’30 Rock’ Reunites the ‘TGS’ Gang for Sentimental Laughs & Ad Mischief (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for 30 Rock: A One-Time Special]
If news of 30 Rock‘s One-Time Special had you high-fiving a million angels, you’re not the only one.
The reunion, part of NBCUniversal’s Upfront presentation, may serve as one giant advertisement, but who better to tackle corporate synergy in a hilarious way than 30 Rock? Seven years later, Liz Lemon (Tina Fey), Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski), and Kenneth “The Page” Parcell (Jack McBrayer) are funnier than ever, bringing the laughs like they did in TGS with Tracy Jordan‘s heyday.
Below, we’re breaking down some of the special’s buzzier moments, so beware of spoilers!
Liz Still Speaks Up
Much like the series premiere’s hot dog stand meltdown, Liz loses it on a man not wearing a mask in public amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. He quickly informs her that he’d already had the illness, but it doesn’t keep the exchange from being comically awkward.
NBC Is Rebooting TGS
Kenneth needs help rebooting TGS for NBC’s new streaming service Peacock and Jack reaches out to Liz who is tasked with getting the gang back together. They agree at first that Jenna is off-limits after she supposedly pooped in Mandy Moore’s thermos. During Liz and Jack’s chat we see that her kids have grown up since the series’ end in 2013. Meanwhile, she’s concerned about the challenge of getting everyone regrouped, including the now Canada-based Tracy.
The Writers Return
First up on Liz’s call list are “Toofer” (Keith Powell) now going by his first name James, Frank (Judah Friedlander) who is wearing his signature baseball hat inscribed for the occasion with “non-essential” as well as Lutz (John Lutz) who is apparently shacking up with… Sue (Sue Galloway)?! The call turns cringey when the unlikely pair begins making out.
Jonathan’s Horror Show
Liz even reaches out to Jack’s former assistant Jonathan (Maulik Pancholy) to see if he’d like to participate but learns he’s onto bigger and better things by working with Blumhouse on horror flicks.
Pete’s Gone Full Rocker
Former TGS producer Pete Hornberger (Scott Adsit) has left television to pursue his passion for rock music as he donned eye-liner, nail polish and tattoos via video chat with Liz. When she asks if his wife Paula (Paula Pell) is cool with it, she learns that both halves of the couple are happier with the transformation as things turn frisky.
In an attempt to find their female lead for the reboot, Liz taps various NBCUniversal talents including Sophia Vergara (America’s Got Talent), Kandi Burruss (The Real Housewives of Atlanta) and Khloe Kardashian (Keeping Up with the Kardashians) as possible replacements for Jenna. When Jenna crashes the call though, Liz caves and gives the gig to her old friend. Tracy is harder to recruit as he tells Liz he’s not acting anymore and has taken up competitive speed walking. When Liz threatens to hire someone else including the likes of Kevin Hart, he quickly changes his tune and agrees to participate.
Kenneth in the Lap of Luxury
In the meantime, Kenneth is out in Los Angeles being waited on hand and foot by his assistant Vivica (also played by McBrayer) when he’s joined by everyone via video chat as they reveal plans to participate in the reboot. But he’s got qualms because no one has replied to any of his video invites until now. He then reveals various parties and invites he’s sent but have gone unanswered, adding that Grizz (Grizz Chapman) was the only one who responded. He accuses them of “testing negative for friendship,” going on to say he made up the reboot just to get their attention. He then falls into a pit of promotional dialogue before the action cuts into a teaser for Peacock.
Kenneth then flexes his power as the head of NBC by bringing Al Roker and Dwayne Johnson onto the call. One by one, Kenneth removes people from the conversation until Roker is the only one left. Eventually he shuts his laptop and his assistant tries to comfort him but it’s no use.
Next up on the all-star onslaught were Andy Samberg, Andy Cohen, Ted Danson, Hoda Kotb, Todd Chrisley, Mary Steenburgen and Mario Lopez to play a game of charades. But when Kenneth seeks reassurance from his famous friends, it doesn’t make him feel any better. The pressure is getting to the former NBC page as he questions the decisions he’s made for the networks’ upcoming slate of programming.
Desperate for a comeback, Jenna phones Tracy in the hopes of pitching and collaborating on a new idea they can share with Kenneth, but he’s reluctant. Not seeing her point, Tracy tells her they can’t move backwards and hangs up on her.
Liz was almost working on her night cheese once more until Jack interrupts by calling her to complain about Kenneth not answering his calls. The old friends then lament for the good old days, wishing they could go back to their chaotic TGS years. Once again putting her to task, Jack asks Liz to come up with a plan to get back in Kenneth’s good graces.
Liz begins plotting their next move for getting back on Kenneth’s good side by asking Jenna to do her a favor in return for a chance to sing in front of advertisers. Of course, the narcissistic performer is quick to agree.
Tracy also begins to feel guilt over ignoring Kenneth and realizes he has to make a move, no doubt reaching out to Liz and the other TGS crew members.
Before hopping on video for his Upfront presentation, Kenneth has a heated exchange with Vivica, commenting on her beauty but that television is too important to him so he’d never cross a line in their working relationship. Just as he goes to address advertisers, Liz, Jenna, Jack and Tracy all crash the Zoom session in order to sing to their friend (performing to The Brady Bunch‘s theme tune). Jack doesn’t participate, outright asking for what he wants, which is a job. When Kenneth pulls the friends from the live feed, he gives them a piece of his mind for having the audacity to interrupt. But they take the chance to deliver some serious truth, illustrating ways that Kenneth has changed for the worse, and their blunt honesty wakes him up.
Booting Jenna and Tracy from the private Zoom session, Kenneth asks Liz and Jack for their opinions about his other series in a string of teasers for real shows coming to NBC including Kenan, which will star Kenan Thompson and Don Johnson, Young Rock about Dwayne Johnson’s youth, the Stabler-focused Law & Order spinoff Organized Crime, and Debris. After the ads, Jack and Liz give their approval, praising Kenneth’s selections.
Rounding out the presentation is a showstopping musical number from Jenna who takes advantage of her time in the spotlight. Mandy Moore is among the celebrities featured in the segment and she “forgives” Jenna for pooping in her thermos in song.
Friends Until the End
Jack and Liz end the episode by discussing their successes including his return to work and Kenneth asking her to write for one of his upcoming shows. Before the episode concludes, Liz’s love for food, including sandwiches, is illustrated through her video background. In the final moments, Liz goes to wink at the camera acknowledging how the reunion was basically a glorified commercial for NBCUniversal, however, she suffers the consequences when the action is painful. Ad or not, these hilarious creators are still kings when it comes to comedy.
30 Rock: A One-Time Special, Available Friday, NBC.com, On Demand and Peacock