Let's get this out of the way: Despite a sterling sophomore season that earned the show its second straight Emmy for Outstanding Comedy,30 Rock ranked 119th in the year-end Nielsen ratings. 119! Behind The Singing Bee. BehindCavemen. Tied with America's Most Wanted. That's just not acceptable. But you betcha, there's hope. Tina Fey's spot-on Saturday Night Live impression of Sarah Palin resonated beyond late night, winning Fey and 30 Rock's late-season debut a groundswell of goodwill and anticipation. NBC, however, wasn't so sure. Last week, as they've done with other shows that have something to prove, the network posted last night's premiere online. Maybe the ploy generated even more buzz, but short term, who's to say how many fans tuned out last night's because they'd already seen the episode online? When did you watch? Did you watch onlineand or on TV last night?
On to the show...
After five months without Liz Lemon, I wanted to give 30 Rock a bear hug. Not some uncertain handshake/kiss/hug, like that awkward greeting Jack and Liz Lemon exchanged in the opening scene. Heck, I practically wanted to take 30 Rock under the bleachers and get it pregnant. Speaking of which, last season's pregnancy scare left Liz with a maternal urge to adopt, so she sanitized her home and work environment to prep for an interview with the adoption evaluator, Bev (Megan Mullally). Banished was the office porn, hidden was her penis pasta, and trashed was her personal collection of Colin Firth movies, "in case they consider them erotica."
Jack is equally giddy. Back in New York after a heckuva job with the Department of Homeland Security, the dapper Donaghy — note the new head suit — is determined to reclaim his position within the GE hierarchy. Unfortunately, his sexually closeted nemesis, Devin Banks (Will Arnett), is busy running the company into the ground. "It's just G now, Jack," sputtered an unraveling Banks. "I sold the E, to Samsung. They're Samesung now." But Banks relented, offering Jack a job in the mailroom. In a twist on the old Godfather maxim, Banks believes in keeping your friends close, "and your enemies so close that you're almost kissing." To Banks' surprise, Jack accepted the humiliating demotion.
Jack's dignity oddly seems to suffer during season premieres. Last year, he was groveling at Jerry Seinfeld's feet. This year, he's shuffling mail and contemplating just how far he has to go as Kathy Geiss' "fancy boy" in order to get his job back. "Are we talking over the shirt? Frontsies? Backsies?" wondered a strawberry-flavored Jack. "Or would I really have to...give her my gift?" There's seemingly nothing that Jack won't do to get — or get out of — a job. Don't forget how he orchestrated his recent firing from the government.
NEXT: Baby drama