Archives for posts with tag: jenna maroney

Despite my oft-mentioned love of Dennis Duffy, I was excited when I saw the episode’s title. Liz needed to move on.

But before I get to the episode, an aside about Rachel Dratch:

I didn’t plan on talking about the Rachel Dratch-thing, but then my friend — and most loyal reader, probably — asked who the “extra” was that kept showing up, so I felt bad not explaining.

Said friend hates SNL, so she didn’t know that Rachel was a long-time SNL castmember. My favorite Rachel Dratch character is forever the Boston teen, Denise, who made hilarious videos with her boyfriend Sully, played by my fav Jimmy Fallon. Here’s a link to one of those sketches.

Rachel Dratch was originally cast as Jenna on “30 Rock.” In fact, the Liz-Jenna backstory is clearly at least inspired by Tina and Rachel’s real life friendship: They met in Chicago, did comedy together, and came up with a critically acclaimed two-woman show.

The original pilot isn’t online (that I could find, at least), but here are some clips of Rachel as Jenna:

Anyway, then they swapped Rachel for Jane Krakowski. Rachel has a great, passive aggressive interview with “New York Magazine” from right after the show debuted.1 An excerpt:

What happened there? 
I think the big thing was—at least what they told me—that at first they wanted to have more comedy sketches in the show. Then they decided they weren’t going to focus on the sketches, so they needed more of a sitcom actress, as opposed to a character actress.

That’s very diplomatic. Ha! Yes, I’m phrasing this all very nicely. That’s the party line, at least—it’s what I can tell my parents!

Were you pissed? 
Well, when Tina told me I was going to play different characters each show, I was actually psyched about it, because it sounded really unique. But then the media kind of ran with this “demotion” thing, so that was kind of a bummer. But whatever, I’m over it.

How many episodes will you be in? 
Six, but that’s a whole other thing. I was kind of like, Why do I only have six? But then I decided I shouldn’t open my trap too much, so I just left it at that.

Then there was all this dumb media stuff about whether Rachel is too ugly for Hollywood. She talks about it elegantly here.

Anyway, I don’t have any interest in discussing whether Rachel is too ugly to be Jenna, because she’s obviously not. It would have been a very different show with Rachel as Jenna  because she has different strengths and a different personality.

Moving on!

Liz broke up with Dennis and is having doubts. This leads to the creation of an amazing Pro/Con list about Dennis, which I have partially transcribed for your benefit.

Pros

– good chili

– remembers my birthday

– rarely wants to do it

– doesn’t care about money

– loyal

– too lazy to cheat

– loves The Simpsons

– has already seen me throw up two times

– good hair

– fixed tv

Cons

– dental hygeine

– wears acid wash

– not much money

– Catholic

– doesn’t like his mother

– I don’t like his mother

– his mother doesnt like me

– loves Family Guy

– reads The Post

– insists on spending the holidays with his mother

– has seen me throw up

– attempted threesome

– racist

“Jack likes Dennis” ends up on both sides of the list. In the words of future Liz:

And the final Dealbreaker? Dennis ends up on an episode of “To Catch a Predator,” complete with the real Chris Hansen. 2006. What a simpler time.

Screenshot 2014-07-01 21.19.14

(This reminds me that BJ Novak’s book of short stories, “One More Thing,” which I highly recommend, has a really funny story about Chris Hansen at a Justin Bieber concert. You should check it out.)

Anyway, I will miss you Dennis Duffy and your attempts to claim that both love and squatter’s rights should keep Liz from kicking you out. What a treasure.

I mentioned that Jack likes Dennis. Why the sudden turnaround of opinion? Dennis gave Jack some advice about his ladyfriend: Condaleeza Rice.

Jack is on point this episode.2  He thinks Condi might be cheating on him with Putin when he sees Vlad squeeze her butt on TV. When Liz mocks her, Jack calls Liz a “godless, glassy-eyed Clintonista,” a description with which she vigorously agrees.

Meanwhile Toofer and Tracy are at an impasse re: their different expressions of black masculinity. This leads to Jack explaining to Toofer the re-appropriation of the n-word, which is a completely hilarious moment. But their inability to find common ground is clear: Toofer refers to Bill Cosby as “Dr. Cosby” while Tracy quotes “Professor Martin Luther King” as having said “I have a feeling.” Awkward.

Bits & Pieces:

Everything we know about Josh: His parents raised him as a girl for ten years. End list.

Best Frank line: “Everybody loves a dude in a dress. Those are the best Bugs Bunnies.”

A selected excerpt from Dennis’ goodbye letter: “And for the first time since the ’86 Series I cried … but there’s a new thing called ‘women’s liberation’ and you have chosen to abort me.”

Character I related to most: Liz. Not only is she rude to all the straight men at the bar, but the only guy she “clicks” with is gay. And she utters perhaps my favorite Liz line: “But I already have a drink…”

Screenshot 2014-07-01 21.01.06

 

Tracy’s goatee is mercifully gone.

Best Frank hat: E.S.P. tutor

“Mean Girls” reference that is not really a “Mean Girls” reference: The song Liz sings at karaoke is by Janis Ian:

Hints that Kenneth is immortal/mystical/terrifying: Sadly there was no Kenneth this episode. I also think this was the first Pete-less episode. I am less sad about this. Sorry Pete.

 

1. Also, in retrospect the question about “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” is hilarious. Tina Fey > Aaron Sorkin every day.
2. I squealed when he asked Liz if she was crying because the Liberty lost last night, a plot thread that will get picked up in a later season.

The first episode I ever saw — which, again, will be revealed in time — was very Dennis heavy, so I get inordinately excited when an episode features a strong Dennis plot. After a couple of name drops in the first five episodes, we see him in the flesh.

What a vivid character Dennis is. Through Dennis, we learn so much about what Liz thinks of herself. “The only beeper salesman left in Manhattan” is a decidedly horrible boyfriend. The best thing he contributes is the ingenious game “Daughter or Mistress,” in which he and Liz look at old men and predict their dates’ identities.1

Dennis is both the source and subject of some of the episode’s best lines. His obsession with rats — “You know there are 17 rats per person in New York” — included a particularly vivid description of a rat king.2 He also claims that beepers will come back because “Technology’s cyclical” and orders chicken nugget-like cod at a fancy restaurant because “I’m actually allergic to fish unless it’s fried.”

This serves as further reason for Jack to try to bring Lemon under his wing as a successful mentee. He even introduces Liz to a former, successful mentee as an example, but how Jack managed to actually help someone remains a mystery, since, as we and Liz realize, he’s “just an alcoholic with a great voice.”

Liz accepts Jack’s tutelage because “Sadly you might be the most stable person I know right now.”3 That’s because Jenna has gone off the deep-end trying to make herself seem young. There’s a hilarious exchange where Jack asks her how old she is; she says 29, so he asks for her year of birth, prom theme, teenage crush, and what movie she lost of her virginity to. Her answers are immediate. He doesn’t believe her, so she goes to some extreme surgical measures:

Ouch.

Ouch.

Meanwhile Tracy is trying to regain his street cred after a magazine called him normal, so he gets matching face tattoos of a “biblical dragon from face.” His justification?

Tracy: You take away my street cred and I am Wayne Brady.

Liz: No, Wayne Brady has three Emmys. You have a People’s Choice Award that you stole from Wayne Brady.

Liz eventually  finds out he drew the dragons on with Crayola markers.

Iconic

Iconic. Also, that season one goatee is hilarious.

Even Josh, the most forgotten castmember, gets something funny to do this episode. Apparently he occasionally makes fun of Liz Taylor on the show and she is not amused. She shows up at the studio to beat Josh with a fire extinguisher while yelling White Diamonds, the name of her perfume.

We only see Liz’s eyes:

This is probably my favorite Rachel Dratch moment of the show. I'll let you know if that changes.

This is probably my favorite Rachel Dratch moment of the show. I’ll let you know if that changes.

Overall, great episode. Dennis Duffy is a national treasure.

Bits & Pieces

Frank wears his Ninja Expert hat again. It’s the first hat we saw him in, and also appeared in episode four.

Best Islanders dig: Dennis is suicidal because the islanders lost. Liz replies, “Doesn’t that happen a lot?” It does Liz. It does.

Foreshadowing: Tracy tells Liz she can’t cover his tattoos because it’s in his contract. When Liz contests this, Pete says, “Actually, he’s got a pretty weird contract.”

Character I related to most: Liz when she sat at her desk writing and singing “Maybe” from “Annie” aloud. I have definitely done this before.

Most bizarre pop culture reference: Liz tells Jenna she can’t judge Dennis because Jenna “wrote Scott Peterson a letter once.”

Most bizarre literary reference: Liz apparently let Tracy do a tribute to August Wilson only to find out that Tracy didn’t know who that was.

Best one-liner: When Jack sees Dennis’ dinner and comments “I didn’t know they sold chicken nuggets at this restaurant,” it wasn’t particularly quotable, but it stung.

Hints that Kenneth is immortal/mystical/terrifying: None. He was only in one scene, giving a tour.

A scientific ranking of Liz’s boyfriends from most to least hilarious: Dennis Duffy, Conan O’Brien

1. In Dennis’ defense, this is a pretty amazing game that I plan on playing whenever possible.”
2. When the tails of a group of rats become entangled and then the bodies fuse together, they’re a rat king (May or may not be an urban legend).”
3. Did I point out that this has been one of the most quotable episodes so far? The dialogue was snappy.

The episode opens as many episodes ended up opening: Liz is on the streets of New York, interacting with New Yorkers. This time, she’s waiting in line to buy a hot dog when some finance-type jerk cuts in front of her. Liz retaliates by buying all the hot dogs and trying to hand them out to people on the street, who mostly throw them back at her. That moment is really Liz in a nutshell.

As she walks, an upbeat theme song plays. Some of the lyrics are, “Who’s got the kind of charisma that the boys prefer? / Who’s hot and you know that she knows it? / That’s her!” It feels like a parody of “The Mary Tyler Moore” theme, another show about a single woman working on a TV show, whose credits included someone walking to work in the midst of busy city streets.

“30 Rock” subverts this two ways, though: Liz’s walk to work is less than ideal (i.e. people throw hot dogs at her) and it turns out that the theme is really for “Pam, the overly confident morbidly-obese woman,” one of the horrible characters Jenna plays on the show.

You totally didn't remember who Josh was until you say this photo. Don't lie.

You totally didn’t remember who Josh was until you say this photo.

The song is sung by Josh, who I rarely remember was on the show, even though one time my friends and I saw him playing frisbee in Central Park.1

Anyway, in case that intro wasn’t enough to make you see what sort of character Liz is, Jack Donaghy hits Liz on the head for us: “New York third-wave feminist, college-educated, single-and-pretending-to-be-happy-about-it, overscheduled, undersexed, you buy any magazine that says ‘healthy body image’ on the cover and every two years you take up knitting for…a week.”

This works in two ways, because it tells us a lot about Liz,2 and because it tells us about Jack’s uncanny perceptiveness, which comes up a lot. Jack also knocks down a piece of dry wall to enter the room, which is pretty badass. He also won’t stop babbling about the trivection oven and introduces himself as the VP of “East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming,” which is a joke that never gets old.

Sort of? Maybe?

Sort of? Maybe?

Jenna says Jack reminds her of Scotty from “General Hospital,” which was really funny to me, because my mom and grandma love GH. The internet seems less knowledgeable of who Scotty is, since Google auto-filled “30 Rock’ when I searched for a photo of him to show you that he does, in fact, sort of look like Alec Baldwin, ish.3

I can’t help but wonder how I would have received this episode if it was the first one I’d ever watched; would I have stuck with it?3 No clue. But I’m surprised by how well-defined the characters are in the pilot. A lot of shows change characters a lot from the way they originally imagined them in the first few episodes or first season.5 And while the minor characters shift in and out of focus, Liz, Jack, Tracey and Jenna really don’t. I mean, they develop as characters, but they don’t have sudden shifts in characterization. That’s pretty cool.

Bits and Pieces:

Pete and the writers have a pretty strong presence in the episode, which isn’t true of the later stuff. Kenneth, meanwhile, is on screen for maybe two minutes total, but memorable utters “I just … I love television so much,” while fighting back tears. I feel you Kenneth.

Dot Com was in Tracy’s entourage, but Grizz was noticeably missing. Granted, there are like 3 people in the entourage who we never see again, so it wasn’t exactly a settled group.

Jack hits on the TGS dancers by talking to them about Afghanistan.

Liz has a Razr phone. #throwback

Best Jack one-liner: “I like you. You have the boldness of a much younger woman.”

Character I related to most: Probably Liz . She explains that she bought $150 worth of hot dogs because she “hate[s] it when people cheat or break the rules.” Right there with you.

Hints that Kenneth is immortal/mystical/terrifying: None. I really want to keep track of this bizarre progression.

Until tomorrow.


1. I’m like 99% sure it was him.

2. Obviously.

3. Generally I find it really disappointing that “General Hospital” has fallen out of our cultural consciousness. “American Horror Story” ain’t got nothing on that campiness.

4. We’ll talk about the first one I watched when we get there.

5. Leslie Knope, Kelly Kapoor and Dr. Jeremy Reed are the first three I think of, but that’s not even close to a complete list.