The Good: Moments of humor, The characters do progress
The Bad: Nothing distinctive the whole season, Some plot elements seem very much for the convenience of the actors, Another “Queen Of Jordan” episode?!
The Basics: In its sixth season, 30 Rock shows its cracks and while it moves the characters forward, there is very little humor that the prior seasons did not already present.
One of the ways that I can tell that a show is on the downward slide is when it was a show that had memorable lines that I would quote and I no longer find myself quoting it. After seasons where I found myself humming “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” to the point my wife could not stand me or I would listen to her delightfully respond “I want to go to there!” whenever I would ask her if she wanted to go to a buffet, 30 Rock has become a listless shadow of what it once was. The fundamental problem I have with 30 Rock Season 6 is that the writing simply is not there; I can openly acknowledge that some of what the show is doing is what one hopes a show will do by its sixth season, which is to advance the characters.
Unfortunately, season six of 30 Rock blends the movement forward on Liz Lemon’s character front with particularly hackneyed plotlines for the other characters. One of the most obvious ways I find this to be true is that novelty bits usually overshadow the character elements for the main characters, for example, Denise Richards appearing as herself as an idiot when Tracy opens the season by taking a pro-idiot stance against NBC. Denise Richards completely steals the thunder from those scenes and the mini-arc becomes far less about Tracy Jordan (who has completely regressed from his respectable EGOT-winning persona of the early fifth season) than it does about basking in how brilliantly Denise Richards plays moronic.
In a similar vein, the capture of Avery Jessup, Jack’s wife, by the North Koreans seems more like a cheap plot excuse because Elizabeth Banks was off shooting movies most of the season than an organic story development. Avery’s disappearance gets muddied up by the appearance of Avery’s mother, played by Mary Steenburgen, which becomes a convoluted romance for Jack. Similarly, to give Kenneth any purpose at all, he is given a nemesis for the season in the form of Hazel, who takes over as head page when Kenneth moves to Standards and Practices temporarily.
And for as wacky as the plots sound, they are not backed up with significant humor and 30 Rock Season 6 sinks some. It falls even farther when, late in the season, 30 Rock is preempted by another witless episode of Queen Of Jordan the “reality” show featuring Tracy’s wife. It was no surprise when the producers admitted shooting the Queen Of Jordan episode was a costcutting measure. Were it not for my emotional investment in the show already and the declaration that season seven will be the final season of 30 Rock, Season 6 would probably have been enough for me to give up on the show.
In its sixth season, 30 Rock finds Liz in a relationship with Criss, who runs a hot dog truck. Jenna moonlights on a talent show where she is a mean judge, specializing in brutal critiques of children who appear on the show. Tracy goes on a rampage when Liz insults idiots, mounting a pro-idiot protest of NBC. Kelsey Grammar returns to work a scam with Jenna and Kenneth that involves making it look like Pete died in an act of autoerotic asphyxiation. As Jack works to get Avery back from North Korea, he finds himself desperately attracted to Avery’s mother, a problem which continues to grow the longer Avery is incarcerated.
On Leap Day, the cast tries to get into the spirit of using the extra day they are granted, while mirroring a movie about Leap Day. Jack goes up against Hank Hooper’s granddaughter again and Kenneth joins Standards and Practices. Kenneth fights with the new page, Hazel, who Liz tries to mentor. Jenna fights to get the role of Avery in a television movie based upon her abduction, which is part of Jack’s strategy to get Avery back.
The sixth season of 30 Rock finds the actors working well within their established roles. None of the performance change beyond where the actors have played the characters before. 30 Rock Season Six is notable on the acting front for how it became more dependent upon guest stars. Criss is played by James Marsden, but there are several one-shot guest stars also more familiar from films than television. In this season, Jim Carrey, Andie McDowell, John Cullum, Mary Steenburgen, and Elizabeth Banks all pop up.
Ultimately, the sixth season of 30 Rock is more average than audacious, putting it well-below the prior seasons.
For other shows from the 2011 – 2012 television season, please check out:
The Big Bang Theory - Season 5
Happy Endings - Season 2
New Girl - Season 1
Once Upon A Time - Season 1
Weeds - Season 7
For other television reviews, be sure to check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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