Tracy. Kenneth even tries dressing up as the Hill Witch, but to no avail. Jenna bursts into the room, fresh from an encounter with her hair colorist, who turns out to be one of the many women in the building who get it on with Frank, sabotages Jenna by overbleaching her hair, causing Jenna to run around the building screaming like a banshee, terrifying both Kenneth and Tracy.

I’m glad Tracy and Jenna got larger plot lines this week, especially one that involved both the writing staff (who go underused at times) and Chris Parnell. I actually liked these plots better than the A-story with Liz and Jack this week, so props to 30 Rock for giving it up for the supporting characters.

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, 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.