by Matthew Thompson
In the past, I have talked about some of my favorite TV episodes based around Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. But these are far from the only holidays that have gifted us quality television over the years. You’ll find some good ones for things like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day. Still, one day that doesn’t get a lot of love is Leap Day. This is partly due to its very nature – it only comes around every four years – and partly because it isn’t really a holiday at all. That didn’t stop 30 Rock from delivering one of my very favorite holiday-themed episodes four years ago, the simply named “Leap Day.”
In the real world, Leap Day is much like any other day. Sure, you may have an annoying 28-year old friend who was born on February 29th and claims to have just turned seven, but otherwise today will be somewhat unremarkable. Not the case in the 30 Rock universe. There, Leap Day is a day to be celebrated. Not unlike Seinfeld did with Festivus or The OC did with Chrismukkah, “Leap Day” succeeds by presenting a rich tradition behind the holiday that we didn’t know existed. Liz Lemon didn’t either and it is through her education that we learn about the festive Day of Leap. The mascot is Leap Day William. He lives in the Mariana Trench and every four years he emerges to trade children’s tears for candy. You wear blue and yellow on Leap Day. If you don’t, someone may poke you in the eye and pull your hair (or if they are from Boston they might stomp on your foot and kick you in the knee). You eat rhubarb. You celebrate by doing something you normally wouldn’t do. It is a day to take chances. It is a day to take a leap!
Seeing little nuggets like these about the traditions of Leap Day doled out over the course of the episode is my favorite part. One of the best bits has to be the fictional movie Leap Dave Williams. Dave is an uptight lawyer played by Jim Carrey who, after an ice-fishing trip goes awry, turns into Leap Day William. Throughout the episode, we are treated to little clips from the movie and much like the holiday itself, we learn more about it as the ep rolls on. This includes references to real holiday movies like how USA runs a marathon of it all day à la TBS’s Christmas Story marathon or how it co-stars Andie MacDowell which I choose to believe is a nod to Groundhog Day. You’ll even see a sign on the street about a sequel called Leap Dave Williams 2: Leap Baby (which it should be noted comes from the producers of Transformers 3). And you know what… it just feels like a Jim Carrey movie. Carrey and MacDowell are both excellent in the guest spot and the whole thing, from concept to execution, is howlingly funny.
Of course, there are some actual storylines for the characters here too. Jack likes to take advantage of the extra day by making more money. Tracy is trying to use a $50,000 Benihana gift card before it expires. Liz and Jenna end up at a billionaire’s party where Liz gets an indecent proposal. These are all littered with funny moments. There is Jack’s dreamy send-up of A Christmas Carol. Tracy’s belief that Dot Com is imaginary. Jenna’s long-winded description of a turtle. Or Liz matching wits with a supermodel. And in true holiday fashion, lessons are learned.
“Leap Day” is a hilarious half-hour of television. It fits perfectly into the absurd world of 30 Rock and delivers the kind superlatively clever writing and wall-to-wall jokes you’d expect from the show. What I will remember most is the creativity and inventiveness that went into crafting the traditions behind Leap Day. It will be hard not to think of Leap Day William and what I learned from 30 Rock every time this day rolls around. So remember to take a leap today. After all, real life is for March.
A few more things:
- Apparently, they used to give cigarettes to kids as well as candy when Jack was younger.
- For this Leap Day, Toofer listened to rap music for the first time. He wasn’t a fan.
- Tracy had a brick collection when he was a kid.
- Some weird hints to the ongoing Kenneth mythology from this episode: He wears a wig and he has dug too many graves.
- “It’s a Leap Day Miracle!”
- I may use this Episode Spotlight idea to talk about old favorites again in the future. Not sure. I kind of just threw this idea together today for this specific occasion, but it was fun and it may be something I want to do for other shows I never really got to talk about on here.