December 12, 2007 Jill

In 30Rock Episode 206 “Somebody to Love“, written by Kay Cannon & Tina Fey, the A story involves Jack falling for Vermont Democratic Congresswoman Celeste “C.C.” Cunningham. The B is about Liz suspecting her next door neighbour of being a terrorist and in the C, Kenneth has to replace a $2500 pair of Jack’s pants.

There are about 9 sequences to the A-story, 8 in the B and 6 in the C. I have the sense that’s a lot more story and story beats than in some of the other half hour comedies I’ve watched and blogged about lately. A helluva lot more than Everybody Loves Raymond.

The show is told in a tease and two acts. No tag.

The tease ends with a comedy curtain, while the second act curtain is played for the drama of the news that Jack and C.C. can never be together — dramatic albeit in a funny way.

Let’s take a look at how some of the scenes and gags are constructed.

The teaser is a B story beat. It sets up a gag that pays off in the final scene of the B-story. It also puts Liz in the fearful frame of mind that leads her to believe her neighbour is a terrorist. It starts with Liz smelling maple syrup. She calls Tracy — who appears in split screen — to ask if he’s rehearsing his dance for the show, but he says he can’t because the smell of waffles is making him horny. Liz hears the call waiting beep. Tracy’s image slides away to be replaced by Jack’s. He can smell maple syrup too, but wants to reassure Lemon that it can’t be Northrax, the deadly chemical agent that smells like maple syrup, because Northrax kills you in 10 seconds. As they silently count out the 10 seconds, their images slip apart and Tracy’s split appears between them. He’s practicing the dance now. Ten seconds of dancing. Jack and Liz are still alive. They hang up. End of tease.

After the titles, Jack is having his hair cut for the second time in two days because he’s going to a party and “when it comes to hair no one is more bitchy than the conservative male.” We slide into Jack’s memory of being teased by conservative males about his hair. The final beat on the hair gag comes a few scenes later when C.C. compliments Jack on his hair.

A visual gag gets played out in the same sequence in which Jack gives Liz a Sheinhardt wig company t-shirt. Liz wonders why as she holds up the t-shirt to read it. From the other side, we can see the words “NOT poisoning rivers since 1977.”

A call back comes later in the B-story when Liz sees more damning evidence that a neighbour is a terrorist. Jack has told her to call the NSA and now she comes face to face with posters:
“If you see something say something.”
“If you suspect anything do everything.”
“We don’t poison rivers. Terrorists do. A message from the Sheinhardt wig company.”

In the second act, C.C. comes up the freight elevator to meet Jack on the second floor. The sequence lasts about two and a half minutes and has 26 lines plus a short narration. It includes a scene between Jack and C.C. (17 lines), the MOW trailer (narration), C’s exit (1 line) and a walk and talk between Jack and Tracy (8 more).

There is a funny ten line exchange as C.C. and Jack reveal how deep their passion is for each other, yet how their entrenched political interests prevent them from being together. For Jack, the chairmanship and a helicopter stand in the balance. C.C., on the other hand, got into to politics to protect the little guy.

Then comes the big emotional reveal of the scene. In 1988, C.C. was shot in the face by a dog. In a longer speech, piling on ridiculous detail after ridiculous detail (a terrier, a defective trigger, suing the dog, a Lifetime MOW about all of it), she tells a story of personal trauma that drove into her politics to help others. Jack interrupts occasionally with a funny reaction to the tale.
We slide out into the promo for the Movie of the Week based on C.C.’s story entitled “A Dog Took My Face and Gave Me a Better Face To Change the World.”

We get back to the scene and Jack nods, as if he knew it all along, he thought she made love like an ugly girl. C.C. slaps him hard, then throws herself at him and kisses him passionately. Tracy is watching from a doorway. C.C. heads for the elevator. The doors start to close. Her hand goes out to hold them open. She rushes back to Jack, kisses him even more passionately. Pulls herself away, slaps him even harder and hurries back to the elevator. The doors close on her.

Tracy hurries over. He knows it’s a lovers quarrel and then sums it up as Romeo and Juliet. He gets in a bunch of quick one-liners riffing on his similar experiences with woman “I’m black, she’s white. I’m black, she’s 17.”

Jack closes off the scene, having not moved emotionally from where he was at the beginning of the scene. He’s not going to be with C.C. He doesn’t believe in soul mates even if she does do it like a minister’s daughter.

Also playing out in the second act, are Kenneth’s attempts to raise money to pay for Jack’s pants. The writers offer him money to go scare one of the writers who is taking a nap. Kenneth wakes him wearing a mask. He grabs a baseball bat and starts beating Kenneth viciously. It’s really brutal attack. But Kenneth pulls off the mask, still optimistic and ready for the next assignment.

The final scene of the show is just less than a minute long and involves Liz and Rahim, the next door neighbour whom she has mistaken for a terrorist and called Homeland Security to investigate. She’s in the hallway of her apartment building. She hears a groan and turns to see Rahim limping toward her. In four quick, back and forth lines they establish that he has been tortured by the government. Rahim gives a long painful description of his torture. Liz, rather than being remorseful, is worried that he knows she’s responsible. He doesn’t, but the experience may have driven him to become a terrorist.

Liz hasn’t learned anything. She is still suspicious and jumping to conclusions. She sniffs his door. Northrax. She turns and hurries back toward her apartment where Pete is standing in the door with waffles. Thank god, says Liz. The tease gag is paid off and the show is over.

Comments (3)

  1. matt racicot

    Hello Jill,

    How funny is 30 Rock? I haven’t seen Season 2 yet (a-torrent-choo!), excuse me, that was a sneeze.

    Is there anything you feel is more funny? You know, something an emerging writer can gain insight from?
    thanks Jill,

  2. admin

    30Rock is incredibly funny. Watch all of season 2. You will kill yourself laughing. And for a writer, there is a tremendous amount to learn. All the gags/scenes I dissected above are laugh out loud funny when you see them — of course what I’ve written kills the funny, but is meant to be read after you’ve watched the show for the pure pleasure of it and there is an unbelievable amount of pleasure to be gained from watching this show.

  3. tina

    30 Rock almost never fails to crack me up; it’s a great fun show and I only started watching it recently. Hence, I’ve finished watching all of Season 1 and am now on Season 2. After watching that many episodes continuously, I noticed that a handful of the humor/jokes in 30 Rock are racist; but then, I don’t know what to make of them because it seems like they are trying to get a message across rather than just being blunt and racist because they are. For example, “Somebody to Love” I thought was really racist at first but towards the end, there was a message. There have also been references to black and a few Asian/Indian stereotypes.

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