No Business like Show Business

medium_30rock.2Episode Commentary : Audition Day (Episode 4)

Does everyone deserve a shot when it comes to showbiz?

After last episode’s breakdown of American commonality; eight cities, forty comics and a slap fight with a TSA agent later, Liz and Pete have decided on a cast member named “Jaden”. Realizing they have to make it look like Jack has made the decision, they get three decoys. Jenna gets a hold of the list and freaks out. Liz, thinking it’s another one of her vapid rouses, tries to largely ignore it. In a flashback, we see that Jaden heckled Jenna years ago during a play. It does not exactly justify the great betrayal by Liz, but nevertheless…

As Jenna continues to worry about the new cast member, something begins make Jack squirm. Scratching the incessant itch, Kenneth suggests it might be bedbugs. 30 Rock continues to address the currency of real life concerns in such a manner that it’s hard not to relate. NYC really does have a bedbug problem right now, so the references hit home. As the mania unfolds, Dotcom expresses his desire to audition. Relating to her own dreadful experiences as someone auditioning, she relents despite the “Hornberger system” of putting three faux potential candidates up for the producer, each one a little more unsavory than the next, but believable enough to pass as a possibility.

Shunned by the NBC execs for his plague, Jack is thrust into the world of the common man. He’s banished to his office. He is denied the company car. On the train, he begs for directions while the NYC subway crowd stares on in agitated silence as if he were a regular beggar. The “real” America he sought has turned into a harsh reality.

When Tracy and Jenna realize they’ve stacked the deck to hire an actor and are pretty much allowing anyone to audition, they go on a mission to find better actors. They fill a Hummer with funny gay men, a heavy set black woman with an impressive chestline, and, naturally, a rabbi (because what joke grouping doesn’t include a rabbi– yes, we picked up on that, writers!!) and march back to the set, defiant and ready to make sure that they’re not eclipsed by the new cast member.

Not giving up on the man slated to take the job, Tracy and Jenna decide to mess with Jaden’s psyche with words… the harshest words you say to someone that you’ve already met…. “Nice to meet you.” When Jaden says it first (clearly forgetting her and the incident), it sends Jenna into yet another flying tizzy.

While Grizz had made Dotcom an origami seagull for good luck (representative of his former acting stint as a “bird”), Tracy fears his success and is intimidated by his apparent acting abilities. Taking a nod from Jenna, he tries the line on Dotcom, and thusly shakes his confidence. The seagull metaphorically transitions into the unlucky albatross.

Jack meanders around, finally feeling the full force of being banal, as Liz and Pete try to quiet the chaos. With everyone from janitors to the incredibly awkward Kathy Geist (who pulls off an AMAZING spoof of a Susan Boyle performance) deciding to audition, Liz is still dead set on having Jaden hired. Having contacted several big name references like Christopher Walken and Martin Scorcese, she thinks she’s got a winner. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Upon seeing his audition, she realizes he impersonated all of his references and really is crazy and evil like Jenna had portended. He even blackmails her by having her take a picture of him with his camera, and then threatening to claim she’d only hire him if she let him take pictures of his apparently “weird” genitals. With her fingerprints all over the camera, she’s found herself in quite the pickle (sadly, no sandwich).

Ultimately, the decision is up to Jack, and after being beaten down by life (and bedbugs), he allows everyone to audition. He winds up liking the last guy Pete manages to find; a man dressed as a robot entertaining a horde of tourists. Who better to represent America than someone that people from not just all over the United States, but the world, stops and is strangely entranced by: street robots. It can only make us wonder if this is all leading up to a Caprica tie-in, as 30 Rock notoriously serves as a billboard for all NBC endeavors. He hires him on the basis that he was the only one that would shake the hand of a man with bedbugs.

Jack brings the episode to an uncharacteristically poignant close. Live by the code of the robot: “Care, love, live.” Not exactly Asimov, but close enough. It would seem that the appeal of 30 Rock is pushing towards a message of equality among the masses. But for sitcom based on a fictional variety show based on a real comedy variety show, do we really need to satisfy everyone?

Maybe not– but in the meantime, it’s damned funny to watch the madness that unfolds when you try to address everyone in America’s comedy needs.

About Samantha LoSapio 31 Articles
Samantha LoSapio is an adjunct lecturer of English, contributer to as well as, and the sole possessor of the Triforce. A proud nerd, much of her expertise takes the form of references to Battlestar Galactica, obscure 13th century literature, basic geology and other skills best reserved for Jeopardy contestants. She has made Sheepshead Bay her home since 1994.

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