Jack has to decide how far he'll go to regain his position in GE, while Liz is willing to go all the way to impress someone from an adoption agency
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Let’s get this out of the way: Despite a sterling sophomore season that earned the show its second straight Emmy for Outstanding Comedy,30 Rock ranked 119th in the year-end Nielsen ratings. 119! Behind The Singing Bee. BehindCavemen. Tied with America’s Most Wanted. That’s just not acceptable. But you betcha, there’s hope. Tina Fey’s spot-on Saturday Night Live impression of Sarah Palin resonated beyond late night, winning Fey and 30 Rock‘s late-season debut a groundswell of goodwill and anticipation. NBC, however, wasn’t so sure. Last week, as they’ve done with other shows that have something to prove, the network posted last night’s premiere online. Maybe the ploy generated even more buzz, but short term, who’s to say how many fans tuned out last night’s because they’d already seen the episode online? When did you watch? Did you watch onlineand or on TV last night?

On to the show…

After five months without Liz Lemon, I wanted to give 30 Rock a bear hug. Not some uncertain handshake/kiss/hug, like that awkward greeting Jack and Liz Lemon exchanged in the opening scene. Heck, I practically wanted to take 30 Rock under the bleachers and get it pregnant. Speaking of which, last season’s pregnancy scare left Liz with a maternal urge to adopt, so she sanitized her home and work environment to prep for an interview with the adoption evaluator, Bev (Megan Mullally). Banished was the office porn, hidden was her penis pasta, and trashed was her personal collection of Colin Firth movies, “in case they consider them erotica.”

Jack is equally giddy. Back in New York after a heckuva job with the Department of Homeland Security, the dapper Donaghy — note the new head suit — is determined to reclaim his position within the GE hierarchy. Unfortunately, his sexually closeted nemesis, Devin Banks (Will Arnett), is busy running the company into the ground. “It’s just G now, Jack,” sputtered an unraveling Banks. “I sold the E, to Samsung. They’re Samesung now.” But Banks relented, offering Jack a job in the mailroom. In a twist on the old Godfather maxim, Banks believes in keeping your friends close, “and your enemies so close that you’re almost kissing.” To Banks’ surprise, Jack accepted the humiliating demotion.

Jack’s dignity oddly seems to suffer during season premieres. Last year, he was groveling at Jerry Seinfeld’s feet. This year, he’s shuffling mail and contemplating just how far he has to go as Kathy Geiss’ “fancy boy” in order to get his job back. “Are we talking over the shirt? Frontsies? Backsies?” wondered a strawberry-flavored Jack. “Or would I really have to…give her my gift?” There’s seemingly nothing that Jack won’t do to get — or get out of — a job. Don’t forget how he orchestrated his recent firing from the government.

NEXT: Baby drama

To be honest, I prefer Jack Donaghy, Master of the Universe — the Jack who pulls the strings and enjoys the finer things. On The Late Show With David Letterman the other night, Alec Baldwin said, “A good 70 percent of [Jack’s] DNA is Lorne [Michaels], which is that your life is just one boulevard of unbroken green lights where you have your way all the time. And you just talk everybody into what you need them to do.” He may have paid his way through Princeton by “working the dayshift at that graveyard and the graveyard shift at that Days Inn,” but Jack is a cut above. Maybe some indignities were necessary to get Jack back on top, but no one — not Liz Lemon, or even employees with weekend birthdays — was as happy as I was to see Jack back at his old desk by episode’s end.

Meanwhile, Tracy and Jenna were butting heads, as usual. Just as Jenna crowed about her $300 royalty check for a Japanese ad she did for Whizz Cola — or was it Tokyo University? — Tracy arrived with the first huge payday from his best-selling adult videogame, Gorgasm: The Legend of Dong-slayer. Liz Lemon, in the midst of a train-wreck meeting with a disapproving Bev, was forced to play peacemaker. She encouraged Tracy to share his good fortune with the people who contributed to his pornographic opus. Thus, Frank received solid-gold nunchucks; Pete got a pimpish chinchilla coat. And Jenna? She got a coupon for free hugs. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Or in Jenna’s case, simply ignored. (This is a woman, after all, who’s proud to have a stalker who sends her headless dolls.) Insulted by Tracy’s cheapness, she threatens to sue him.

Such office chaos wrecks Lemon’s adoption chances, but when Frank carelessly knocks out the no-nonsense Bev with his nunchucks, the crew choreographs a “do-over.” Ultimately, Bev’s brain injury negates the more generous second interview and Liz’s passionate plea to become a single-working mother. Mullally was a riot, going from a humorless shrew accusingly inquiring about Liz’s “gentleman sex guests” to a daffy and dazed amnesiac. She’s welcome back anytime; she and the cast go together, as Tracy might say, like spinal cords and car seats.

So 30 Rockers, was Liz’s campaign to adopt a one-episode arc or do you expect to see her go baby crazy throughout the season? Was this the last episode for Will Arnett (who now has his own little baby at home)? Do you mind episodes where Jack checks his dignity at the door? And lastly, did the show officially extinguish any romantic prospects for Jack and Lemon with their inability to smooch their way out of a jam?

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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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