30 Rock Review: Dealbreakers Talk Show No. 0001


Episode: “Dealbreakers Talk Show No. 0001” (Season Four, Episode 7)

Synopsis: After being threatened by his enemy in Washington D.C., Devon Banks (Will Arnett), Jack must make sure the first episode of Liz’s “Dealbreakers” talk show goes off without a hitch, which first involves calming Liz’s performance anxiety.  Tracy, on a quest to prove to his wife he’s responsible enough to have a daughter, embarks on a quest to write the greatest song in history.

Review: As much as I love Chris Parnell as Dr. Spaceman, there seems to be trouble brewing when he appears in back-to-back episodes (granted, there was a week off for Thanksgiving).  Dr. Spaceman and Devon Banks, who are usually used as the proverbial icing on the cake, were both thrown in to seemingly save a mediocre at best episode, but like everyone else tonight, came off as flat and not living up to their potential.

Perhaps it’s because the episode was written by infrequent writer Kay Cannon (only 5 series writing credits) that everything seemed a little off, but from incongruent character traits on down to the slow comedic pacing and lack of trademark camera swipes, there just didn’t feel like 30 Rock flavor injected into “Dealbreakers Talk Show No. 0001.”  Liz, normally balancing the strong-willed female act with self-deprecation, stumbles through the episode usurping both traits for uncontrollable anxiety.  While I understand her being anxious is essential to the plot, there’s still very little, outside of the HD camera gag, that’s worth laughing about or quoting come tomorrow morning.

In the same vein, Donaghy’s abrasive confidence seems to have completely vanished, replaced with a more mellow, almost desperate Jack that doesn’t quite endear himself to us.  With both characters acting so out of character, we’re robbed of the extremely valuable Donaghy-Lemon chemistry that made the previous “Stone Mountain” such an absolutely gut-busting episode.  The strongest moment for Liz comes during her brief interaction with Dr. Spaceman, during which Parnell and Fey give us this delightful exchange:

  • Liz: No, thank you, I can’t – I’m going to be on TV this week.
  • Dr. Spaceman: Really?  I think you mean radio.
  • Liz: No, I don’t.  What is..what…why do people keep saying stuff like that?
  • Dr. Spaceman: Hey, you seem nervous.  I could give you something for that.  Ugh, you know what?  I’m not supposed to have sex with my patients.

With Liz busy with her show, Frank (Judah Friedlander) is placed in charge of the TGS writing staff.  I’m typically not a huge fan of Frank, but it is humorous to see his emotional and physical transformation into Liz and in turn, to see that the character of Frank is capable of more than just an occasional smart ass comment.  For the most part, that’s the extent of the supporting character contributions with Kenneth, Grizz, Dot Com, Pete and Banks popping in and out of the episode very quickly.  However, Jenna, who has seen a bit of a resurgence in laughs this season, does come through with the little time she’s given especially during her exchange with Jack over how to calm down Liz’s nerves (who else would know better than TGS’s queen of freakouts?):

  • Jack: I need to talk to you.  I have an actress problem.
  • Jenna: Okay…don’t try to move the body yourself.

But tonight’s overwhelming redeeming factor is Tracy Jordan.  Continuing the fatherly tenderness introduced in the last episode, “Sun Tea,” Tracy tries to convince his wife Angie (Sherri Shepherd) that his life is incomplete and he would like to have a daughter despite his tendency to not finish things he’s started.  His quest to prove his worth by winning an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony Award) by writing the greatest song in history is a quintessentially insane Tracy idea.  Tracy has unquestionably been the most consistently hilarious character of season four so far and between nuggets like “Liz Lemon, I have a hole in my heart and not the one I got from eating batteries,” handcuffing Liz to his bookcase and bringing together a band of musicians to compose a song concocted out of the 5 most popular musical genres, he single-handedly saved tonight’s episode from oblivion.

Grade: C. I shudder to think what it would’ve been without Tracy.

Favorite Quote: [Jack] – “There’s a lot of history in Studio 4C: To Catch a Predator, the XFL halftime show, storage for broken copier equipment and now, Dealbreakers.”

Jim Rohner knew he wanted to get into movies the very first time he watched Night of the Living Dead on a dark and stormy night. However, instead of moving out to Hollywood after he graduated film school to pursue his passion, he opted to work in New York City and write snarky things about other people's movies. He loves horror movies, Tina Fey, and Groundhog Day. He hates the French New Wave, hipsters and Armond White. One time he ate 2 pounds of Swedish Fish in one sitting and threw up profusely later that evening.

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