Let’s do an entire episode review not talking about Tracy! In part because I’ve already written about him a lot, although principally because this episode has nothing to do with him, instead looking at simple simpleton Kenneth Ellen the page.
As I said in the pilot, Kenneth is the one to watch in the series who goes from background filler to best character in the space of three episodes. This would normally be the point, being the wit-heavy show that it is, that I start showing off the lines from last night in a desperate attempt to make people watch next week. (Okay, what about the fact that Tony’s now doing reviews of Californication, which is on straight before it? Will that make you watch poor old 30 Rock? Or cash? Will cash do the trick?)
Well, it doesn’t work with Kenneth. His lines are pretty uniformly rubbish. But they’re delivered with such unflinching happiness and can-do spirit it’s impossible not to love him. Take Kenneth looking at some bling he’s just won in a poker game – “I like the way it looks like diamonds.” See? In print: thud. It’s rubbish. But put a grinning, chinless hick into shot saying it and it’s innocently hilarious. You know how to find out if I’m telling the truth or not? Well, it’s on at 10.40pm next week, etc etc.
There’s plenty that can be said about Kenneth that’s funny, though. Having almost lost the big stakes poker game to Kenneth, Jack tells Lemon that “the Italians have a saying, Lemon, ‘Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.’ And, although they’ve never won a war or mass-produced a decent car, in this area they are correct.” Kenneth is the happy heart in the cynical TV production, and I love him for it. And on the topic of background characters getting promoted to being the funniest parts, watch next week as Liz tries to get Cerie fully-clothed – it’s another blinder in playing stupid for the funnies. And it works.
Elsewhere, Jack was setting up Lemon on a blind date, mistakenly thinking that she is a lesbian because of her shoes – “those shoes are definitely bi-curious” – to avoid dying alone in her apartment. Of course, Jack being Jack, he makes an otherwise perfect match that almost sways Liz to the rainbow-coloured side.
Liz Lemon’s love life as a storyline is something a fickle beast. It gets to throw up some of the best material in the series, as she puts up with her ex-boyfriend loser Dennis and almost moves to Cleveland (complete with musical number). Dating plastics worker / lesbian was among the funny, but it always sits uneasily alongside the rest of the show. Does 30 Rock even need this angle? There’s always enough ‘stuff’ in the TV show production to keep things moving along. The two don’t sit comfortably next to each other.
But you know what does sit comfortably next to each other? You and your TV, next Thursday at 10.40pm on Five. Well not so much next to it, as in front of it, unless you arrange some mirrors. That’s all I’m saying.