’30 Rock’ Review: “St. Patrick’s Day”
In the most lighthearted example of New Yorkers hating everything that we've ever seen, this week's '30 Rock' gives the traditional trappings of St. Patrick's Day the same consideration most reserve for swarms of locusts or large groups of hyperactive children.
The show kicks off ensuring my full attention when Kenneth's female counterpart Hazel (Kristen Schall) assumes responsibility of the Jenna/Tracy Spoiled Actor Circus. The two ego-maniacal stars are hosting the St. Patty's Day Parade for the third year running, with strict instructions to stay on the teleprompter. Schall does crazy better than anyone else on the cast and does not disappoint in this role.
While that action stews for a bit, Jack decides that Liz's anti-Irish attitude needs an adjustment and leaves her with a supposed curse, in what we'll assume was Gaelic. These kind of personality driven shenanigans are what keeps 30 Rock's characters human, and not just cardboard cutouts.
As Liz does home to enjoy her anti-Irish holiday with her boyfriend, Jack discovers that the writing staff are holed up in the office for the holiday, playing "Colonizers of Malar", a role playing strategy board game that Jack finds he can apply corporate know-how to.
As the NBC previews made clear, Liz's day with Criss is shanghaied by Dennis Duffy, the Beeper King, injured on the street during standard St. Patty's Day rowdiness. (We have gripes about previews giving stuff like this away, but also strong opinions on the quality of commercials, so let's just move on...)
Jenna and Tracy melt down when it Hazel puts Jenna's name first on a promo, upsetting the delicate balance of ego stroking that kept the two friendly. This might seem like standard fare for these two, but as promised, Schaal's wide eyed psycho routine keeps everyone on their A-game. Tracy commands the iPhone's SIRI to kill Jenna, and the iPhone Automated helper replies that it has killed Jenna Elfman. Awesome.
While Criss buddies up to Dennis, in spite of her insistence that Dennis wants to make yet another attempt to get with her, and the Jenna/Tracy debacle rolls onward with Ron Burgandy level teleprompter issues, Jack finds himself playing in a metaphor for his career, and leaves to find inspiration.
While trying to prove her point to Criss, Liz instead drives him away, prompting Dennis to turn the tables, lecture her for being immature, and drop the bomb that he is actually married. Might this be the last we see of the Beeper King? Nah, he'll be back. He *always* comes back.
Hazel screws the pooch and sets Jenna and Tracy against each other again, but Kenneth saves the day with a simple logical paradox, the kryptonite of rampaging robots, and apparently, stupid actors.
Jack returns to the "Colonizers of Malar" game, and pulls off a dramatic, St. Patrick-inspired gambit, winning the game. The metaphor has gotten so palpable now that his voice actually echos, as he declares that he will pull the same reversal of fortune off with Kabletown.
Liz manages to catch up with Criss, reluctantly achieving the St. Patrick's Day lesson that Jack foresaw, but not before a little more holiday mockery. Liz finally coughs up an "I love you" and Criss seals the moment with Han Solo's most excellent response: "I Know" (It's an awesome line to bust out when you want to charm your girlfriend, but haven't heard of anyone surviving its use in wedding vows. Challenge: Extended.)
With a couple of bouncy, rocky episodes this season, it's nice to see that '30 Rock' can still pull off something resembling character development, even if it is self referencing and tongue-in-cheek.