No sitcom delivered as many celebrity cameos as "30 Rock" this season. Jennifer Aniston, Steve Martin, The Oprah, Jon Hamm, Steve Buscemi and Megan Mullally all grabbed screen time in an unrelenting plan to goose the critically acclaimed show's ratings. (And Salma Hayek. How we miss Salma Hayek.)
But the show waited until Thursday's season finale to break out the true showstopper, at least in the Raleigh market: Clay Aiken. Too bad the Triangle's favorite Idol was limited to the back row of a pop singers chorus assembled by Jack Donaghy to find an organ donor for the father (Alan Alda) Jack never knew he had until last week.
Heck, Aiken didn't even rate a mention on the show's official Web site's "list of amazing performers that lent their voices" for the "He Needs Kidney" sing-along that spoofed every "We are the World" celebrity chorus from the mid-1980s.
Cyndi Lauper, Moby, Norah Jones, Wyclef Jean, even Michael McDonald made the list, and none of them got as much screen time as Aiken. (That Michael McDonald is everywhere, though. One of the funniest bits in "40-Year-Old Virgin" was how the electronic superstore where most of the characters worked played a Doobie Brothers reunion concert on an endless loop, to the point where Paul Rudd's character vows to go postal if hears McDonald sing "Yamo be there" one more time.)
Then again, maybe Aiken didn't "lend" his voice for the "Kidney Now!" anthem and was lip-syncing. He could have been saving his voice for the short scene he shared with Elvis Costello and Mary J. Blige. Jack invited the three performers to his office to call in favors to get them to headline the event. In 30 Rock's world, Aiken is a cousin of Kenneth the page, who leans on him to perform. Sadly, there are no Clay-Kenneth duet scenes.
If it makes you feel any better, Clay, I spotted Steve Earle in the singalong scene, and he didn't get a credit on the Web site list either.
It turns out, though, that Liz Lemon and Sheryl Crow shared an "I'm a kidney" duet as fifth-grade classmates. Even back then, though, Crow had Lemon pegged as a nerd.
The episode ends as the rare season finale that doesn't wrap up with a cliffhanger, unless if you count wondering whether Dr. Milton Greene (Alda) will live long enough without a new kidney to finish the three-volume biography of Jimmy Carter which his rightwing son Jack can live without reading.
The show does include a newscrawl urging viewers to learn more about kidney donor programs, so there was effort to deliver a real public-service announcement. Apart from the song including the immortal lyrics, "Just give a kidney, we hear it doesn't hurt that bad," I mean.