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NBC’s 30 Rock aired its Christmas episode last night, satirizing the myriad ways in which Christmas has become a confusing amalgam of generosity, love, cynicism, materialism, and family mishigas.
Kenneth (played by Jack McBrayer), the earnest page who’s always so eager to please, shone through in the episode, gleefully handing out gifts to the staff (“Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Jewish….”) and volunteering to be “project manager” on the task of keeping Tracy (played by Tracy Morgan) to his legal obligation to avoid alcohol at the office’s “Ludachristmas” party. Kenneth is quickly emerging as one of the best Christian characters on television (watch out, Ned Flanders!), lending his genuine goodness and sweet naivate to every scene, including when he brings in a guitar-playing pastor to keep the group happy, inspired–and off the sauce.
A parallel theme of the episode was family drama, as Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) welcomed her happy, functional, matching-sweater-wearing family for their Christmas visit. Their mere existence irked Jack’s (Alec Baldwin) ice-cold mother so much that she made it her Christmas mission to expose the Lemons as family bickerers, just like everyone else.
Perhaps the take-away of this episode was to say that even the cheer of the holidays can’t keep us from being who we really are–even if that person drinks too much or inwardly hates their family. Or perhaps it was simply to skewer the absurd pressures we all put on ourselves during the holiday season, or the ways in which the religious messages of the winter holidays have been distilled by the bright shiny packaging of the season. Whichever point you take, it’s worth watching this episode, if nothing else, just to take a minute to laugh out loud. What better gift could there be?
Click here to watch the episode online (select Episode 209).

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