Episode: “Winter Madness” (Season Four, Episode 11)
Summary: When Liz suggests taking TGS on the road to counter bouts of winter madness, Jack approves as long they take the show to Boston where he can be close to Nancy (Julianne Moore). Upset about not going to Miami instead, the TGS staff rebels against Liz, who creates a scapegoat for everyone’s anger that, unknown to her, turns out to be a real person.
Review: Instead of putting all their eggs into one basket and giving us a lot of Jack and Liz banter or a lot of Tracy idiosyncrasies or a lot of Jenny flakiness, tonight the crew of 30 Rock spread the wealth around and gave us a little bit of everything. A lot of the regular crew as well as the minor characters all saw a good amount of spotlight and while I think it held back any person or persons from really standing out, I think it also made the episode sufficiently funny from beginning to end. Nothing spectacular, but nothing lacking either. A solid episode without being a stand out episode.
With a slight focus shift to the TGS writing staff, we see a bit more of Frank, Toofer, Lutz, Pete and Cerie than we normally do. It’s great to see the general angst and disfunction the writers experience with each other when the issue of doubling up on hotel rooms comes up, especially when Pete automatically assumes Grizz and Dot Com will room together:
- Dot Com: Why would you just assume we would room together?
- Grizz: Why would he assume we wouldn’t?
- Dot Com: Maybe because one of us still hasn’t read the other’s screenplay.
- Grizz: I did read it. I just didn’t like it.
Regular readers will probably know by now that I enjoy it when Lutz is thrown into episodes and, as always, the scorn and mockery the unappreciated writer receives is as much hilarious as it is pitiful. They’re extra harsh on Lutz this episode – even Jack tosses in his two cents about disliking him – but he gets his revenge later on when he Truffle Shuffles Dale Snitterman, the unfortunate executive who faces TGS’s wrath when he unknowingly is blamed for all their hardships. Leave it up to Liz to completely forget she saw an innocent man’s name plate on a door then take full credit for supposedly cleverly fabricating him later on. Nothing comes out of this unfortunate man’s torture, nor do we need anything to, because the episode does a good job (though I can’t help but feel, an unintentionally good job) of making Boston and its people seem boring and mildly annoying. A lot of Boston Bruins jerseys and throwing around of the “ar” pronunciation as “ah?” Been (overly) done before, guys. Make fun of something else. Perhaps the Irish.
Tracy uses his travel opportunity to take a walking tour of Boston with Liz, concluding that a peaceful tour of historical Boston couldn’t possibly result in any trouble arising. As Pete said, smash cut to Tracy accusing a John Hancock impersonator of owning slaves and trouble is a-brewing. He carries his political message throughout the rest of the episode, but in typical Tracy fashion, manages to muddle adult sensibilities with juvenile stupidity (“Sure, find a scapegoat, just like John Hancock did with the good King George”). There’s nothing too worth quoting from the usually hilarious Tracy, but the moment during which he criticizes patriots while wearing an “Impeach George W. Ashington” t-shirt and inadvertently insults a crowd of New England Patriots fans is worth a few chuckles.
The real weakness tonight was the romantic dynamic between Jack and Nancy. I don’t know whether it’s Nancy’s rough, inaccessible demeanor, the relatively few episodes in which she’s been featured compared to Jack’s past love interests, or the Boston accent, but I just can’t get behind the Jack and Nancy romance. It sort of snuck up out of nowhere in “Secret Santa” and just hasn’t really been constructed very well. There doesn’t seem to be any chemistry between Baldwin and Moore either – the excitable glow in Baldwin’s eyes during his scenes with Salma Hayek from last season is gone and the kiss at the end finishes the episode with a dull period more so than with an exclamation point.
“[Jack]: For example: what keeps people polite on airplanes? A shared hated of the CBS sitcoms they’re forced to watch.
[Liz]: No, I understand the concept because with these dummies the common enemy is always me. And I’m sick of it – I’m not gonna be the bad guy this time.
[Jack]: Then find someone else. I recommend Lutz. Why do I always want to choke that guy?”