Edie Falco and Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock by Nicole Rivelli/NBC Photo
Every week, after laughing myself silly at the warped lunacy of
on Thursday nights and then being greeted by the stubbornly low ratings on Friday morning, I'm more than ever convinced that this inspired comedy is the new
. (And not just because it's a dark-horse Emmy winner, also taking home the best-comedy trophy after its first season.) Here's another cult classic that is apparently too off-kilter to be more than an acquired taste, unfortunately destined to fly under the radar.
This view isn't coming from a comedy snob. I get a kick out of most of CBS' more mainstream Monday comedies, including the new
Big Bang Theory
, which gets funnier and more confident by the week. On Thursdays I'm still delighted by
's time-period rival, the sweetly campy
strikes me as something special, something to treasure, firing on all burners with a wild and hilariously absurdist sensibility.
This week's episode, the first featuring
' Edie Falco as congresswoman Celeste "CC" Cunningham, a liberal love interest for right-wing NBC exec Jack Donaghy (the brilliant Alec Baldwin), was so full of memorable and quotable laugh-out-loud moments. Indulge me as I share a top 10 from this half hour alone. Trust me, there were at least a dozen more.
Jack revealing he gets his hair cut every two days. "Your hair is your head suit," he informs Liz Lemon (the wry, dry Tina Fey). "When it comes to hair, no one is more bitchy than conservative males." (Cut to Jack being mocked for a messy 'do.)
Jack is getting his hair cut in advance of a party being hosted by John McCain and Jack Bauer. When Liz informs him he (meaning
's Bauer) doesn't actually exist, Jack pipes up: "I assure you, Lemon. John McCain is very real." I want to live in Jack Donaghy's world.
Liz suspects her vaguely Middle Eastern neighbor (
Saturday Night Live
's gifted Fred Armisen) is a terrorist, and blabs to the authorities, who promptly nab and torture him. (Turns out he's just preparing an audition tape for
The Amazing Race
.) "That pita pocket might be a terrorist. Did that sound racist?" she asks her roomie, Pete (Scott Adsit).
Jack is mocked by CC for ordering a girlie drink (white rum, with diet ginger ale and a splash of lime) that the bartender calls a Nancy Drew. "For men, it's called a Hardy Boy," Jack corrects him.
All of the suggestions that NBC's corporate owner, the Sheinhardt Wig Company, is polluting the world. (In a parody of New York's "If you see something, say something" antiterrorism crusade, Liz spots a poster declaring, "We don't poison the world. Terrorists do," courtesy of the good old Sheinhardt company.)
CC reveals she was the victim of a disfiguring accident involving a dog and a shotgun, which became the basis of a Lifetime movie: "A Dog Took My Face and Gave Me a Better Face to Change the World: The Celeste Cunningham Story."
Saturday Night Live
's versatile Kristen Wiig is glimpsed (as fictional actress Candice Van Der Shark) playing the Lifetime version of CC, which Jack watches in horror.
As CC yammers on about her work with the Clintons, Jack declares: "God, I want to kiss you on the mouth to stop you from saying such ridiculous things."
Tracy Morgan, the ghetto Cyrano, feeds Jack come-on lines as Jack stands outside CC's office window in Harlem: "Tell her you want her to donate her body to science and you science."
Kenneth the page (the fearlessly goofy Jack McBrayer) loses a pair of Jack's pants that cost $2,500. Distraught, he cries: "Uncle Butch was right. I'm just a stupid country bumpkin with great skin and soft hands." But later he announces, "We Parcells are neither wealthy nor circumcised, but we are proud."
And finally, Jack decides to keep seeing CC: "We'll ignore our differences till the sex goes bad, then we'll walk away bitter and angry."
That a boy. What a show.