30 Rock: Season 6, Episode 14
The Shower Principle
There's always a bit of a desperate edge to self-deprecation, something that I, myself a serial self-deprecator, know all too well. On the one hand, a healthy sense of self-awareness is an asset. On the other, when poorly utilized, self-deprecation can simply bring to light personal weaknesses in a way that doesn't so much smooth them over as make them more noticeable. Tonight's 30 Rock, which spent a good deal of its running time making jokes about how tired and repetitive it is at this point, can be more neatly placed in the latter category than the former. Which means that, for this week at least, 30 Rock came across as pretty desperate. Unfortunately, that did not break it out of its current rut.
This week Liz Lemon realizes she has been doing the same things and dealing with the same problems for years. This would be a better storyline if it didn't involve the show basically going through the motions of what has become its own procedural machinations, turning in an episode that was as flat, monotonous, and repetitive as the show was laughing about it having become.
There are jokes about the fact that Jenna is always insecure, Tracy is always crazy, and that Hazel, one of the few "new" things the show has this year is pretty much just another wacky page character. All of these things are true, but that doesn't make them funny. Worse, I'm concerned that the show has taken on Liz Lemon's attitude, and that "The Shower Principle" is a tired concession that, no matter how many ways the writers attempt to inspire themselves, they are simply out of steam.
In fact, in what is perhaps the most tragic facet of this episode (if you are the type of person who considers the sloe, inexorable decline of a once great, low-rated sitcom the makings of a tragedy) is that its greatest moments, its biggest laughs came from jokes that are fundamentally retreads of old 30 Rock formulas. I will always laugh at Alec Baldwin delivering a line like "Meditation is a waste of time, like learning French or kissing after sex," but it is also pretty much just a Jack Donaghy line constructed like a particularly good Mad-Lib. There's such a pattern to the show at this point that even when it is funny, it is funny in a way the show has done dozens of times before (check the "Notes" section below for many more lines I enjoyed, in spite of the fact that they are standard 30 Rock tropes at this point). I have talked a lot so far this year about my feeling that, as much as I love 30 Rock, its time for the show to end. Tonight, it seems clear to me that the people who make the show feel pretty much the same way.
-"Have I never washed this sweater?" Standard 30 Rock flashback joke.
-"I was in the shower when I finally got the title of the movie Face/Off." Standard random pop culture joke, followed by standard undignified Liz exit joke.
-"Everyone hide your bones. Dogbeard the pirate just sailed into Woof Harbor." I feel like the show can't decide who Hank Hooper is. Sometimes he is a Midwestern everyman put off by all the show's wacky East Coast antics, and sometimes he is a crazy war vet who had an ass transplant and thinks a Shareholder Meeting and Dog Fashion Show is a good idea.
-"Meanwhile the Kabletown blimp is in such disarray we got a jeers in Corporate Blimp Weekly." There are literally dozens of "Jack reads an absurdly specific publication" jokes I could point to. I still think the joke is funny, but good lord is it DONE.
-"But this isn't Macbeth, this is...a timely satire of Macbeth." I call this one the "wait for it."
-Best part of the episode: the ways Tracy made money in the last year, including finding gold on the island he owns and designing Kate Middleton's wedding dress.
-"We've done ALL of this." Yes. yes you have.
Tags: 30 Rock