30 Rock season 5 episode 1 review: The Fabian Strategy

Tina Fey's hit sitcom 30 Rock returns for its fifth season, and the first episode has already coined a disturbing new catchphrase. Here's Louisa's review...

5.1 The Fabian Strategy

Back in 1995 when Alec Baldwin was busy being voted no. 80 in Empire magazine’s top 100 Sexiest Stars in film history, and Tina Fey busy wearing a questionable waistcoat in a Mutual Savings Bank advert, Phoebe Buffay was in Central Perk putting forth a theory on soul-mates and lobsters that coined the phrase “He’s her lobster” for a generation.

This opening episode to season five of the superlative 30 Rock foregoes crustaceans to offer a new phrase for a new generation: the pube-shirt. Yes, as in “He’s her pube-shirt”.

This series opener is all about sacrifice. Is Liz willing to give up her prized autonomy in order to take the next step with pilot Carol? Can Jack give up his Elk Tongue wall paint to meet Avery’s interior design needs? And in the most convincing love story of them all, will Kenneth jump in front of a moving car to prove he’s not merely a figment of Tracey’s vivid imagination?

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The episode may hit the ground running with familiar plotlines about Jack meddling in Liz’s love life and Jenna enforcing preposterous clauses in her contract, but not everything at 30 Rock has remained the same.

Since Kenneth was fired at the end of the last season and is now paging at CBS, both he and Tracey are pining and hallucinating in equal measure. There’s something about the image of a grinning Kenneth stroking a bejewelled python that’ll just stay with you for days…

This episode sees Jenna take a vanity producer credit too seriously, but then go on to prove her producing chops. She slashes budgets by firing octogenarian wardrobe assistants and decides it’s cheaper to replace cast and crew who get murdered than to lay on night cars.

In a display of ruthless business acumen, she even commits the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of NBC’s baseline. Even if she does do it all in a pink spangly T-shirt with the words “Business Slut” emblazoned across the chest.

Matt Damon is great as Carol. There are many of us who will miss Michael Sheen’s portrayal of brilliant English cretin Wesley, but since Damon starred in Sarah Silverman’s now infamous music video prank to former-boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel, he’s had a special place in my heart. This episode sees Damon taking a no-holds-barred approach to the ‘overly-emotional-crying man’ role done so well by Bruce Willis during his cameo as Paul in Friends.

But as always, it’s Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy who steals the show. Attempting to run his relationship with Avery according to the eponymous military Fabian strategy, he finds a worthy opponent in the game of out-manoeuvring that springs from a power-struggle over interior decor. His attempt to best Avery by exploiting his self-confessed “Daddy Bear” status in the gay community and flashing those baby-blues for all he’s worth is a joy to behold.

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So does Avery get her way? Well of course she does: she’s his pube shirt…