Will Tonight's Guest-Star-Laden 30 Rock Mark an Official Shark Jump?
Ever since the Megan Mullally-Oprah Winfrey-Steve Martin-Jennifer Aniston onslaught of season three, 30 Rock has garnered a reputation -- good and bad -- for booking esteemed guest-stars. We've been treated to appearances by everyone from James Franco to Jon Bon Jovi to Buzz Aldrin in the current season, and tonight's episode, entitled "Emanuelle Goes to Dinosaur Land," will present a full credits sequence worth of the show's past gets -- with room for surprises. Should we be worried that 30 Rock, a show that once gleamed with invention and singular personality, is now a carnivalesque showcase of showbiz connections?
According to tonight's episode description, Jon Hamm, Michael Sheen, and Dean Winters will return as Liz Lemon's past paramours as she seeks a date for Floyd's (Jason Sudeikis) wedding. Elizabeth Banks and Julianne Moore also come back as Jack Donaghy's potential girlfriends, and Tracy's slated to continue his quest for the almighty EGOT (Emmy-Grammy-Oscar-Tony) -- and that could mean another run-in with Whoopi Goldberg or a newcomer like Rita Moreno.
First things first: Didn't Jon Hamm's character (a scream during his original season three run) peak at the time of that Jamaican receptionist sketch on Anna Howard Shaw Day? And what of this Julianne Moore Boston-monster-accent character? Is she going to flesh out beyond the strained vocal affect that I un-lovingly associate with Renee Zellweger and Cold Mountain? The problem with 30 Rock's cavalcade of guests isn't necessarily the amount of stars therein; it's that guest-stars are given gimmicks that are sometimes used to dubious avail. Or no avail, if you remember Steve Martin as Gavin Volure.
I don't think a shark-jump is imminent, but an about-face is necessary: If 30 Rock can revert to stronger stories with madcap possibilities (You can't tell me Liz Lemon's given up on adopting that baby) instead of throwing us guest stars with limited serial potential, it's back in business. Otherwise, I don't look forward to Jan Hooks wheedling money out of Jason Sudeikis in the TGS lobby while James Franco returns with an environmentally friendly body pillow for Al Gore's third guest-appearance.