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The Game Effect Review

30 Rock: "Alexis Goodlooking and the Case of the Missing Whiskey" Review

Frank has lady problems; Jenna and Tracy channel their inner sleuths

By Kaili Markley on 3/2/2012
Sitting down to write a review and feeling like you don't have a lot to say is never a good sign. Perhaps it's because the past two episodes were so absurd and so much fun that tonight feels so incredibly lackluster. For whatever the reason "Alexis Goodlooking and the Case of the Missing Whiskey" was remarkable only for how underwhelming it was -- not only did I hardly break a smile watching it, but I found myself frequently bored, and, at the end, feeling like I would have been happier spending the half-hour crocheting or, I don't know, organizing my sock drawer.

Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit and I know that's a pretty harsh way to begin a review, but "Alexis Goodlooking"was terribly disappointing. What makes it especially so is what seems like a plethora of missed opportunities. First of all, Susan Sarandon was back tonight for the first time since "Queen of Jordan" last season, playing Frank Rossitano's high school teacher cum girlfriend, Lynn. Personally, I loved their creepy semi-pedophiliac , or "adultophobe" as Lynn calls it, romance, and thought that Sarandon's previous appearance was fantastic. Indeed, I have been anxious to see her return to the show, especially as Frank mentioned their relationship back in the horrendous Valentine's Day special. So when she popped up from her hiding spot under Liz's desk tonight I was excited. Really excited.

Unfortunately, their romance failed to yield much in the way of humor, or even general entertainment tonight, and in fact, we scarcely even saw Susan Sarandon. Indeed, the best part of their storyline actually turned out to be Patti LuPone, who reappeared in her role as Frank's overbearing, force-feeding Italian mother. And we learned that Frank has an Oedipus complex, but we kind of already knew that, didn't we? It seems an odd decision to me: you have both Patti LuPone and Susan Sarandon appearing in an episode, and not only do you underutilize them individually, but you hardly give them any screen time together? Furthermore, Liz often seemed pretty superfluous to the action here (indeed, to the whole episode), which seemed another strange decision to me.

On that point, Season Six overall has been an off season for Liz Lemon -- she seems to either be forced from the center, relegated to playing an exaggerated version of the character we grew to love in the first five seasons, or stuck in an incredibly boring story line with new, and incredibly boring, boyfriend, Criss. We also haven't gotten a lot of Jack-Liz office time, which, until now has been a cornerstone of the show -- and the series suffers for these changes.
Another missed opportunity, in my opinion, was the neglect of the Jack-Kenneth story line. There has been some weirdo fledgling mentorship going on here for a while now, and tonight seemed like a really great opportunity to explore this a bit further. Jack placing Kenneth in Standards and Practices seemed like a stellar opportunity for comedy in and of itself, what with Kenneth's eccentric and rigid morality. Beyond that also, Jack's manipulation and melding of Kenneth's ethics, and Kenneth's descent down the slippery slope of paranoia and moral concession seemed like they had the potential to be a lot of fun. Sure, Jack's change of heart, induced by a visit from his former frenemy, Henry Warren-Chang (surprise cameo by Stanley Tucci), and subsequent admission that Kenneth is the best-hearted person he has ever known, were cute; but they were kind of hard to swallow, and just generally unsatisfying.

Add to this the odd decision to title the episode for a plot line that was essentially concluded fifteen minutes in. I wasn't that amused by Tracy and Jenna converting their Problem Solvers alliance into a Law and Order whodunit, but some of the flashbacks to their previous work was fun. And I definitely was jazzed to spend a little time with the always oft ignored and always creeptastic and hilarious Pete Hornberger. However, these threads really seemed like just more going on in the over-packed episode, and, unfortunately, failed to materialize into anything memorable.

It seems however, looking back over the various missed opportunities of the episode, that the issue may have been that in trying to address so many divergent story lines, the writers were unable to sink their teeth into any one, and as a result all went underdeveloped. As a viewer, it is frustrating to watch so many individual plots with so much potential remain nascent or haphazardly concluded at the episodes end. I'd much prefer an episode like "The Tuxedo Begins" where one plot (strange as it may be) totally dominates, or like last week's "Leap Day" where one bizarre overarching theme unified all of the story threads. "Alexis Goodlooking" just had too much going on: nothing could receive the attention or development it was due, and as a result, the whole episode fizzled.
Choice Moments
  • 'That is some high-level paranoid thinking -- like Hitler, or Willy Wonka.'
  • 'Jaleel White is so charming he makes Stephan Urquelle look like Steve Urkel.'
  • 'Living a lie will eat you up inside. Like that parasite I got from eating sushi on Amtrak.'
  • 'I couldn't work in ad sales - we have far too many sponsors who make housework easier for women.'
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