30 Rock, NBC, Airs Thursdays 9:30/8:30c
Episode: “Christmas Special” (Season 3, Episode 6)
Synopsis: After Jack accidentally hits his mother, Colleen (Elaine Stritch), with his car while visiting her for Christmas, she comes back to New York to spend the holiday with him. While Jack’s mother drives him insane, Liz, upset that her parents left her alone for Christmas, is convinced that she’s being conned by two men pretending to be needy children after she takes part in the Letters for Santa program.
Review: A week after “Reunion” made me damn near pee my pants from laughter, the Golden Globe nominations are announced, once again deservedly honoring 30 Rock, Tina Fey, and Alec Baldwin. On the same day those nominations are announced, Alec Baldwin delivers his best performance of the season, proving that he deserves to win come January 11. Anyone who says otherwise may be a Replicant and should be destroyed immediately.
Though he begins the show calm enough, the constant nagging and demands of his mother eventually devolve Jack into a borderline psychotic with wide, mad scientist-like eyes, frazzled hair, and schizophrenic mood swings that see him panicky one minute (“After I hit her, before I called 911, I sat in my car and waited for 8 minutes”) and close to tears the next (“and they’d ask me to play White Christmas and it would turn into some boozy, burlesque travesty. Every time I hear that song I get aroused. What’s wrong with me?”). You see, when Jack was a child, his Christmases were always miserable thanks to the death of his father and his mother finding season compassion in the arms of a partner – a German immigrant named Frederick August Otto Schwarz. To escape Colleen, Jack never leaves work, forcing Liz and her crew to work overtime on a last minute Christmas special that will be broadcasted live on Christmas Eve. As shown in season 2’s “Rosemary’s Baby” in which Jack pretends to be every member of Tracy Jordan’s family (including Tracy), Alec Baldwin can play crazy and he can play it well. In this episode he shines, perfectly channeling the spirit of bat-shit crazy. Good thing too, because Stritch is kept relatively quiet and uninteresting throughout the entire episode, never given the lines or freedom she had in last year’s Christmas special, “Ludachristmas,” when we watched the Lemons crumble around her. She does manage one good zinger though, when she tells Jack she’s “sweating like a grape-picker.” Borderline racist, or actually racist? I’ll let you be the judge.
Liz doesn’t have a lot of good material to work with either, which is somewhat surprising seeing as Fey was a co-writer on the episode. Perhaps she didn’t want to show off or there was too much attention paid to Jack’s subplot, but either way, we know that as soon she convinces herself she’s being scammed she’s really not and that she’ll put herself into some embarrassing situation due to her presumptions like the whole terrorist-neighbors-are-actually-training-for-the-Amazing-Race from last season. Still, seeing Liz in that pretty black dress during TGS’s Christmas Eve special reinforces my desire to tear out the throat of any man who gets in the way of my love for Tina Fey. The supporting cast’s roles are a bit weak too, which is a shame because when every single one of them are on their game the episodes are gut-bustingly hilarious. Tracy Jordan is up and down – funny in some scenes but not as funny in some others (though props for an obscure reference to Basquiat) – and Kenneth and Jenna are largely absent from the episode.
In the end though, it all works out. Liz’s presents do indeed get to the two needy children she intended to spoil and it turns out in the end that Colleen’s past sexual escapades with Mr. Schwarz (of F.A.O. Schwarz, by the way) were only done so she could provide her poor family with presents on Christmas. Jack reconciles with her, telling her he loves her, and Liz accidentally conveys to the two children that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. It wouldn’t be 30 Rock if it wrapped up neatly now, would it?
My Favorite Quote: [Jack] – “I found a nursing home off the coast of Maine run by the same French company that oversaw Napolean’s exile. She will be treated humanely, but there will be no escape.”
Grade: Overall, I’d give the episode a B based on Baldwin’s strong performance and a slightly subpar contribution from the supporting cast.
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