The Best 30 Rock Episodes: A Chronological Journey, Part Two

Hold on! Before reading this, make sure you’ve caught up with yesterday’s kickoff. Now, wave like a human being!

Liz Waves
Season 4, Episode 7: “Dealbreakers Talk Show #0001”
30 Rock’s ensemble cast began to sprawl out as the show went on, serving some characters better than others. In the first few seasons Jenna Maroney played an integral role as Liz’s best friend and working nightmare, the grotesquely narcissistic star of TGS who still made time to give her friend terrible life advice. But as Liz and Jack’s corporate relationship grew more personal, Jenna was often shunted into B and C stories; as her craziness became more outsized her position as Liz’s friend became more precarious. This is not to suggest Jane Krakowski doesn’t give everything she gets her all. But it does seem a bit of a shame in retrospect, especially when her presence can lift an entire episode into greatness, as it does with “Dealbreakers.” The early portion of season four introduced a new arc for Liz as she publishes a bestseller based on a catchphrase of one of Jenna’s TGS characters, but in another example of 30 Rock mocking the expectations of serialized stories (or, less charitably, losing interest in them), Liz’s shot at starring in a show based on the book is short-lived. After a disastrously hilarious shoot during which Liz turns into a bizarre marionette-approximation of a human (“Remember waving?” Pete yells helplessly) she locks herself in her dressing room and refuses to come out, just as Jenna often does, leading Jack to seek her counsel. This whole episode is about the fluidity of character traits; in Liz’s absence from the writer’s room, Frank, another supporting cast member I’ve yet to mention, steps into her role as den mother, scolding his colleagues and dressing in frumpy sweaters. It wouldn’t work if we didn’t know all these characters so well by now; by episode’s end the reset button has been hit but it’s still a jolt to a series that was starting to show its limits.
Continue reading The Best 30 Rock Episodes: A Chronological Journey, Part Two

The Best 30 Rock Episodes: A Chronological Journey, Part One

Ten years ago this month a much-hyped new series premiered on NBC. Marketed as a rollicking satire of a very recognizable late-night sketch comedy show it boasted a starry cast and a strong TV auteur behind the scenes. It was Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and it tanked, hard. Its earnest investment in the trivial backstage drama of its characters, along with a tenuous grasp of what makes for good, or at least believable, comedy, doomed it to the cancellation bin after one season.

It’s odd now in hindsight to remember just how much of an underdog 30 Rock was when it debuted on the same network and in the same month as Studio 60. The brainchild of Tina Fey and based on her tenure as head writer of Saturday Night Live, the pedigree was more untested and it shows in the first several episodes. But voice and vision are paramount in a comedy and, at a time when NBC was struggling to find itself post Must-See-TV-Thursday, Fey and company stood out: the jokes were quick to the point of weaponization, often literally coming a second at a time, with a commitment to character beats as strong as to the outright bizarre set-piece. It also benefitted from a dynamite central pairing with Fey as the biographical-to-a-point Liz Lemon and Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy, her right-wing blowhard of a boss and singular comic creation. Even in the sloppily paced pilot their scenes have a spark that carried over seven seasons and remained reliable whenever the storytelling faltered over the 138 episodes that eventually ran. Ten years on, in the midst of so much “peak TV,” no currently airing comedy quite comes close to its alchemical mix of breakneck zaniness and reluctant heart, though Fey’s own Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt does its gosh-darndest. For a show that often worked deliberately against the serialization trend, 30 Rock amply rewards re-visiting and here are the fifteen best episodes to get you started, whether it’s your first time through or your thirtieth.
Continue reading The Best 30 Rock Episodes: A Chronological Journey, Part One

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Hot Takes on the Pop Music Canon

Welcome to the internet! We have hot takes here. SportsAlcohol.com has plenty of contrary and bizarre opinions to go around, and for this podcast we focused on albums from the pop music canon. Rob, Sara, Marisa, and Jesse got together to chat about which albums they think are secretly inferior to other, less acclaimed albums by the same artist. It’s a simple formula that generates hot take after hot take! Here are just some of the artists we cover in this trim 40-minute session:

The Beatles!
Bruce Springsteen!
U2!
The Stone Roses!
Radiohead!
Sleater-Kinney!
Simon & Garfunkel!
Coldplay for some reason!
Liz Phair!

AND MORE!

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll become infuriated with our hotness.

How To Listen

We are now up to SIX (6) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Indie Movies of Summer 2016

Everyone thinks of summer as blockbuster season for movies, but the truth is, May, June, July, and August always see the release of a ton of indie movies, often of high quality. For the second year in a row, Marisa, Sara, Nathaniel, and Jesse got together in Brooklyn to talk about the smaller-scale fare they watched over the past few months, blazing through hot take after hot take on over a dozen recent releases. If you’re sick of Suicide Squads, pets with secret lives, and Jason Bournes, go ahead and find out what we thought of The Lobster, Cafe Society, A Bigger Splash, The Neon Demon, Hell or High Water, and more indie movies you can add to your Netflix queue (or in some cases, still catch in a theater near you) as fall approaches.

How To Listen

We are now up to SIX (6) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

Watching the Rio Olympics—Maybe Just Don’t?

I have watched exactly one night of the Rio Olympics. And, after doing so, I cannot put myself through another. Some of my problems with the Games are with the events themselves, most of them have to do with NBC broadcast, and the two combine to make the whole thing unwatchable for me; call me a curmudgeon, but I’m not the only one who thinks so, since Olympic ratings are down (although that might be because of streaming).

“But Marisa,” you say, “you never watch sports. Obviously there’s no way you’d ever be into the Olympics.” Wrong. I can muster enthusiasm for sports spectating once every couple years, because: 1) Olympic stories are often inspirational, and I’m not made of stone. I like me a good tear-jerking backstory. 2) There is something genuinely thrilling about seeing people at the peak of their athletic prowess being the best at what they do. Even I can appreciate that. 3) I have good memories of watching the Olympics with my family as a kid—together, we’d all ignore sports regularly (except for my Dad who is a Giants fan and would bother us all by hogging the TV during football season) and then get together to get excited about gymnastics or ice-skating. 4) I can certainly get into things we watch together-but-separately and tweet about; if I can do it for Grease Live!, which has source material that I actively hate, I can easily do it for the Olympics.

Basically, I want the Olympics to be like the Oscars. Sure, the broadcast has problems—the same problems every year, which will probably never be fixed—but we can all hold our nose and watch because we can enjoy it together. Yet, while I know some of you are having a good time with this year’s games, this is not like the Oscars. These are the reasons I just can’t have fun with it, not even with a saucy wink.

lher

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The SportsAlcohol Podcast: Suicide Squad

By the time you listen to this, The Suicide Squad movie will have set a box office record for August while receiving such bad reviews its fans are petitioning to shut down review aggregate site rottentomatoes.com. So is it any good? There’s actually a lot to break down here:

  • Studio meddling
  • Racism
  • Ike Barinholtz
  • Sexism
  • Soundtrack cues
  • The triumph of Margot Robbie
  • Unnecessary DC vs Marvel comparisons
  • The many lives of Jai Courtney’s career
  • How much worse Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was
  • Hollywood It Boy Joel Kinnaman
  • Method Acting
  • Ike Barinholtz again for good measure

How To Listen

We are now up to SIX (6) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Saturday Night Live at the Movies

Hey, have you guys heard about the new Ghostbusters movie coming out this week? Many of the film’s cast members have one obvious thing in common… that’s right, many of them were on Saturday Night Live (is there some other difference you were thinking of?). The casting of Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and (in a supporting role) Cecily Strong establishes a clear lineage with the 1984 original, which featured Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd acting out (and riffing on) an Aykroyd-cowritten script. The first film remains one of the most successful to star Saturday Night Live alumni, which got your SportsAlcohol.com crew thinking about how cast members on that program have made the transition into movies. Nathaniel, Sara, Marisa, Jesse, and Jon got together to talk about this rich history for roughly the length of a Saturday Night Live episode to talk about official SNL movies, unofficial SNL movies, and a whole lot of actors.

Listen and find the answers to the following questions, and more!

  • Does Mike Myers work without makeup?
  • Which one of us saw Bordello of Blood in the theaters?
  • How young is too young to watch Beverly Hills Cop?
  • What movie is an even less distilled expression of Aykroyd-ness than Ghostbusters?
  • Have Tina Fey and Amy Poehler really made it in the movies yet?
  • Which SNL players do we want to see star in their own movie?

How To Listen

We are now up to SIX (6) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

SportsAlcohol.com Founders in the Wild

There’s a new ARG that’s sweeping the nation where you have to try and find the SportsAlcohol.com founders in the wild. Here are some cheat codes.

Nathaniel Will Be at Kevin Geeks Out

12036970_1673214976245526_3521092882304315489_nNathaniel will be featured on Kevin Geeks Out, Brooklyn’s favorite video variety show/salon of nerdy ideas. The theme of the evening will be Star Trek, and, as KGO’s resident Planet of the Apes expert, Nathaniel will talk about the optimism of Star Trek vs. the pessimism of Planet of the Apes as two poles of ’60s sci-fi. It goes down at 9:30 pm on Wednesday, July 13 at the Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn. BUY TICKETS HERE RIGHT NOW, SUCKERS.

Jesse on CBC Radio

JH film criticJesse was invited to chat on the CBC’s “Day 6” radio program about the sexism inherent in pre-release Ghostbusters bashing, because he’s woke as shit. LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE, SUCKERS.

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Independence Day: Resurgence and Long-Gap Sequels

Happy almost Independence Day! And, perhaps, less-happy Independence Day! That’s right, the 1996 blockbuster is back with Independence Day: Resurgence, a direct sequel that’s already underperforming compared to the original (at least at the U.S. box office). Undeterred by bad buzz or lack of press screenings, Marisa, Nathaniel, and Jesse went to see it, then reconvened to discuss the movie, as well as what goes into an effective twenty-years-later sequel. We talk about what we thought of Independence Day: Resurgence, of course, but we also touch upon Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Dumber and Dumber, Wild Wild West, Space Jam, and lots of other stuff you might not expect.

How To Listen

We are now up to SIX (6) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

WIENER-DOG inspires the bold question: Does Todd Solondz hate us?

Twenty years on, and I’m still having trouble getting a bead on Todd Solondz. Wiener-Dog is not exactly a twenty-years-later sequel to 1996’s Welcome to the Dollhouse to accompany this weekend’s twenty-years-later sequel to 1996’s Independence Day. Yet briefly, it totally is. One quarter of the movie’s dog-connected anthology follows Dawn Wiener, the awkward twelve-year-old played by Heather Matarazzo in Dollhouse, as a thirtysomething woman played by Greta Gerwig.

Close followers of Solondz’s work will not a discrepancy: We were told at the outset of his film Palindromes that Wiener gained a bunch of weight and killed herself. It was a non-grace note in a movie that wasn’t even about Dawn Wiener, but did have its main character (her cousin) played by eight different performers. Since that movie, he made one called Life During Wartime that is a direct sequel to the movie Happiness, except with every single character recast. In Dark Horse, Selma Blair quietly reprises a character she played in Storytelling who no longer looks or acts much like she did in the earlier film. The title of the Dawn-resurrecting Wiener-Dog is also the cruel nickname the character was given at school in Dollhouse, but here actually refers to an actual wiener-dog, who scampers through a series of owners, including Dawn Wiener.

So, again I ask: What the hell is going on with Todd Solondz? Does he think of his filmography as an ongoing, mutating art project, where recasting characters throws them into ever more fascinating contexts? Or do a lot of actors not want to work with him again? Does he compulsively revisit aspects of Dollhouse to tweak expectations about how his movies will compare to his still-biggest success? Or can he not leave well enough alone? And am I being a nerdy pedant for finding it kind of annoying, for not ginning up the interest to see Life During Wartime because I thought Happiness was great and had no desire to see a different rep company inhabit and sequelize those roles?
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