30 Rock Review: "Klaus and Greta" & "Black Light Attack!" (4.9 & 4.10)

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30 Rock Review: "Klaus and Greta" & "Black Light Attack!" (4.9 & 4.10)

I don't know why NBC decided to put two episodes of 30 Rock on back to back this week, but the station is chock full of wonderfully terrible ideas these days so it shouldn't come as a surprise. Especially when it comes to scheduling they seem to not know have a clue what they're doing, but what can you do? The main problem here stems from the fact that the first of the two episodes last night, "Klaus and Greta," was all sorts of funny while its follow-up "Black Light Attack!" was a big let-down. Which one are you going to remember more? Oh yes, the one that you saw most recently.

The title to "Klaus and Greta" refers to the one part of the episode that in fact falls pretty flat. Jack is still in love with Nancy and heads over with Kenneth to her apartment to erase a drunken message he left her on New Year's. Oh, and also to just generally stalk a lot and have fun with her computer. At least, that's what Kenneth does in the section's only particularly good joke. The rest of this didn't really go anywhere, but it wasn't particularly long so oh well. Maybe that plotline will go away.

The rest of the episode, though, goes into two wonderfully insane places that for once this season aren't rehashes of what we've seen before. One was Liz outing her gay cousin, who needs a place to stay due to his parents' disapproval and heads to New York because it was her drunken fault in the first place. Like Liz, he's from small-town Pennsylvania and thus doesn't really know what's going on in the world. But rather than turning this into another "laugh at the hicks" episode, we just enjoy him gorging himself on the gay culture of NYC until he locks Liz in her closet to keep her from stopping his fun. Not that these were difficult jokes, but the good-natured spirit of the section made it noteworthy and the source of much of the episode's fun.

Jack Black popped onto Community this week to give a nice little deconstruction of how guest stars tend to be used on shows, not to mention of his own on-air personality. James Franco on 30 Rock didn't really do that at all, but what he did do was have a relationship with a body pillow, and when it comes to sheer hilarity I'll take Franco and the body pillow any day of the week. There's something extra special about this being Franco in particular that's hard to grasp. Maybe it's the hair? Maybe it's that he doesn't seem quite as in on the joke as you'd think? Maybe it's the specificity of his love for Kimiko and his willingness to have a three-way with it and Liz? Yeah, it's probably the last one.

The episode nicely segues from the last episode and into the next one by reiterating Tracy's wish for a daughter. It looks like she's on her way, but he realizes that he's prone to the occasional, frequent mistreatment of women. Not the episode's best plotline--what can compare with Franco's love for Kimiko? Oh, nothing--but this sets the stage for "Black Light Attack!"'s best part, which is Tracy deciding that he needs a female member of his entourage. To be continued ....

Anyhow, in "Black Light Attack!" Tracy does in fact add a woman to his entourage, one of TGS' writers in fact. Through doing almost absolutely nothing at all, she soon becomes Tracy's surrogate daughter and he spends the episode largely yelling at people hitting on her or keeping her from going out at night. Tracy eventually learns to let her go, but along the way does a good job keeping the episode funny and interesting-even the plot's conclusion is choreographed from the beginning.

But less interesting and in general pretty meh is the episode's main plot, a competition between Liz and Jack over who gets to be with the new, robotic-humor obsessed cast member of TGS. It's a Liz/Jack competition that doesn't have any of the usual fun, largely I suspect because of how the Liz/new guy relationship just appeared. There isn't anything really at stake here, and we the audience know it, so it's a bit like watching everyone go through the motions. So far the new guy did a reasonably good job integrating into the show, appearing, like the writers, when necessary and fading away when not. Bringing him into the forefront of the episode, though, showed off how little personality he really has and brought a lot of dead-time to the show.

A common complaint about 30 Rock, which I've echoed a bit of in the past, is that its characters don't develop. An oddity here is that with her story, it looks like Jenna may actually do so. When she finds herself cast as a mom in a film, Jenna heads off to her usual identity crisis about aging. A twist here, though, is that by the episode's end Liz has convinced her to embrace her age and admit that she's moving on, which is soon rewarded with an ovation to her performance as the mother. So does this mean she'll be changing?

The episode leaves room for some nice possibilities for the future, but on its own things were kind of a wash. Because of this, the night's episodes ended on a down note and I hope that people don't forget the greatness that was James Franco and the body pillow. Looks like this half of the season may be just as rocky as what we saw in the fall.

Stray Observations:
"He's actively looking for a human woman to dispell certain rumors..."
"As a frequent receiver of drunk messages, they are not cute ... even when they're from Liz."
-All relationships should have sponsors. Especially mine. C'mon Jamba Juice--make it happen.
"I know it's a girl because I yelled Susan B. Anthony at the moment of conception."
"The gossip blogs are calling us James. It's a combination of Jenna and James."
"Aahh, albino monk" "It's a mirror, Kenneth."
"The local TV station edited Will and Grace down so much it was just called Karen"
-Not very clear why Kenneth keeps taking photos w/ that computer, but it's a good gag.
"Ok, I do appreciate the irony that I'm the one stuck in the closet now. Is that irony?" "No, not really."
"Is it gonna be fierce?" " "...It would be if it was 2006"
-The today show drinking game is amazing.
"Is every woman someone's daughter?"
"Gah, you're being such a non-pillow right now."
"I'm the actor James Franco dammit and I'm in love with, and in common-law marriage with, a japanese body pillow."
"Kenneth, your haircut is disrespectful to lesbians."
"Why aren't your teeth glowing in the black light?" "You'll have to ask the man who whittled them for me."
-David Hasslebot. 'nuff said.
-What do you think were Tracy's remarks about Madeline Albright?
"I will not calm down, women are allowed to get angrier than men about double-standards."
"What are you happy about ... did we just get cancelled?"
"She has really thin lips but she makes up for it with tongue girth."
-I have a certain love for montages and flashbacks that have only five possible moments to be made from. This was a very good one.