30 Rock, Season 6, Episodes 6 & 7, “Hey, Baby, What’s Wrong”
Written by Kay Cannon
Directed by Michael Engler
Airs Thursdays at 8pm ET on NBC
Valentine’s Day episodes seem to be a necessary evil if your show happens to run on one of the networks. There must be some data out there that suggests they help ratings during February sweeps but in comparison to Halloween episodes, which are usually a fair amount of fun, they often feel uninspired. Which doesn’t help things in a season of 30 Rock that uninspired describes fairly well. It’s the combination of jokes that are mildly-amusing at best and plots that feel short on innovation that has made this season feel like such a chore. If either area was working it would be significantly easier to overlook the other; unfortunately that’s not the case tonight.
The least eventful plotline tonight features Frank and Tracy trying to give Lutz some pointers on picking up women, mostly revolving around comforting women in distress, that leads to just the kind of predictable failures you would expect. Less promising is the one involving Pete stepping in to help Jenna after the producer from America’s Kidz Got Singing passes away. Jenna’s Bob Dylan voice just isn’t very funny but the climax with Pete recalling his Olympic days is the kind of bizarre setpiece 30 Rock would feature multiple times per episode in its prime. Here it feels like too little too late.
Jack visiting the UN ambassador from Transylvania with Avery’s mother in an attempt to have her extradited from North Korea has potential, but it’s mostly wasted. Their succumbing to one another’s charms is, again, predictable and not terribly amusing. The most promising bit of the night involves Liz and Criss taking a trip to Ikea and the idea that it’s impossible to navigate the place as a couple without getting into an argument. They could go a lot further with it than they do, as the jokes they settle on are rather tame. The highlight of the episode is Hazel’s meeting Liz and becoming infatuated with her life. It works because Liz is so frequently dissatisfied with things and hopefully they will follow up on it in the coming weeks. Also, this week finds Kenneth back in the page program, but the less said about that the better. Let’s hope it’s just a case of episodes airing out of order.
Written by Adam Reed
Airs Thursdays at 10pm ET on FX
Archer’s childishness isn’t a new aspect to his character, you only need to look back as far as last week to find evidence of it, but it’s never been more apparent than it is in the opening minutes of “Drift Problem”, barely containing himself as he waits to see how others are going to celebrate his birthday. His relationship with Malory is another defining aspect of his character and perhaps the defining relationship of the show. It’s never commonplace but it’s rarely as disturbing as when they make a callback to the ping pong paddle she used to spank him with as they do in tonight’s flashback.
It would also be remiss not to mention Pam, who becomes more interesting every time another layer of her character is uncovered. Tonight we learn that not only did she pay her way through college in underground fighting rings but she is a street racer with ties to the Yakuza. Which leads to tonight’s climax which is another of Archer’s spectacular car chases. Not as spectacular as the one in “The Man from Jupiter” or last year’s “Jeu Monégasque” naturally, but it’s surprising how adeptly they continue to pull off these action setpieces.
Archer frequently puts twists on routine tropes and there’s an example of that tonight. It’s become rather standard to call attention to the fact that you’re using product placement. As Archer goes on and on about his new Dodge Challenger, Lana casually asks Malory how much Dodge gave them for that. Where they take it one step further is in Malory’s response that it “[wasn’t] as much as you’d think.” Which might be the first time a show has directly criticized a company for not providing them with enough money in exchange for an instance of product placement.
Unsupervised, Season 1, Episode 4, “Fires & Liars”
Written by Rob Rosell, Scott Marder & David Hornsby
Airs Thursdays at 10:30pm ET on FX
What teenage boy hasn’t went through a phase where they’re fascinated with setting things on fire? That’s where Joel and Gary find themselves on tonight’s episode of Unsupervised and when it gets out of control they have to resort to lying for the first time in their lives. Unrealistic? Sure, but it’s another sign of the underlying altruism in these characters. It’s something that’s been discussed more than once in this column, but it’s one of the few unique aspects of the show.
The scene with the twin fireman is quirky, if not necessarily funny. It’s hard to get behind their lamenting the days of 9/11 because they can’t attract women as easily, but it is amusing to see how they’ve fallen out of shape now that all they have to do is sit around and barbecue. Joel and Gary decide to help them out by setting more fires and if the homeless get blamed for it, well, at least there is heat in jail. It’s somewhat clever but again leads to an ending that is reminiscent of an after school special. Their guilt overcomes them when they realize the homeless that are being ostracized for their crimes are good people leads to their confession.
It doesn’t feel like Unsupervised is utilizing its supporting cast as well as it could. They’ve established a rather sizable cast but if tonight’s Martin subplot is any indication, they aren’t sure what to do with them. His new-found job at an internet cafe does relate tangentially to the main plot, but it mostly feels like they need something for Fred Armisen to do this week and tone-deaf jokes about the amount of masturbating that goes on in internet cafes is the best they could do.