"30 Rock" has returned after a hiatus that went on entirely too long (eight months!), and something is remarkably different: Liz Lemon is happy and energized. Not only that, but nothing seems to faze her the way that it used to.
Some things don't change, however, such as Kenneth's blind adherence to foolish faiths that convince him the apocalypse is happening the next day. While the staff belittles and mocks his beliefs (rightfully so), Kenneth's "last day plans" are even more ridiculous – they all consist of chores that don't fall under his official job duties. The list includes “Fix that humming noise only I can hear” and “Organize snack table by food Jewishness.” Once these are completed, he'll be thrilled to see the world end, fully confident that he'll be greeted in heaven by 72 virgin… margaritas. With no salt.
Lemon, in her own euphoric state of weirdness, had a dose of advice for the gullible & irritatingly happy Jesus-child: “Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching. Enjoy these Satchel Paige brand tampons!” Yeah. Something is definitely up with Liz Lemon. But what is it?
Liz is completely unfazed, simply uninterested when Jack signs her up for Desperationships.com, even though her first match burned his groin off in an accident at his cake shop (a cat lady's dream come true!). And when Tracey threatens to change his name to the Gentleman Formerly Known as Rectum, she only chuckles. As a result, he sets out to get to the bottom of the issue when Lemon simply stops paying attention to his antics – something integral to his existence.
When the world didn’t end, a sympathetic Pete decided to take the disheartened Kenneth to see the ocean for the first time – while three of the other TGS writers (Toofer, Lutz & Frank) accompanied, dressed as Santa, Satan and black Jesus, respectively. The joke may be on the rest of us, however, as we've still got 11 months for this giant Titanic to crash and sink.
Meanwhile, Jenna has found tremendous success as the cruel judge of a new kid's singing reality show. She makes Simon Cowell look like a fawning compliment-aholic with torturous cut-downs of toddlers singing for the spotlight, and ratings are astronomically high. Jack, however, is having a crisis of conscience, brought on by witnessing Jenna excoriate a cute little girl with the same name as his daughter. He insists that she change her approach, which results in painfully inauthentic and complimentary assessments.
Yes, this is the same ruthless Jack Donaghy whose Gordon Gecko-style lack of sympathy is downright sociopathic. A heart-to-heart discussion with little Libby – with some very selective and convenient baby-talk interpretation – reinforces his greed-based decision making process, and he determines that the show must continue unchanged.
Tracey's Lemon investigation takes him to the streets of New York, where he spies what appears to be a drug deal go down between her and a homeless man. This is far less shocking than when we find out the two real reason's she's happy: first, she's become one of the WNBA half-time dancers, a collection of old ladies dressed embarrassingly doing calisthenics under the moniker WNBA’s Timeless Torches. Secondly, she's found a man.
While dealing with the impact of what he'd just seen at Madison Square Garden, Jack is equally floored to realize that the other reason why Liz is so happy is that she's seeing someone. We don't see his face, but James Marsden is the actor. As long as his character isn't named Carol, I think we're going to enjoy the way this unfolds.
A stellar return for "30 Rock" shows a few characters getting what they want for once – a pleasant turn for the always-maligned Liz, at the very least. The triple-plot format allowed for enough variety in story to remain fresh without relying on bit-part players to fill time, and each plotline was compelling – and funny – enough on its own to maintain our interest. A solid showing, and a great way to bring viewers back into the fold.
CraveOnline Rating: 9 out of 10