30 Rock, “Larry King” Review

Yes! There may have been funnier episodes this season, but this is exactly the kind of use of the writers’ room that has been missing from the show lately, and for that I am grateful.  When Pete reminded Liz & Tracy not to forget a plug for TGS I got a sudden sense of meta (and a good plant; I’d completely forgotten about it when they paid it off in the button).

The show also played to its inherent New-York-City-ness tonight, for which I am always a sucker, and the titular guest star got some of the best dialogue with his (also somewhat meta) summaries of Tracy’s speeches.  “Tracy Jordan, saying three serious things and then a joke.”  “Tracy Jordan, giving Peter Frampton cryptic clues to a hidden treasure.”  There was a lot of meta humor tonight actually — Jack’s “I almost did the rush to the airport thing like Ross on Friends or Liz Lemon in real life.”

In its first couple of seasons I often thought of 30 Rock as the inheritor of Arrested Development‘s mantle (FTW), but this season the writing reminds me more of Golden Era Simpsons scripts. Look at Larry King’s dialogue up there, you can see the voice of Kent Brockman.  Obviously Arrested Development also had its Simpson-esque qualities.  Barry Zuckerkorn is Lionel Hutz, for example. On 30 Rock, Dr. Spaceman is Dr. Nick Riviera. Jack brings a lot of Arrested Development’s class humor to 30 Rock; Liz Lemon is the show’s live action, grown-up Lisa Simpson.

When the show integrates the writers’ room and the whole cast gets involved in plotlines that bump up against each other like in tonight’s episode, the show plays more like Arrested Development.  When it focuses on two or three distinctly different plots in which a few of the minor supporting characters make one-joke cameos, it feels more like The Simpsons (oh yeah, also FTW).  So in either case, we are all winners, because it’s funny. That said, things falling on the AD side of the coin tonight was refreshing.

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