30 Rock Recap: The Marriage Plots

Even for a show that revels in pop-culture references, 30 Rock had a lot of them last night. Jack and Avery agree through gritted teeth to watch Downton Abbey. Liz Lemon argues she’s clearly not someone who bails, since she’s still watching Smash. Criss explains that his hot-dog van is named Van Der Beek, since he’s seen everything that guy was in except Dawson’s Creek. The guest stars alone felt like evidence of 30 Rock’s cultural range. What other show would find a way to use Dr. Cornel West and beloved New York news anchor Pat Kiernan in the same half-hour?

All season long, 30 Rock has been trying to find a balance between this sort of outward-facing comedy and more inward-facing meta jokes. The former is important because it connects the show to the rest of the world, but the latter is part of 30 Rock’s cult appeal, a way to reward longtime fans for paying close attention. Both approaches have their drawbacks, though, and this winter, 30 Rock went a little too hard on the meta stuff. The show started to feel bogged down by self-referentiality toward the middle of the season, right around the time William Baldwin showed up playing an actor playing a character played by his older brother. Read More...



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