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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
And the fifth season of the TGS begins. Tracy misses Kenneth and is
hallucinating about him all the time. Jenna's crazy demands get to
start with the 5th season, this includes her being a producer that
gives Pete some extra free time. And Jack and Liz deal with their new
relationships and the issues they bring.
I found this episode kind of boring even though it is still above the average most shows bring.
Mainly the whole relationship stuff was of no interest to me at all, and Liz seemed out of character.
And it does indeed feel weird to see everyone besides Tray be so cool about Kenneth having left.
I must say I am a HUGE 30 Rock fan and do I prepared myself for the
season 5 premiere by watching seasons 1-3 on DVD in their entirety, and
I also took some time and listened into the audio commentaries too to
get a feel for how the show is cast and run. Most of the past episodes
are lighthearted and filled with so many clever one liners you have to
watch it twice to fully appreciate all the work that goes into making
But I got a different feeling from the season premiere of the fifth season. Naturally after watching 3 consecutive seasons in a row I was going to pick up on the usual changes in the characters appearance and moods. Judah Friedlander's character Frank also had some rust on him. This is to be expected. But there was something upsetting to me about this episode.
First, most season premiers are the launching point for story lines that will unfold throughout the rest of the year. That's all fine and good but let's hope that does not happen to Kenneth, as the viewer learns he has been inexplicably fired from NBC and has found a similar job at CBS. Why the hardest working page would be fired without reason or without a care in the world from his former staff (all except Tracy) is a total mystery. As he is popular with the fans I'm sure he will be back in the page jacket soon but the apathy is quite bizarre.
Second, and along the same lines, this episode had a generally negative feel to it. I don't know if it was pessimism by the writing staff, the director, or just a lack of emotion by the actors but in addition to the coldness toward Kenneth's departure, there was Jenna who decided to rip the heart out of an elderly employee without any sort of a back story to her rivalry towards her. Then you had staffers fearful of other budget cuts across the board (which, by the way, has already been done on this show before in a much more entertaining way) Alec Baldwin looks out of shape and out of character - his business wit yielding to some kind of a homo-erotic power play between himself and an interior decorator hired by his love Avery (Elizabeth Banks) Now that scenario sounds funny on paper - because it is. But on screen Baldwin simply does not pull it off, and the whole scene is quite awkward.
Oh, and speaking of Avery, where is she? It wasn't as if Avery is a new character and this episode was to lay the groundwork for her arrival. We already know who she is and what she is like. Avery has appeared on several episodes from the last season and she appears promptly in the second episode of Season 5, so what happened to her in this episode? Maybe a scheduling conflict on the part of Elizabeth Banks but come on - the worst thing any viewer has to sit through is hearing about a character and then never seeing her If I were the director and found out Elizabeth Banks was not available I would ask for an immediate re-write of the scenes that reference her.
Matt Damon is a nice cameo but we have seen him before and from the get go it is clear that he will only be in another episode or two, so why not bring him in midway through the season for a few laughs and use the series premiere to introduce a love interest for Liz that will last a little while.
All in all this was just about the poorest episode of 30 Rock I've seen in a while. I really hope the the series remains as positive and lighthearted as it has been for the last 4 years. If any of the writers or producers are reading this feel free to drop me a line. I'd love to help out! - Mike
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