30 Rock: Season 6, Episode 1
Dance Like Nobody's Watching
Most season premieres serve duel functions. On the one hand, they need to re-acclimate us with the characters after the break, letting us know where they are and giving us some idea where they'll be headed in the new season. On the other, they generally try to remind us why we loved the show in the first place and to get us excited that it is back again. After an inordinately long break (due to Tina Fey's pregnancy), 30 Rock needed to do both of those things even more than a standard season premiere, and while "Dance Like Nobody's Watching" is hardly a stone cold classic, I would say it accomplished both goals with aplomb.
On the re-acclimation front, we find that Liz Lemon is happy for some reason, Avery is still in North Korea (I CANNOT WAIT to see how this show plays with Kim Jong Un's rise to power, seeing as Avery was married off to him last season), and Jack is having a parenting crisis that might bleed into his work. As the emotional core of the show (and the only two actually developed characters around), the Liz-Jack dynamic is crucial to 30 Rock's success (which is why I hope, if Baldwin is really leaving after this year, the show decides to end instead of trudging on without him) and this episode does a nice job of reminding us how well they know each other and how much they subtly rely on the other being predictable. This was a nice undertone to the episode, something the show occasionally struggles with, and I thought it was handled well. Jack's shock at Liz having a boyfriend (who, for those unaware, will be played by James Marsden in coming weeks) was a great moment, and that it was shot to a very affecting overlap from the B-plot made it even better.
As for the rest of the cast they are, in the words of David Byrne, "same as it ever was." Kenneth thinks the Apocalypse is nigh because his preacher told him so, the writers decide to mess with him and convince him this is happening (climaxing in a plan that has The Devil, Black Jesus, and Santa with an AK-47 appearing to Kenneth), and Pete wants Kenneth to actually live like it is his last day on earth. Jenna and Tracy are as crazy as ever, with the former acting as the Simon on the hilariously named America's Kidz Got Singing and the latter trying to restore the old dynamic where he acts crazy and Liz controls him, constantly perturbed by her good moods.
On the reminder front, the show did an excellent job of giving every character (mostly) a chance to shine, filling the episode with lightning fast one-liners, absurd jokes, and wacky sight gags like the show always does at its best. If you had even slightly forgotten why you loved 30 Rock since last May, did you really need anything more than an episode with Liz Lemon wearing a Christmas Dickie, Jenna telling an adorable little girl to "go jump back up your mother!," Tracy calling cocaine "Blanco Bandito...a name for cocaine I just made up" and Jack monologuing at his infant daughter about how cruel and unforgiving the world is, only to misconstrue her first words ("I want mommy" to "I want money") to serve his own agenda to remind you?
30 Rock is a great comedy in the midst of a second wind, creatively and while "Dance Like Nobody's Watching" doesn't coalesce into the flurry of hilarity that the best episodes of the show do, it is a strong return for the show, and a great opening statement for what I hope will be a wonderful season six. With this cast, these writers, and the promise of the return of Kelsey Grammer to the show, I have faith that season six will be a great one. Either way, I'm just happy to have 30 Rock back, which means that this season premiere got the job done.
-"Have you ever put out a cigar on Gilbert Gottfried's neck? Because I have. And his scream is the worst sound I ever heard. Until tonight. You're a disgrace."
-"Did you know that both her mothers...are serial killers. That's America." Ah, the classic Baldwin pause. He nails it every time. He is seriously invaluable to this show.
-"Black Hell does have a juke box..."
-"Enjoy these Satchel Paige brand tampons."
-"I took a real age test. It says I'm dead!"
-"This thing is a real cash cow. Unlike Cash Cow, the failed NBC spin-off to Cash Cab."
-Kenneth's dream chores include "Jewishness."
-"Reverend Gary says super gay horses are one of the signs of the Apocalypse!"
-"I just remembered I started a camp for underprivileged children upstate and we have to drive up there to see if any of them are still alive..."
-"I haven't seen such a negative response since the Frasier spinoff Hey Roz." Two great fake spinoff jokes in one episode. Well done, 30 Rock
-"Maybe we could make more money by pretending to be nice. Just look at Betty White."
-"In the words of my father, 'You deserve to be disappointed...Merry Christmas.'"
-"Do you see what happened here? We turned an argument into an opportunity to become better friends!" McEnroe was just fantastic.
-"Are you touching my hand because you're a baby and you're developing fine motor skills or are you trying to tell me something?"
"Are you sure it was Liz Lemon and not present day Sally Field?"
-"The Manhattan Center for Penis Enlargement? I know because my friend goes there. His name is Tracy."
Tags: 30 Rock