“30 Rock” is the brainchild of Tina Fey, who made her name as a writer and performer on “Saturday Night Live.” She returns to her roots with this week’s episode, which was aired completely live (hence the title “Live Show”). Although, in theory, this sounds like a gimmick to pique viewers’ curiosity, fans were treated to an impressive, funny half hour that brought back several familiar faces to the show. Check out the review to find out why it worked…
- Cast: Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, Jack McBrayer, Scott Adsit, Judah Friedlander, Matt Damon, Rachel Dratch, Jon Hamm, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Chris Parnell
Episode Title: “Live Show”
It’s Liz Lemon’s fortieth birthday, but none of her coworkers seem to have remembered it. Jack gives up drinking to support Avery during her pregnancy, but finds that his taste for liquor may be stronger than he originally imagined. Tracy causes trouble again when he discovers the pleasure of breaking character and laughing during his sketches on “TGS.”
- It’s not a gimmick: Those of us who expected a lackluster episode this week had reason to be concerned. Shows like “Saturday Night Live” are successful because they consist of several comedic segments. “30 Rock,” on the other hand, relies on a traditional sitcom structure, and it was tough to imagine that it would translate to the live format successfully. However, the show flowed as naturally as any other episode.
- Familiar Faces: More than a few guest stars made appearances during this episode, and for once, not a single one was wasted. Matt Damon brought the laughs as Liz’s boyfriend Carol, Rachel Dratch was a cleaning lady with a love for “Happy Days,” Chris Parnell was back as Dr. Leo Spaceman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus portrayed “fantasy Liz,” and Jon Hamm made his return, reminding viewers, who are used to seeing him as the serious Don Draper, that he can do funny.
- The Story: With all of us distracted by the “oh wow” factor of a live show, they could have taken a break and told a bare-bones story this time around. The fact that it was still character-driven, with Liz’s neglected birthday and Jack’s dedication to Avery being major plot points, only goes to show that the talent behind this show takes their job seriously.
- It’s, well, funny: The foundation of “30 Rock” has always been its clever writing, and it’s possible that even without the live element, this would still have been the funniest episode of the season. The gags weren’t tremendously hilarious, but they were consistent throughout the episode.
- Jenna: Jane Krakowski’s a fine actress, but they need to find a new angle for Jenna. Liz and Jack still work because their fundamentally conflicting personalities always spark good comedy. Tracy works because comedy is about the unexpected, and his absurdity and inconsistent intelligence keep us surprised. The joke about Jenna since day one has been that she is vain and attention-starved. Sadly, that’s the only joke the writers seem to pull out of her character, and it’s simply getting too old to be funny anymore.
- The Audience: The constant cheers from the audience everytime a cast member or guest star appeared got a little irritating after a while. Anyone would react the same way in their situation, but it interrupted the flow of the episode.
“Live Show” could have been a disaster, but thanks to a mix of sharp writing and spot-on performances from everyone involved, it was one of the best episodes of “30 Rock” we’ve had in a while. It felt like everyone involved was finally acknowledging their success, and anyone who has followed this show knows that they’ve earned it.
“30 Rock” airs every Thursday night on NBC!
Were you also impressed with the live episode? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!