30 Rock: “Generalissimo”

It’s official. Matt Lauer has gone from globe trotting morning host to TV-slash-movie deadpan comedian. Is he any good? As Will Ferrell says in “Land Of The Lost” – Matt Lauer can suck it! But, hey, as Jack Donaghy would say, you gotta push the brand.

Last night on 30 Rock Jack’s product integration strategy crossed multi-cultural divides when he buys up Telemundo (something NBC UNI has done in the real world) only to make nice with his new latina girlfriend’s grandmother, who is addicted to Mexican soaps. But he fails to put a bilingual script supervisor on the set and his corporate takeover nearly backfires. Quick thinking, and an homage to The Patty Duke Show (plus some scratch-off lottery tickets) save the day. And, oh yeah – Jon Hamm enters the fray as Liz Lemon’s new love interest.

30 Rock is back from the dead and the Holiday Season break – and Tina Fey never touched a pencil.

When Liz (Tina Fey) enters the office she’s confronted by a new intern with a 10 pound research report on the new White House sketch. There’s never been such efficiency at The Girlie Show, so Liz is more than a little shocked. Jack (Alec Baldwin) clues her in on the new gang of pinstriped gofers. “They’re all former investment bankers who were laid off in that economic crisis Nancy Pelosi started.” Well, they may not be on Wall Street anymore, but there’s still plenty of flaming shots in their future as they latch on to the comedian du jour, Tracy Morgan, er, uh Tracy Jordan. I always blur the two.

As he sails in to TGS they greet him with high-fived adulation. “It’s not racist for us to love you, is it?” they ask quizzically. “Hell no!” says Tracy. “I transcend race.” So true. He’s gonna regret that one. But efficiency does not rule at Liz’s doorman building. Somehow her neighbor’s mail was delivered to her by mistake. “I’m gonna say it. Women should not deliver the mail” she tells Jenna (Jane Krakowski). So much for liberation.

Jenna immediately opens all the letters. “You can tell everything about a man by his mail.” Hmmm… it used to be shoes. What they find out sets Liz swooning. A man who loves pie? Irresistable. As Liz says though, he’s probably a troll. When she goes to deliver the errant letters she’s swept off her feet by a look at the new neighbor, Dr. Drew Baird. It’s Jon Hamm without the Mad Men Brylcreem and an open collar. It’s the return of the immortal line, “I want to go to there.” When she clues Jack in on her new lustful obsession, he counsels caution. “Oh Lemon, don’t start it unless you’ve got something.” Seems he’s got something.

Elisa (Salma Hayek) wants to take things to the next level, but the door is guarded by her revered Grandmother. And she doesn’t seem to cotton to Jack. Why? He bears too close a resemblance to her favorite villain on a Telemundo telenovella she’s obsessed with – the Generalissimo. Jack responds in the only way he knows how: corporate buyout. Of course, that leads to script control and the evil plan is to turn the Generalissimo into a kinder, gentler villain… one who loves lottery ticket scratching grandmas. It works. Sort of.

Tracy meanwhile is finding out he’s no longer able to keep up with the Wall Street frat boys. “It’s like I said in my hit comedy Cruise Boat… I’m too old for this ship.” When an offer to play Arthur Ashe comes in from his agent, he’s determined to put the fratters back in their place. His solution? Scarfing down ruffies like Tylenol. “You can do whatever you want to me now” slurs Tracy as he winks out and drops off the episode’s radar.

Liz learns a thing or two about plot devices when she lands the job as Head telenovella scriptwriter. The Postal Service becomes an unwitting ally as she gets more of Dr. Baird’s mail. Using the insider tips she finds out the Doc is a dog lover. Liz is allergic to canines, but that doesn’t stop her from lifting a pic from an Alpo can and slapping it on a LOST DOG flyer. Drew immediately scouts the streets with her to find the poor puppy and the inevitable result is an invitation to dinner.

Jack is winning the grandma war, but Generalissimo is not going down without a fight. At the confrontation on the set, Patty Duke returns to TV with an updated split-screen performance by Alec, played with a flawless Mexican accent. “They sound alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike… what a crazy pair!” They’re not cousins, but they’re two of a kind as Generalissimo has learned a thing or two himself about evil machinations. He tears up Liz’s script and foils Jack’s plans. Immediately a new job is created: bi-lingual script supervisor.

Liz invites Dr. Baird to a phony dinner party a day early just to get some alone time with him. When he shows up, she acts surprised, even though she’s wearing a strapless black party dress (luscious!) and the room is lit by candles while some wine is conveniently uncorked and ready for libation. “Well, I guess one drink couldn’t hurt” says Drew. Nobody said anything about the ruffies Liz accidentally takes home from the office. When Baird gets a headache suddenly, he pops a couple and immediately falls to the floor. Not the conquest Liz was hoping for and unfortunately the Doctor knows how to read a pill bottle label. Disaster of course. Will Liz ever find love? I think not, as we already know that Hamm is signed on for only a four episode arc.

But Jack wins his Mexican war, wearing down Grandma with some scratch-offs and a successful takeover strategy at Telemundo. The trade-off? Grandma wants the news to be more uplifting at NBC. So we are treated to Matt Lauer’s comedic skills as he voices over a new end to the newscast. “Let’s close with pictures of beautiful Malaysian babies and the music of Tito Puente.” It might need some work.

Dr. Drew delivers Liz’s mail and has done some research of his own. Liz likes steak AND is a vegetarian. “I like to play both ends” is her lame excuse, but the good doctor finds it in his heart to give her another chance. So love may yet bloom for La Liz and her new Mad Man. The possibilities are so great that I can’t help repeating her wistful phrase myself…

“I want to go to there.”

Stay tuned to the multi-cultural soap opera that is 30 Rock. We’ll be watching on Fancast.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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