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Why "30 Rock" Is Still on My Mind Grapes

It's going to be a rough five weeks...

I'm talking of course about the fact that NBC has pulled 30 Rock for the next few weeks to burn off (I mean air) freshman comedy series Andy Barker P.I. I love Andy Richter and I love Tony Hale as much as the next Arrested Development fan, but this show can't hold a candle to my beloved 30 Rock. (Curious to see the entire six-episode run of Andy Barker? It's already available online at NBC.com.)

Over the course of the past season, 30 Rock has gone from being a trifling amusement (the beginning of the season) to a must-see comedy that I can't get off my mind grapes. I keep finding myself rewatching episodes on my TiVo (you can't imagine how many times I rewound the episode where Tracy flashes back to his drunk childhood on Nickelodeon show Ray Ray's Mystery Garage) and breathlessly awaiting its release on DVD. Considering that this series began its life hovering on the brink of cancellation, that's pretty damn fine praise. (And, while no official renewal announcement has been made, I've heard whisperings that it's 99 percent certain that 30 Rock will be returning for a second season.)

One of the things that Tina Fey and the writing staff of 30 Rock did to change the tide against the show was to re-evaluate its paradigm and transform Fey's Liz Lemon into the calm in the eye of the storm, allowing the chaos and insanity to unfold around her, rather than being the source of that drama (the Seinfeld Effect). Lemon's relative serenity has meant that instead of driving the comedy, she's become more reactive (bad in a protagonist in a drama, pretty damn funny in a comedy), allowing Tracy Morgan's Tracy, Alec Baldwin's Jack, Jane Krakowski's Jenna, and Jack McBrayer's Kenneth get the laughs.

While last night's episode ("The Fighting Irish") may not have been the strongest episode to date, it did feature some pretty memorable moments. Jack and brother Eddie (guest star Nathan Lane) reciting a litany of all of the awful things they've done to each other over the years (blinding Jack with a bottle rocket, sleeping with Eddie's prom date, convincing the other he had lupus). Tracy exploring the world's religions, including Kabbalah ("The fun parts of Judaism, mixed with magic!" Jenna advertises) and Scientology (Tracy scares the Scientologist with his rants about the 31 letters in the "white alphabet") to storefront Christianity (Kenneth's congregation dwindles on Wednesdays when American Idol returns). Liz's quest to land Flowers Guy once she gets rid of his girlfriend, accountant Liz Lemler (guest star Anna Chlumsky, all growns up). Jenna slipping on the Kandol cap before beginning her Advanced Hip Hop Cardio class. And how crushing was the ending as Liz nearly gets her guy (they share a tender moment in the elevator), shattered by Pete running up and asking for Liz's apartment key, saying that his wife knows about their lie. Ouch. Poor Liz never gets the guy, does she?

Fey might have been pushed into the role of the straight(wo)man, but the show has blossomed under this new direction, turning in dazzling plots rarely seen in workplace comedies and allowing a subtle random humor not seen since (yes, I am going to invoke its name again) Arrested Development. No, 30 Rock is not at that level yet, but it's a warm and cozy replacement for still grieving AD devotees. Now if only we could get NBC to position 30 Rock as a lead-out of The Office, we'd be set with a perfect comedy hour.

So, yes, I'm going to miss my new Thursday night fix these next few weeks (I've seen Andy Barker and it's not a suitable replacement) but I am hoping that, by the time 30 Rock comes back with new episodes, it will have returned with a lock on a second season. And I'm willing to sacrifice my much-needed Thursday night laughs if it will guarantee that.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Ghost Whisperer (CBS); 1 vs. 100 (NBC); WWE Friday Night SmackDown (CW; 8-10 pm); Grey's Anatomy (ABC); House (FOX)

9 pm: Close to Home (CBS); Las Vegas (NBC); Wife Swap (ABC); The Wedding Bells (FOX)

10 pm: NUMB3RS (CBS); Law & Order (NBC); 20/20 (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: Spoons on BBC America (11 pm ET).

It's the premiere of British sketch comedy series Spoons, in which the cast transform themselves into a series of character based on "fabulous young urbanites" in their most painful situations.

10 pm: Clatterford on BBC America (9 pm ET)

It's the premiere of Jennifer Saunders' new series Clatterford. On tonight's episode, Sal is dismayed after the death of her husband, that her son takes over his practice and gives her job to his wife, leading her to join the women's guild she had previously avoided.

10:40 pm: Little Britain on BBC America (9:40 pm ET)

Another chance to catch the antics of David Walliams and Matt Lucas as they skewer stereotypes in this hilarious sketch comedy show. In tonight's episode, Bubbles de Vere bumps into her ex-husband and his new bride at a heath spa and Dudley's Thai mail-order bride arrives.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Wow. No "30 Rock" and no "Office" on for a few weeks. It will be a sad spring indeed.
Anonymous said…
I am definitely going to miss it. Somewhere along the way it became the 2nd show I watched of the comedy block, as opposed to the fourth days later. And sometimes, with the office being disappointing lately, I'd wished I'd watched it first. I've really come to love this show.

I couldn't believe that was Anna C! I knew she looked familiar, so I stuck around for the closing credits, and then, of course, I had to rewind and watch all her scenes. I am actually glad to see her still around. I thought she had a lot of promise as more than just a kid actor.
Vance said…
So true, 30 Rock has become MUST SEE TV for me sometime in the last 2 months. And now they pull it? ARGH...
Anonymous said…
I think Liz Lemon will get her guy, at least for a while. I live in the Cleveland area and the show's taping here next week; see link below for the details! Yeah!!!!!!!

http://blog.cleveland.com/entertainment/2007/03/nbcs_30_rock_sets_an_episode_o.html
Anonymous said…
Ugh, the link didn't wrap; go to news.google.com and type in 30 Rock and Cleveland and the blog entry will come up -sorry!
Anonymous said…
You are right, 30 Rock is great, although no Arrested Dev (will anything be?). I would say you should check out episode 3 of Andy Barker though, it is a lot funnier than the pilot, and Tony Hale is "Buster" funny.

It has potential, even though the way I read about it, the show seems dead already.
Anonymous said…
As you can tell from my comment on your other 30 Rock post, I love this show. It's one of those rare comedy shows that's unique, very funny, and creative. Tina Fey's humor is, at times, very subtle but hilarious (if you get the jokes).

I truly hope NBC will sign it for a second season.

Oh, and Andy Barker, I like Andy Richter but that show doesn't look at all appealing to me. Give me my 30 Rock! :-)

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