by Jim Rohner
Episode: “Audition Day” (Season Four, Episode 4)
Synopsis: Liz and Pete have discovered the talent they want to hire for TGS and plan to dupe Jack into hiring him, but when Jenna discovers that the lead candidate is an actor she dislikes, she and a paranoid Tracy plan to find their own candidate. Meanwhile, after word gets out that Liz has allowed Dot Com to audition, all sorts of characters come out of the woodwork to apply ‐ including TGS writing staff.
Review: All good things must come to an end. 30 Rock season four began with three straight episodes of absolute hilarity, but the streak has come to an end with a mediocre effort tonight.
The problem was not that tonight’s episode got away from what has made the show so great, but that all the pieces were in place to make a great episode and they were just executed poorly. There were multiple instances of jokes that fell flat because they were either predictable (“Because it’s going to be a disaster, like Katrina! You remember Katrina ‐ that crazy girl from hair and makeup?”), missed opportunities for something more (“Back in Stone Mountain, even the mayor had bed bugs and she was a horse”) or oddly out of character (Jack’s beginning speech about people being robots).
The mediocrity of the humor is disappointing considering a lot of elements that made things so good in the first three episodes were present here: a team up of Liz and Pete (“Season Four”), Jack trying to reconnect with middle-America (“Stone Mountain”) and Jenna and Tracy trying to make Liz’s life miserable (“Into the Crevasse”). Additionally, Grizz and Dot Com are given some air time, but nothing exceptional comes from their interactions. I had high hopes for Dot Com’s tryouts seeing as there were two mentions of his playing Trigorin in “The Seagull” at Wesleyan, but that was a set up that wasn’t paid off very well. How awesome would it have been to see Dot Com as a regular cast member if he was hired for the TGS crew?
The auditions in general, though, were a series of “eh” moments. Sure it’s kind of funny to see a fat black girl eating a donut for her act or to hear Frank censor-bleep his way through a standup act, but there was potential for more. After Toofer and Lutz combined for some wonderful moments last episode, their act ‐ “Laugh of the Mohicans” ‐ is cut off before they’re given a chance to try anything. On the plus side, Josh had a good moment when he almost cries breaking down his resume since quitting TGS ‐ failed movie work, dropped by his agent, guy/guy web short ‐ and the cameo by NBC’s Brian Williams was rather delightful as well.
Speaking of NBC, aside from another good jab at the network (“See, that’s exactly what I’m talking about ‐ human empathy; it’s as useless as the Winter Olympics. This fall on NBC”), Jack is, in sharp contrast to just about every single episode ever, a weak point. From the beginning of the episode to the end, Jack just isn’t sharp. Part of the problem stems from a lack of interacting with Liz, which was gold just one episode ago, but I think it can be primarily blamed on his thinly framed thread, which sees him shunned for bed bugs (the relevant swine flu could’ve worked as a better ailment) and humbled by a robot impersonator he ends up hiring for TGS. Hopefully this ties into a larger theme of Jack learning empathy that carries through the rest of the season because on an individual episode level it’s just not believable.
Speaking of themes that carry through the season, do you think the execs at Cisco Systems come off as good sports or desperate in allowing their product to be lauded facetiously?
The robot’s hiring seems a bit throw-away, but its not falling completely flat must be credited to the intriguing twist of the episode. Jenna, convinced that Liz and Pete’s preferred comedian, Jayden Michael Tyler, is a deplorable jerk, does all she can with Tracy’s help to find someone better. The team up of Jenna and Tracy in this episode generates some good moments and it’s a delightful surprise when it turns out that not only was Jenna right the whole time about the impersonator Jayden, but that Jack doesn’t even care about him. Good to hear the voices of Martin Scorsese, Christopher Walken and Gilbert Godfried in the process, though.
[Liz] ‐ “I’m sorry I doubted you, it’s just that you’ve never been right before. About anything.”
[Jenna] ‐ “I know.”