Episode: “The Moms” (Season Four, Episode 20)

Summary: When the moms of the TGIS crew all come together for a special Mother’s Day tribute episode, Liz, Jack, Tracy and Jenna must deal with the meddling women.

Review: Mother’s Day is only two days away and the minds behind 30 Rock are sending out their love to the millions of women worldwide who went through all the trouble to carry us in their wombs, birth us, and put up with our shit for years in the only way they know how: through delightful absurdity.

“The Moms” is almost a perfect storm of insanity, featuring the return of terrific past supporting characters such as Colleen Donaghy (Elaine Stritch), Verna Maroney (Jan Hooks), Margaret Lemon (Anita Gillette), and Avery Jessup (Elizabeth Banks) while also introducing us to newcomers Novella Nelson (as herself) and American legend, Buzz Aldrin (yes, THE Buzz Aldrin). The addition of all these supporting characters handicaps the episode a little by trying to do too much in a 22-minute format, but for the most part it all works wonderfully well. It’s a real credit to the episode’s writers that they could conjure up four completely unique and funny story lines that are all worth remembering despite averaging out less than 8 minutes of screen time each.

In order to do this, the Liz and Jack story lines are brought to the forefront of the episode whereas Jenna and Tracy’s stories are relegated to the sidelines. No matter. They’re all equally successful to one degree or another. Colleen’s arrival, as it turns out, has nothing to do with Mother’s Day and everything to do with the rumors she’s heard about Jack’s indecision about Avery and Nancy; a fact for which she frequently makes of him. The loving hostility between the Irish mother/son duo has always been a highlight of past episodes and “The Moms” is no exception. It’s quite a feat when a character can upstage Alec Baldwin’s performance on the show, but Stritch continues to do so with each appearance. Upon the conclusion of the episode, it’s also rather touching to see both Colleen admit that she meddles just because she wants to see her Jackie taken care of and Jack admit that he wants his mother’s advice. The fact that we get to look at the lovely Elizabeth Banks a bit in between isn’t bad either.

The arrival of Liz’s mom forces her to re-evaluate the relationship ambitions for astronaut Mike Dexter when she finds out that her mom settled on her husband after her mom’s true love, an astronaut named Ed “Buzz” Aldrin, shipped off decades ago. This results in not only the most jaw-droppingly hilarious line in the episode (more on that later), but also in Liz’s quest to find Aldrin and settle her mind over what could’ve been had her mom married the astronaut. It’s awesome to see a very stiffly acting Aldrin settle Liz’s fears by recalling how much of a hellion he would’ve been for Liz’s mom and rattle off one-liners of senile gold: “Would you like to yell at the moon with Buzz Aldrin?” The final message of this story seems to be, however, that settling is okay and while no one points to this show as a moral compass, that conclusion seems a bit uncharacteristically shiftless.  At the very least though, we got to see what Lutz’s mom looks like: Lutz.

Probably the weakest of the story lines was the one involving Jenna and Verna.  It was established in the episode “Verna” that Jenna’s mom was a terrible person, so for the most part, “The Moms” just sees her going around being more of a terrible person – with a single breast implant (“Like a cantaloupe and a zip lock bag of mushroom soup”) – until she’s paid off once again.  There’s ultimately a reconciliation between mother and daughter when each agrees to wear the outfit suggested by the other, but it still stood as the episode’s primary misstep.  Evening it out though, was the hilarity involving Tracy and his “mom” – Pajamaral infomercial actress Novella Nelson, who plays the part of Tracy’s absent mom (“Her name might be Cheryl and she was wearing a red shirt in 1984″).  Initially, neither party are too keen on the idea of each other:

  • Tracy: You are way beneath me Novella – I am a movie star, television actor and the Guinness Book of World Records holder for most car accidents in a single year.
  • Novella: Maybe you wanted someone more high-profile, but I am what you got.  So Tracy, you better watch yourself or you may wind up with no mother at all.
  • Tracy: Fine!  I’d rather be up on that stage all alone than be up on that stage with someone whose resume reads, “Black Judge” on it 9 times.
  • Novella: And do you think I wanted a fake son who recorded an anti-condom PSA?
  • Tracy: I saved a lot of kids from lame sex!

They too eventually have some flimsy sentimental reconciliation, but we’re more willing to forgive its flimsiness over Jenna’s because Tracy Morgan is hilarious.

I would also be remiss were I to not mention what I hope will be the next hit NBC show, “Bitch Hunter.”

Happy Mother’s Day to all those who squeezed out one or more through their birth canals then took the time to raise them right!

Grade: B.

Favorite Quote: [Margaret Lemon] “Ed was true love, sweetheart.  He was my steady at Montclair High.  The night before he was shipped off to Korea, I repeatedly lost my virginity to him while Waldo the town perv watched from the bushes.”

Click here to read more coverage of 30 Rock


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