30 Rock season 5 episode 17 review: Queen Of Jordan

Review Louisa Mellor 24 Mar 2011 - 04:17

30 Rock takes on reality television, and the end result is a treat. Or is it? Here's Louisa's review...

5.17 Queen Of Jordan

You've got to hand it to the people behind 30 Rock. They really do know their television. This week's reality TV parody did such a brilliant impression of being mindless, stilted and dumb, it was almost hard to tell it apart from the real thing.

With Tracy Morgan still off duty in real life, the show's creators took the opportunity to wear a thin joke even thinner by treating us to a full-length episode of Angie's reality vehicle, Queen of Jordan. Closely modelled on Bravo's Real Housewives franchise, the episode was a stylistic feat, if little else. It looked like Real Housewives, sounded like Real Housewives and hit all the same notes as Real Housewives. But, you know, ironically.

For anyone unfamiliar with the franchise, Real Housewives is an orgy of confrontation, collagen and consumerism so stagy it makes my niece's primary school nativity plays seem nuanced and profound. Typically, it stars a group of expensive, shiny women who brunch and bitch their way through lives of extreme privilege whilst wielding egos so weighty it's a wonder they can totter around on their yogalates-toned Bambi legs. Our UK equivalent is probably The Only Way Is Essex, the major difference being that, for the most part, the real housewives do seem capable of forming sentences between bikini waxes (even if they are limited to random combinations of the words 'whore', 'Chanel' and 'I just need to focus on me right now').

Arrogant and demanding, with a habit of pulling out other women's weaves, Angie (Sherri Shepherd) proves the perfect lead for her own rich girl reality show and has the co-stars to match. There's gay hairdresser, D'Fwan, who's not speaking to Christian illiterate, Randi, because of 'that thing' she said in Atlantic City, table-tipping Portia who's got no class, and Angie's meth addict nephew, Michael. The bit players did their best, but nobody could match Shepherd, who stole every scene she was in as demented dynamo Angie.

For Jenna, Angie's show was the mothe rship. Born to be on cam-er-ah, she spent the episode searching out new and unethical ways to get in on the action. Her game plan was well researched for the genre. Throw enough glassfuls of wine at people and you're bound to get in a fight at some point. It wasn't until she had a drunk actor's brainstorm that she realised addiction was much more likely to get her some air time. All it took was a fake intervention, an uplifting song about redemption and a minor assault on a rehab worker for life to be sunny again on Jenna's side.

Jenna wasn't the only one playing up to the cameras. Despite his best efforts, the usually suave Jack was fighting his portrayal as a clumsy, gay buffoon by Queen of Jordan's producers. In a subplot that riffed on how manipulative reality TV editing is, Alec Baldwin played it straight and got his quota of laughs.

Liz, meanwhile, was busy trying to get Tracy back so she wouldn't have to run another 'Best of TGS' (that is, if legal weren't now questioning the use of the word 'best'). Her methods were dubious and, sho nuff, a bit racist, but her heart was in the right place even if her shirt was tucked into her underwear.

Yet another subplot saw Susan Sarandon guest star as a recently released sex offender seeking out the eighth grader she'd been imprisoned for falling in love with. The boy in question? One Frank Rossitano. It was, strangely enough, a sweet story, if somewhat lost amongst the Angie madness.

The show's makers took on an ambitious task this week: putting a show-within-a-show-within-a-show, tangling up four subplots and all but burying a major league cameo. But did it work?

Some have said no, calling it the worst episode ever, whilst others (oh, you fickle Internet) have ranked it as amongst the best. My opinion? Well, I watched it twice. First time around, I found it jaw-droppingly unfunny. Second viewing, I laughed like a drain. Which just goes to show, what the hell do I know?

Read our review of episode 16, TGS Hates Women, here.

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