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Review: ’30 Rock’ – ‘Plan B’: Baby talk

A quick review of last night’s “30 Rock” coming up just as soon as I spend $4,000 on chihuahua outfits for myself…

With Tracy still in hiding, and most of the “TGS Staff” fleeing for better job opportunities(*), “Plan B” was a fairly simple episode on one level: just Jack and Devon in one story, and just Liz and Kenneth in the other, with occasional and brief appearances by other characters. But that simplicity actually worked to the episode’s benefit.

(*) My favorite of those involved Sue, of all people, as the Dutch version of The Mentalist. (“There is a wooden shoe… and a windmill!”)

With no need to devote an entire subplot to Jenna, or Frank and Tofer, there was more room for jokes, and delightful cameos(**), and some honest-to-gosh emotion.

(**) Aaron Sorkin taking Liz Lemon on a walk-and-talk was superb, and would have been even if “Studio 60” had never existed. A great example of satirizing and celebrating someone at the same time. I especially loved when Sorkin complained that Liz was introducing an unncessary second metaphor into the moment.

Though I like Will Arnett a lot, I’ve never particularly enjoyed him as Devon Banks, who’s seemed a bit too arch and cartoonish even for the absurd world of “30 Rock.” But giving Devon a brood of beautiful “gaybies” to take care of – and to ultimately care about more than his usual game of one-upsmanship with Jack – made the character just human and vulnerable enough to really click for the first time. Jack and Devon taunting each other with “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” references was wonderful, as was Devon’s breakdown over missing the kids, which ultimately made Jack’s plan to “Trading Places” him (heh) unnecessary. And Ken Howard continues to be a great addition to the recurring cast as Hank Hooper, who has so far been an even better comic foil for Jack than Don Geiss ever was. (Kathy Geiss, on the other hand? That’s a closer match-up.) I would easily welcome back this iteration of Devon.

I had all but forgotten about the existence of Liz’s agent-for-dogs Simon, but the show got some good extra mileage out of him before sending Liz on a journey through the world of other professions that are being erased from existence – Newspapermen! Travel agents! Rock ‘n roll saxophonists! Friendster CEO! – and ultimately giving her the key to getting Tracy, and her job, back.

Effective, funny stuff all around. This was a great night for all the veteran NBC sitcoms, and “30 Rock” delivered an amusing coda to all the emotions running through “Community,” “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation.”

What did everybody else think?

By Alan Sepinwall – Will Arnett returns to bedevil Jack, and Liz needs career options

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