Jack goes to congress, Liz’s co-workers replace her name-plate title with “F Kruger” (from the time she wore a fedora with a striped sweater), “Lez Lemon” “Winona Ryder (In a Hundred Years)” “Fart Barfunkel” ("Indian food," Liz explains, my favorite by far) and “Paul Simon” – which makes no sense but is no less offensive to her.
The double-edged sword of mandated diversity is the central issue to Thursday’s episode of “30 Rock,” which found Jack addressing Congress on the "vertical integration" future of NBC while Congresswoman Regina Bookman (Queen Latifah) hammered him on the lack of diversity in NBC’s programming. A sticky subject, no doubt, but there was little question going in that the team behind the most clever show NBC has ever aired would be able to walk the line with the most nimble clown shoes.
Twofer is promoted to co-head writer of TGS in the wake of the new racial hyper-awareness, and Tracy is enlisted to create a new program based around the African-American experience. It’s also no coincidence that the name of this week’s episode is also the name of DotCom’s ’70s-era sitcom about diversity, but it’s a damn shame we won’t get to see it become a reality. Liz, who arrived late to the diversity-a-thon, is having a hard time with Twofer becoming her equal in the writing department, and barges her way onto his guest appearance on "Right On," a very African-American-focused talk show (she realizes too late that there’s a reason she’s the only caucasian in the room).
Stumbling racial drop points and awkward one-offs abound, hitting critical mass when someone moves the recycling bins as Congresswoman Latifah arrives to inspect the studio offices, resulting in only a "colored" and "whites" signs next to two separate unisex bathrooms.
In the meantime, Jenna channels her inner stage-mother when she tries to help Kenneth get re-hired as a page, teaching him complex choreographed moves and feeling his shame as her own when he fails miserably at the experience. It didn’t work out, but Jenna gets Kenneth back in the fold nevertheless, just by going through Jack: “I want to get Kenneth back into the page program but” (gestures to an obese man beside her) “whatever this is won’t let me.”
The satire remains powerfully potent and the punchlines remain among the best in the industry on "30 Rock," and it’s not common for a show to attain a new level of freshness five full seasons into production. For instance, "The Office" is suffering badly from its own self-imposed character and circumstantial limitations, but we know that when it’s time for Liz Lemon and the gang to give us their best 22 minutes each week, we’re going to finish the show with a smile – if not a full belly laugh.
That’s worth all the Emmys you can throw at them, far as I’m concerned.