Friday, February 13, 2009

New star of '30 Rock': Mickey D's

McDonald’s should have gotten a writing credit for last night’s episode of “30 Rock.” The show pushed product placement to a new level, with Mickey D’s figuring into the plot, the dialogue, and even the series’ signature self-deprecation and snarkiness.

The episode pivoted on romance, particularly the scorching relationship between Alec Baldwin’s smarmy character, NBC honcho Jack Donaghy, and his mother’s former nurse, Elisa, played by Selma Hayak. Jack wants to take Elisa to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day “where even the Pope couldn’t get a reservation.” It's called Plunder, and its signature is a dessert of John Thain decadence. “Imagine a dessert for two with Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream in a pool of Cognac, drizzled in the world's most expensive chocolate, covered with shaved white, black and clear truffles, and topped with edible 25-karat gold leaf,” coos Jack. He breathlessly whispers its name: The Lover’s Delight.

That conversation takes place as he and Elisa are lustily enjoying two of McDonald's McFlurries, which they declare to be a dessert of dreams. But, of course, it’s no Lover’s Delight. Or so you suppose at that point.

But Jack and Elisa have a falling out in church, which Elisa insists they attend for St. Valentine’s Day. Jack heads off to Plunder alone, disparaging the Roman Catholic faith as he goes. Capitalism, he explains, is his true religion.

Jack gets his Lover’s Delight, but it’s not the same when consumed solo.

Elisa goes to church. When the collection basket comes around, she spots what looks like a coupon among the donations.

The next scene: Elisa heading into a McDonald’s with the coupon, where she finds Jack in line. She declares the coupon was a sign from God that they should be together. Jack counters that it was just a ploy by a giant of capitalism, and asserts that Ray Kroc, not The Big Guy, is the deity that reunited them.

"Maybe it was the Hamburglar," retorts Elisa.

The fade-out suggests they’re going to enjoy their Valentine’s Day with a McFlurry--especially delicious since it's purchased at a discount. Who needs The Lover’s Delight?

One of 30 Rock’s signatures is poking fun at its reliance on advertisers, with clumsy, sometimes creepy product placements figuring prominently in the early episodes. The coupon and subsequent meet-up fit that tongue-in-cheek approach like a burger on a bun.

The episode’s true commercials included—-surprise, surprise—-new spots for McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. The ads depict a young single person looking on lustily as a stranger devours one of the burgers. A voice-over provides a few mildly salacious observations, a sort of Barry White Lite, about what a mouth craves.

And what should that burger craver have for dessert? Why does a McFlurry come to mind?

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