30 Rock 6.04 “The Ballad of Kenneth Parcell” Review

30 Rock - Kenneth Parcell30 Rock season 6 serves up the second of two new episodes with with its overall fourth episode “The Ballad of Kenneth Parcell,” where Liz and Jenna question their friendship in the wake of her newfound stardom, and Jack cuts the NBC page program. “The Ballad of Kenneth Parcell” mostly covers familiar territory, but still makes for a consistent and less concept-heavy half-hour.

As I mentioned with my review of tonight’s other 30 Rock offering ‘Idiots Are People Three!‘, I’d be interested to know what occasioned the double dose of Liz, Jenna Tracy and Jack tonight, particularly given that the first offering served as the second half of a two-part arc begun last week. Obviously 30 Rock wouldn’t want to kill their momentum so early in the season by sitting out the second week, but I can’t help feeling like there was a missed opportunity in not airing both episodes on a night when the show pulls a double-header. At the very least, I’d have thought The Office to provide a repeat for whatever reason it sat out this week, but we’re probably better served burning off an episode like ‘The Ballad of Kenneth Parcell’if it means a slight ratings boost for 30 Rock.

‘The Ballad of Kenneth Parcell’ignores just about everything before it, with no mention of Liz’s by-now established boyfriend Criss (Jason Marsden), Jack’s looming presence in her life, or any of the supporting stories, likely another reason NBC decided to quietly usher in the episode tonight. Unforunately, in ignoring previous plot threads the episode reached something of a ‘Simpsons did it’territory in (perhaps unintentionally) reusing many of the plots it’s explored before. For instance, we’ve covered the vanity dissolution of Liz and Jenna’s friendship a number of times, Jack dissolving the page program and facing emasculation at the hands of the other male employees, and of course Tracy taking a minor quibble to its absurdist extreme.

For its age and pace, it’d be impossible for 30 Rock not to retread old ground now and again, and we can at least appreciate that ‘The Ballad of Kenneth Parcell’doesn’t necessarily result in the same conclusions that similar conflicts created before. I for one liked the idea of Jenna finally achieving some real measure of notoriety (thanks to a good-spirited take on the celebrity over-population of holiday movies in ‘Martin Luther King Day’), or Rachel Dratch’s welcome return in voicing the ‘Not Kenneth’computer that replaces the page program.

There’s plenty to laugh at in 30 Rock‘s second offering of the night, it’s just that most of it ends up feeling inconsequential or ill-timed. Beyond anyone’s control of course, but I have to imagine the writers putting palm to face when ‘The Ballad of Kenneth Parcell’features Tracy questioning his mortality or references to Demi Moore’s health tips given both recent health scares. And by the time you realize you’re watching a scene between the ‘Charlie Bit My Finger’boy, wrestling legend Mankind, and a knock-off Kardashian, you’re begging for the satirically cheesy resolutions of the main characaters, if only to end the episode.

Oh, and then Steve Earle sings about Kenneth. What?

And Another Thing…

  • Aside from Emma Stone, Nick Cannon and Andy Samberg, I’d be interested to know if any of the ‘Martin Luther King Day’celebrity clips were filmed specifically for the episode.
  • Great meta-reference to the rising star of Maulik Pancholy, who departed his role as 30 Rock‘s Jonathan for Whitney.
  • Specifically Simpsons-wise, Tracy’s invitation mix-up seemed to be a riff on Lionel Hutz’s classic ‘No, Money Down!’business cards.
  • I want a vodka vaporizer! And a depressed thoughts CD!
  • Thank goodness 30 Rock still films on the streets of New York City now and again. I love recognizing old haunts like the Outback of 23rd street and 6th avenue.
  • Nice use of Ken Howard as Hank Hooper too, who gets to show a few more colors than usual.
  • Interesting, if unstated use of the Sex and the City analogue characters.

What did YOU think?

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