Dennis Duffy, the Beeper King, returns, and he wants to make an honest woman out of Liz; Tim Conway guests as a '50s TV relic; Jack recruits Tracy into the Republican Party
Tina Fey
30 Rock
S2 E12
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Paging Dennis Duffy? Paging television’s densest beau since Seinfeld‘s David Putty?

That’s right, the Beeper King is back. Last time we saw Liz Lemon’s New-York-sports-worshipping, beeper salesman of an ex-boyfriend, he was filmed attempting to ”boff” some 16-year old on Dateline‘s ”To Catch a Predator” segment. (Fortunately for Dennis, the minor actually turned out to be 18.)

But that ugly misunderstanding is old news (”I knew that girl was 18. She told me her last boyfriend was Asian, and that crap doesn’t start until college.”). So when Dennis is lionized by the city for risking his life on a subway platform to rescue a man from an oncoming train, he sinks his meathooks into the accompanying 15 minutes of fame. As pathetic as he is, Dennis is a uniquely lovable loser. Remember, this is a man who once counseled Jack Donaghy on his disintegrating relationship with Condi Rice. Perhaps that was still on the boss’ mind when he assigned Lemon to recruit ”the bravest New Yorker since Bernie Goetz” for a cameo on the show.

We all have someone like Dennis on our romantic resume, don’t we? Someone who is the malignant relationship equivalent of off-brand Mexican Cheetos. Dennis still has dreams for himself and Lemon (”We’re like Ross and Rachel, but just not gay”), and she’s momentarily blinded by his meathead charm. This is when friends become really important. Objective friends. Friends like Jenna, who reminds us what’s important in a way Hallmark will never be able to.

(Please stand at attention while you read this incisive tribute to an eternal truth.)

Love is hiding who you really are at all times

Even when you’re sleeping

Love is wearing makeup to bed

And going downstairs to Burger King to poop

And hiding alcohol in perfume bottles.

That’s love.

— Jenna Maroney

Wow, that’s deep. In your face, Robert Browning.

Lemon comes to her senses just in time, and Dennis’ bold proposal to make her Mrs. Subway Hero gets a very public thumbs-down. Hurt, he retreats to the scene of the subway rescue (sort of) and attempts to extend his 15 minutes by faking another rescue incident with Lemon. Are we meant to understand that his celebrated subway heroics were also a fraud? Probably. Fear not, though, for Dennis Duffy. As Lemon consoles him, ”If reality television has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t keep people with no shame down.”

NEXT: Jack’s quest to bring Tracy under the GOP tent.

Meanwhile, Jack has his own celebrity to recruit. He’s organizing a banquet for John McCain and the Committee to Re-invade Vietnam. Since he’s now on non-speaking terms with Chuck Norris after switching dojos, the biggest conservative name Jack can come up with is forgotten ’50s TV icon, Bucky Bright (Tim Conway). Bucky’s idea of conservatism isn’t exactly modern, nor is it the old-fashioned type depicted in shows like Mad Men. Wandering the halls of 30 Rock with Kenneth, he reminisces about amorous and adventurous ”sandwich girls,” the Jew Room, and a bygone era when two men could just celebrate each other’s strength… and not be gay.

In a bind, Jack turns to an apolitical Tracy, who defies Dotcom’s liberal guilt-trip [Hey, where was Grizz? Speed-dating?] after a near-death experience lands him in purgatory with Richard Nixon and Sammy Davis Jr. His anti-tax, pro-gun awakening inspires him to film a commercial urging all ”Blackmericans” to vote Republican: ”Dr. King once had a dream. A dream that we all share,” began Tracy. ”To build a 200 foot-high wall to keep Mexico out. And he also hated the Estate Tax.”

Historians and political commentators, no doubt, will have a field day with these inaccuracies: King never lobbied for anything higher than a 12 foot-high wall, and right-thinking Americans call the Estate Tax by its proper name, the Death Tax. In the end, Jack and Tracy decide the best tactic is to encourage black voters to skip voting altogether and play another few games of pool instead.

Even for the always politically astute 30 Rock, last night’s episode was unusually so. In addition to McCain’s ”sausagefest” rally to re-invade Vietnam, New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg did a cameo in which he honored Dennis’ heroics. The MSNBC crawl captured the news that ”40 percent of Democrats excited about upcoming depression” and ”NORAD puts cyborgs in charge of Skynet.” Jack calls Dennis’Dateline flap a silly misunderstanding, ”like the Guiliani campaign,” and while Bucky waits in Jack’s office, he admires a picture of Jack greeting wacky North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il. And you know Alec Baldwin could barely contain his glee when he played Nixon in Tracy’s brush-with-death dream. I loved all of it, but you put me in a quandary, Tina Fey — a quandary. How will 30 Rock play in 10 years? Will future audiences chuckle and appreciate references to today’s political players, or will the show feel like washed-up Bucky Bright, wandering the corporate halls with a sad lesbian named Conan O’Brien? But maybe I shouldn’t overanalyze this. As Jack Donaghy says, ”Not thinking is what makes America great.”

What do you think about the timeliness versus timelessness of 30 Rock? And what are we to make of Grizz’s absence? And most importantly, where can I get cologne distilled from the bilge water off Rupert Murdoch’s yacht?

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30 Rock
30 Rock

Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan star in the Emmy-winning comedy. You want to go to there.

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