Five followed up the debut of David Duchovny’s Californication with another hot new US import – 30 Rock. Created, written by and starring former Saturday Night Live fave Tina Fey, this was not one of those hour-long comedy-dramas that American TV execs seem so fond of at the mo (Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives), but a proper, old-fashioned 30-minute sitcom. And as we all know sitcoms mean colourful characters, silly set-ups and lots of laughs. Right?
Well, kinda. As with all new shows, it was just finding its feet in its pilot outing but excuses aside, 30 Rock had a good vibe about it. I know the use of the word vibe makes me sound a bit hippy, but how else to describe it? Tina Fey clearly knows how to write and perform good comedy, co-star Alec Baldwin is a Hollywood heavyweight and hot after an Emmy win for best comedy, 30 Rock is definitely headed in the right direction.
Fey stars as Liz Lemon, the writer for the comedy sketch show ‘The Girlie Show’ starring Jenna Maroney (Ally McBeal’s Jane Krakowski.) The show was performing well in the ratings but when new network chief, Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy turned up he instigated the inevitable ‘shake-up.’ This included the sacking of Liz’s producer chum Pete, while Donaghy’s suggestion to include famed loony actor Tracy Jordan on the show was met with scorn from Lemon. She begrudgingly agreed to meet with Jordan (played by another SNL star Tracy Morgan), a meeting that took in a strip club and roadside peeing, before he dropped her back off at the studio.
Inside the studio, the cast were filming their live episode and in Liz’s absence things had fallen apart. After a cat mauled Maroney in a sketch, Liz sent Jordan on to distract the audience, with his infectious personality and gormless charm “I’m from the government and I’m here to inspect the chicken nuggets” soon proving a success: This ‘save-the-day’ moment will doubtlessly see Jordan join the cast and was a nice, cheery note for the opening outing to end on.
The character of Liz is clearly not too far removed from Fey, as the straight woman trying to maintain calm in a chaotic environment. Baldwin’s Donaghy enjoyed some ripe lines, such as this one to Liz: “I like you. You have the boldness of a much younger woman” while Morgan as Jordan (confusing, huh?) has a childish enthusiasm and larger-than-life persona that will well serve the part of a crazed one-time movie star. The other characters were only seen fleetingly, though looked like they would flesh out as the show continues.
The pacing was snappy, the production values weren’t too ropey for a sitcom and the jokes seemed to be warming up nicely. Unlike the other backstage-at-a-comedy-sketch-show programme Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, 30 Rock is simply plotted, with the emphasis on immediate jokes rather than long-winded witty wordplay. As a fan of Stusio 60, that is no critiicism, and I happily believe that both offer enough to find a place in my viewing schedules.
30 Rock might not have caught on with the masses back home in America, but with comedy legend Jerry Seinfeld set for season two – it can’t be long until everyone is quoting Jack Donaghy and not just me.Join TVScoop on Facebook for exclusive competitions and gossip