The Case For: Salma Hayek's Arc on 30 Rock
Salma Hayek wrapped up her six-episode role on 30 Rock last night, and though the blogosphere was initially dubious (and rightly so, we'll grant), we'd argue that by the end of her stint, a surprisingly game Hayek was nailing her punchlines and providing 30 Rock with a pulchritudinous jolt of energy. Here, then, we chart her evolution from tongue-tied guest star to a comedienne so able, she didn't even need ADR in her last episode:
Senor Macho Solo: 1/8/2009
In her first episode as Puerto Rican nurse Elisa, Hayek proves mostly distracting -- and we're not simply talking about her monstrous, uncommented-on cleavage in her finale scene. "I find that authoritative rapid Spanish subdues white people," she attempts to say at one point. Yes, but incomprehensible rapid English baffles them, leaving Hayek high and dry for some of her most difficult lines.
Best Line: The only one we clearly heard, delivered to Alec Baldwin. "More embarrassing than your CD collection? I didn't know that Michael Buble had that many albums."
Flu Shot: 1/15/2009
Hayek's performance starts upticking in this episode, though we still spend much of the time in high anxiety, fretting over whether she'd make it through her lines and stick the landing. At least she's given the chance to start exhibiting some screwball chemistry with Baldwin, though.
Best Line: "I would love to go out, get all dressed up and tip maitre d's and be all like, 'Thank you, Roger. This table was super-duper.'"
Though Hayek has the least to do in this episode (and really, who could compete with a bravura, split-screened Baldwin/Baldwin sequence), she seems to have plugged in to the twisty comic rhythms of the show better than ever, and she's eminently willing to poke fun at ethnic stereotypes.
Best Line: "I don't think you should come to my cousin's police academy graduation, or my other cousin's parole party. Boy, I hope those two don't eventually have a showdown that pits family against justice."
St. Valentine's Day: 2/12/2009
Here's where Hayek won me over. Given her best material and some of the season's most quotable lines ("Now you will never see the crazy underwears I have on!"), Hayek goes for the gusto. Not only does she not stumble, but for the first time, she shows off serious comic chops, matching and even topping Baldwin in several of her scenes.
Best Line: "How dare you say something like that so close to the statue of Santa Lucia, the patron saint of judgmental statues?"
Larry King: 2/26/2009
At this point, Hayek is handed the same love interest storyline that the 30 Rock writers used to eliminate Edie Falco last season: Baldwin's job is getting in the way of their love life. Still, while Falco always seemed tentative during her arc, Hayek gives the exact same beats some juicy bounce.
Best Line: "Everything's gone cocoa for cuckoo poops! Is that right?"
The Ones : 4/23/2009
The best proof that Hayek got better and better? Her reappearance in this episode is actually welcome, and she's funny from moment one. (Though, even if she wasn't, the kiss with Tina Fey and the shameless Battlestar Galactica t-shirt surely won over her most stubborn critics.)
Best Line: "Lemon, isn't there a Slanket somewhere you should be filling with your farts?"