Contrary to what Frank says, Christmas is not about getting crap and eating too much food. Okay, okay, but it’s not only about getting crap and eating too much food. (Even when the buffet is Christmas meats draped across a stripper’s chest). Christmas is also about family, and as we were reminded on last night’s episode of 30 Rock, no family is perfect.
We’ve known that about the black Donaghy clan since last season. Jack’s cousin is a corrupt basketball official, his siblings are either drunkards or con men, and his mother, Colleen (Elaine Stritch), is a shrew. So it’s about time Liz Lemon introduced us to her red-sweater family: dad Dick (Buck Henry), mom Margaret (Anita Gillette), and mentally stunted brother Mitch (Andy Richter). Golly-gee, they’re swell. Almost sickeningly so. Jack, who prides himself on knowing every possible angle, was initially baffled by their good humor. He mistook Margaret’s compliment of Liz for sarcastic taunting, and when they showered him with praise — Dick said Jack resembled an Arrow shirt model — his unsure response was ”Why don’t we cut the charade and you two tell me what exactly you want from me.” But eventually their relentless geniality won him over, and before long, he was sharing muffins and contemplating Disney vacations with the Lemons.
Henry was destined to play Mr. Lemon. After all, the Oscar-nominated writer was the inaugural member of SNL‘s ”Five-Timer’s Club,” and Tina Fey shares a similar comic DNA. Ditto for Richter, who played the defective 40-year-old bro psychologically frozen in 1985 by a traumatic teenage ski accident. Not even Cerie’s ”filthy Christmas miracle” could snap him out of his haze when she responded positively to his pickup line: ”Do you like Wham!? Because I’m kind of like the George Michael of my school.” The gifted comic deserves his own show — oh wait, he had one. Andy Barker, P.I. was fresh and funny, but NBC axed it after six episodes last spring. Try not to think too hard about that when you’re pulling lint from your navel during Clash of the Choirs or American Gladiators.
But I digress.
Stritch wasn’t as brilliant as she’s been in previous appearances, but she’s always welcome, simply because her character riles Jack. He regretted that she wasn’t in the path of a hurricane. He sent her pastries seasoned with slut mucus. And he compared her nurturing skills, unfavorably, with those of a terrorist cell. ”Your life seems endless,” he hissed at her, after she said that life is too short while attempting to provoke the Lemons into any display of dysfunction. Eventually, she struck a nerve, andThe Goonies and Liz’s feminist football trailblazing proved the Lemons’ undoing.
Fortunately, it’s Ludachristmas, so there was plenty of alcohol around to restore everyone’s spirits. As Tracy said, ”This time of year — Ludachristmas, Nude Year’s Eve, Martin Luther King Day — all you do is drink.” The entire crew was looking forward to an unholy holiday bash, but Tracy was fettered with a court-ordered alcohol sensor that placed him out of commission. (Did you notice the other names on the alcohol-surveillance map? The Lohan trio made sense, but was that really a Wookiee named C. Bacca near New Orleans?)
The plain hard truth is that the holidays simply aren’t the same without booze. Ask Frank, who needs it so he can hug his hot cousin in an unnatural way before his mother can stop him. Ask a sober Tracy, who realized that football was actually boring and his wife’s sister wasn’t as cute as he imagined she was. But before the festivities could get out of hand, Kenneth, channeling sweet ol’ Linus Van Pelt, rescued the holiday from the bacchanalian heathens and reminded them of the true meaning of Christmas. He didn’t thrust owl meat down their throats, but a Guatemalan home video touched their hearts — and launched them on a mission to chop down the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Good grief!
Since we won’t see the show again this year — the last completed episode is tentatively scheduled for the second week of January — I wish you all happy holidays. Yes, even the Sheinhardt executives who are trying to replace Alec Baldwin of 30 Rock with Stephen Baldwin of Celebrity Apprentice: May the ghost of Jacob Marley or Brandon Tartikoff soften your hearts so I can go back to covering my favorite show on Thursday night.
What did you think of last night’s show, TV Watchers? Post below!