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30 Rock s06e04 "The Ballad of Kenneth Parcell"

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Written by : published Wednesday 29th February 2012

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Reminder: Kenneth gets replaced by a computer and Liz needs a new best friend.


Jenna's new fame is making her insufferable, and she and Liz break up, then go in search of new best friends. Jenna starts hanging out with D-List celebrities and Liz finds a lady just like her, and at first everything seems great. As the show progresses, however, they both realize that they don't want people more like them, they want people who allow them to be themselves--Liz needs someone so self-centered and oblivious that Liz's natural pessimism doesn't mess anything up, and Jenna needs someone who will let her take the limelight and talk about herself all the time. So they make up, and everything's fine. And somewhere in the city, there's another pair like Liz and Jenna in some other job, and that's a little creepy.

Meanwhile, Jack replaces the page program with a fact-dispensing computer to save money and and it renders Kenneth unnecessary. He tries to get his job back, and fails, but in the end, what brings them back together is that Jack can blame all his mistakes on the pages much more easily than he can on the computer, and he deems that a valuable justification for the cost.

Also meanwhile, Tracy's birthday is coming up, but a misunderstanding has his invitations telling people not to bring presents, and he doesn't know what to do with himself. When he realizes that his crisis is really just that he's annoyed at Grizz and Dot Com for not getting him presents anyway, they get him a huge pile, and even though he already has everything and throws it all away, he's happy again.


It's a whole episode reinforcing that everyone on this show has bad relationships--but also that it's exactly the sort of relationship that they need. The institutionalized abuse in this show is sometimes a little uneasy-making, but in this episode it stays just on this side of that line so that it almost comes across as sweet. Even while it comes across as bizarre, though, it mitigates this fact with a reminder that these people don't really live in the real world. In the basically-realistic New York they inhabit, things don't happen the way they really do on this side of the TV screen already, and then inside the TGS studio, it's like an absurdest netherworld, where nothing makes sense, and yet it always sort of does by the end.

And so the fact that everyone is terrible to someone else (and Kenneth is terrible to himself) doesn't matter so much when you get to the end of these 24 minutes, plus commercial breaks. In the end, everyone deserves each other, and everyone is happy again, and there's the vague idea that maybe they aren't unique, and the whole world is like this, so it's okay. Or totally not. Depending on how you look at it.

Watch "The Ballad of Kenneth Parcell" right here on The TV King!

About the author SamanthaHolloway


Samantha Holloway is a writer, editor, book reviewer and TV reviewer. She's especially fond of the weird, wonderful, clever shows that tend to not last on network channels, and so forms a deep loyalty to them the few times they do. Follow her on twitter at twitter.com/pirategirljack.

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