30 Rock recap: The Mad Hatter
While Liz tries to warn Jack away from her crazy friend Claire (Jennifer Aniston), Tracy tries to fulfill Kenneth's dream of a Night Court wedding
As NBC’s Earth Day mascot, the wry, wise, yet sexual Greenzo, David Schwimmer set the ex-Friends wack-job-on30 Rock bar pretty high. But as Liz Lemon’s fun-loving Chicago pal, Claire, Jennifer Aniston truly was, as Lemon’s sloppy penmanship conveyed, “crazy putty.” She designed loathsome hats that even Carrie Bradshaw couldn’t pull off, and sucked helpless horndog Jack into all her lunacy. Advantage, Rachel.
But Aniston wasn’t the only former NBC star fulfilling their network-mandated community service for higher ratings. As Kenneth proudly proclaimed, the show “finally [gave] America what it wants: a reunion of Friends…from Night Court.” The network itself actually set events in motion when they unilaterally updated the pages’ blazers. For Kenneth, that old blazer is part of who he is, so he was livid about the new uniform. Lemon was of no help, but Tracy sensed Kenneth’s malaise when he noticed his sorry “wife eyes.” The page without his traditional blazer was “like an owl without a graduation cap. Heartbreaking.” Rather than pee on someone, Tracy gathered Harry Anderson, Markie Post, and Charles Robinson so that superfan Kenneth could finally have the satisfying finale that Night Court never delivered.
Meanwhile, Lemon and Jenna had mixed feelings about Claire coming into town. Sure, they had fun karaokeing at Boystown back in the day, but Lemon seemed to hold a grudge against Claire for stealing Joel, an ex-boyfriend who ran a small but prestigious clowning academy. Why else did Lemon slam her as a “human Macarena: something everyone did at parties in 1996”? I find it hard to believe that narcissistic Jenna and thrill-seeking Claire were ever friends at all. In fact, I can confidently assume that Jenna dated O.J. Simpson simply to one-up Claire when she was hanging with hoopster Scottie Pippen.
Jack, however, was powerless against Claire’s charms. As he confided to Lemon after giving Claire directions to the F-train, “Emotionally unstable women are fantastic in the sack. Their self-loathing translates into…never mind.” (Somewhere in Washington, C.C. Cunningham winced.) Even after she stalked and serenaded him at Mi-Ow’s fundraiser for her fundraising foundation, and introduced the idea of a threesome with Lemon, Jack still couldn’t pull himself away. “She is like a drug. I crave her all the time, even though she’s bad for me,” admitted Jack. “And my teeth are getting loose.” Lemon tried an intervention, tempting Claire with a girls’ night out and tales of late-night hookups at Chili’s. “I met this smoking guy,” Lemon lied. “He was wearing this shirt, and I could totally see his nips.” Her sad boasts of an imaginary fella giving her “the business” at his loft dwarfed Kenneth’s infamous season 2 attempt to sweet-talk Tracy’s then-separated wife. Jack was on his own, and like most junkies, he needed to hit rock bottom — which he did once Claire literally proved herself to be “grab-a-cop’s-gun crazy.” Poor Jack landed in real night court.
NEXT: Guest-star fatigue?
Kenneth’s attempt to get closure with his beloved Must-See-TV characters ran into a snag when it turned out that Harry and Markie have a tense relationship, not unlike Jenna and Tracy’s. She resented the close-knit boys club that used to dominate the show, and thought her good looks had prevented her from ever being taken serious by the critics. John Larroquette, Harry explained, couldn’t attend due to a scheduling conflict, but where was Richard Moll, a.k.a. Bull? If Night Court had a Kenneth Parcell, it was Bull, and his absence seemed like a missed opportunity. Instead we were left with three guest appearances that felt as superfluous as Mel Torme’s old cameos on Night Court. Congratulations, Harry, you’re finally hitting the same notes as the Velvet Fog.
One week after a clever episode featuring Oprah and one week before another one that promises Steve Martin, I can’t help but wonder what the long-term effects of so many one-and-done celebrity cameos will be on the show. When does stunt casting become a crutch? Does it begin to limit the capacity for real character development? If they’re necessary for a ratings boost, can’t 30 Rock insist on multi-episode arcs, like they did with Edie Falco, like The Office did with Amy Ryan, and like Night Court did with Jenna. Okay, maybe werelawyer Sparky Monroe isn’t the best example, but I worry that no one will be able to afford hand-reduction surgery if the show ignores all the talents of its supporting cast.
Thoughts? Was I the only one who thought this episode felt a little flat? Are the frequent guest stars turning 30 Rock into a celebrity showcase, like Saturday Night Live or the old Muppet Show, or am I simply “staunchly in favor of Cocoa-Puffs”? And how did you read Jack and Lemon’s reactions to the idea of a threesome?
Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan star in the Emmy-winning comedy. You want to go to there.