I complained recently about one of my favorite shows, Parks and Recreation, going off the rails in its final season by taking its natural positivity and detonating it into continual happy endings so excessive they seemed like the promises you read in chain emails.
Now I want to remember a show that did pull off a kick-ass final season by pushing its characters into new directions (which they somehow rendered inevitable). That show is 30 Rock.
30 Rock was renewed for its 7th season in 2012 with the understanding that its 13 episodes would be it for the show. This is, incidentally, the same arrangement that Parks and Recreation got for its final season, which was also its seventh. Perhaps 30 Rock was thinking further ahead; a lot of the plotlines that pay off in season 7 were set up in season 6. Of course, you could say the same about Parks and Recreation. Basically, both shows seem to have had the exact same advantages and disadvantages, and while Parks and Rec provided a sweaty, dubious final season, 30 Rock’s was concise, heartwarming, surprising (and still funny!).
If you haven’t done so yet, skip on over to Hulu and watch last night’s episode of 30 Rock, which, for the first time, was filmed and aired live. It’s a gimmick–and other shows have done it before–but it was funny in the goofiest possible way, and it made the show seem more special than it has in ages.
Here are some of the high points:
- Guest shots from Matt Damon (still playing Liz’s boyfriend, Carol), Jon Hamm (whose character, Dr. Drew, has had a hand transplant), Bill Hader (as Carol’s co-pilot), Rachel Dratch (as an eastern European cleaning woman) and Julia Louis Dreyfus (as Liz, during cutaways, and by the way, what a clever means of keeping that 30 Rock staple in the show)
- Jane Krakowski and Cheyenne Jackson singing “Live show! We’re doing a live show!” to the opening credits music
- Actually seeing TGS skits–when was the last time that happened? I liked the Fox News one: “This is Fox News. I’m blonde.”
- Tracy’s wordplay to avoid making promises: “I swear on my mother’s grape.” “Kraut’s honor.”
- The fact that Liz was turning 40. When was the last time a sitcom lady was allowed to turn 40 without the obligatory, “Dear lord, I’m 40!” plot? Liz just wanted someone to say, “Happy birthday.”
It was a weird show, and certainly not up to the standard of the best 30 Rocks. But it was a hell of a good time.
Well, I was out of town last weekend–which was cool, because it meant I got to watch the Emmys with my mom, who is my favorite awards show companion–but it led to me putting off the Emmys write-up for a day or so and then completely forgetting about it for another week.
So, here is a quick and dirty discussion of my impressions of winners, losers, etc. (Oh, that’s an expression. What follows will not be in any way dirty.)
The opening act: I’ve never wanted to watch Glee before, but this song-and-dance number really made me want to. So, when Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Joel McHale, Jorge Garcia, and Jon Hamm all guest star on Glee (in the same episode), I will watch. Until then, I will content myself with watching this performance via online video.
Comedy awards: Well, I weep for Amy Poehler. No, not really, because she’ll totally get another shot next year. (If NBC ever brings Parks and Rec back.) I do think that Edie Falco is great—but she’s right that she’s not really a comedian, and Nurse Jackie, which I’ve seen here and there, is not really a comedy. It’s super-broad–there’s a character with like, anxiety-induced groping disorder, and at least one episode where Jackie flushed a human ear down a toilet–but it’s also about addiction and adultery and death and way more conducive to the serious, poignant moments that tend to win Emmys than, say, 30 Rock. So it’s kind of not a fair comparison, but I’m not going to take that argument any farther because believe me, it goes nowhere.
All I have to do is purchase the second season of Parks and Recreation on DVD. And I will watch the episode Amy submitted, “Telethon,” again and again, so I can see Leslie Knope smack herself against a plastic window on a sugar high, and attempt to fill airtime by flipping coins (“Ooooh, what’s gonna happen next? Tails! Another one for tails.”), and try to defuse a potentially embarrassing situation by threatening to remove her pants. The second time she’s done that this season, incidentally. (And if none of that grabs you, don’t you want to see Perd Hapley doing the worm?)
Click ahead for more on comedy, plus drama and the rest!
Because sometimes I do watch movies that were produced in this century.
I’m going to call this movie “Almost Almost Famous” because that’s the movie it reminded me of, without being quite as wonderful. (Make no mistake, though—I have Almost Famous on a high pedestal. Adventureland is still actually really good.) I don’t always love these types of coming-of-age movies because they tend to show the process by which nerds get introduced to conventionally cool behavior. The nerd gets accepted into the fold of the cool kids. The nerd gets drunk or does drugs for the first time. The nerd finds that the hot girl liked him all the time, etc. And that’s counterintuitive to me, because learning to be like everybody else is regressive, i.e., NOT a good lesson.
What’s fun about Adventureland (and like Almost Famous before it) is that even though the main character is in some ways accepted by the cool kids, he remains on the outside. Jesse Eisenberg, as the main character, is cringingly awkward for the first half hour / hour of the film, and only gets marginally better from there. But, wonder of wonderment, the awesome hip girl he likes (Kristen Stewart) is actually kind of a dweeb, too. When she finds out he has a stash of pot, she gets all excited because, “We can make pot cookies!”
I expected to dislike Kristen Stewart. I haven’t even seen her in anything since she was the little androgynous moppet in Panic Room, but because she’s so popular now and she always looks so calculatedly dour, I thought she’d bug me. Actually, she was great, and, I daresay, one of the main draws of the film. Her character was smart-mouthed but vulnerable; like a hundred different girls I knew in high school and college, making bad choices because she doesn’t think she deserves better ones. She was kind of hardened, in the way the cool girls that age always are, because they’ve seen things, they’ve ‘lived,’ or they think they have—but she was also supremely young. By which I mean, both Stewart and Eisenberg hit just the right notes—they made precious, youthful mistakes, but you root for them to just get there already, to figure it out.
Really funny, too, with 80s detail that is prominent but not overbearing, and lots of strange and hilarious sidekicks: Martin Starr (who is also very funny as a regular character on Starz’s Party Down) as the Gogol-reading games guy, and SNL’s Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig as the weirdly oblivious couple who head up the operations. Ryan Reynolds is a mechanic, a guitar-playing slickster who is idolized by everybody including himself.