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The Crevasse Beckons: An Advance Review of Season Four of NBC's "30 Rock"

It's crazy to me that I'm reviewing the fourth season opener for NBC's deliciously absurd comedy 30 Rock.

After all, it seemed as though the hyper-intelligent brainchild of creator Tina Fey would be canceled only a few weeks into its initial run, but now the possibility of such talk seems foolhardy at best as 30 Rock has blossomed into one of the most articulate and savvy meta comedies ever to grace the small screen. Proving that the pen is mightier than the sword, Fey and her crack team of writers offer a weekly dose of savage humor, quirky characters, and bizarre situations on the set of show-within-a-show TGS.

That the biting wit of the series is often directed at network NBC is one of the joys of this self-aware series. And that hasn't changed in the first two episodes of 30 Rock's fourth season, which were sent out for review. The season's first episode ("Season Four") contains some of the most pointed and acidic comments towards the Peacock yet, including a not-so-thinly-veiled attack at Jay Leno's eponymous 10 pm show, which is the lead-out of 30 Rock.

Is it a case of biting the hand that feeds you? Not quite. As Fey and her writing team assiduously parody the GE corporate ownership of NBC, a real-life drama is currently unfolding that might see ownership of NBC (and the larger NBC Universal parent company) change hands. The comments made on 30 Rock therefore are not only biting but also incredibly prescient; they also prove that there are no sacred cows to be avoided in the humor here, no target safe from parody or persecution, even the series' own network.

In both "Season Four" and the season's second sensational episode, "Into the Crevasse," we're treated to a number of storylines that play up those very uncertainties currently swirling around NBC's future. There's the return of Will Arnett's unctuous suit Devon Banks, a Congressional hearing into misuse of company transportation, a page strike after overtime is cut, and a country-style makeover for Jane Krakowski's Jenna for a network promo for off-season tennis, now the only sport on NBC, that's designed to appeal to "real" Americans.

Thankfully, time hasn't dulled 30 Rock's rapier wit or its predilection for off-kilter comedy. I don't want to give away too many of the fourth season's plotlines but I'll say that the situations haven't changed drastically for our characters but there's also a sense of momentum as well.

Liz Lemon, while having gained a modicum of success thanks to a best-seller based on her "Dealbreakers" sketch, is still flailing in her professional and personal life and still devotes most of her time to dealing with the tantrums and traumas of her self-absorbed cast and crew, made more difficult when Jack tasks her with finding a mainstream-friendly new cast member for TGS. Likewise, Jack Donaghy is still attempting to keep the company afloat, this time attempting to come up with a genius new take on the microwave oven. (Look for a fantastic aside involving a "vintage" microwave commercial, complete with 1950s-style dancers.)

Tracy's fury over learning that Liz based most of her book on his eccentric behaviors turns on his producer and wants to enact a revenge... a revenge which manifests itself in a hilarious, uh, adult-themed way. Kenneth and Jack row over a mistakenly seen "extremely American" bonus check, leading Kenneth to organize the pages (and, well, the bucket drummers) into a strike that pulls in all manner of oddballs and attention-seekers.

While the humor is whip-smart, there's also something innately comforting about having 30 Rock back on the air. There are few series that are more politically-minded or critical of current events than 30 Rock. The series' absurdist tone makes it quite easy to slip in all manner of political or social jabs or mentions as well as some TiVo-friendly throwaway lines and sight gags. I'm chuffed to see that this hasn't changed in the series' fourth season, which promises to be just as clever, cutting, and imminently quotable as what's come before. Now go get yourself some cheesy blasters and prepare to laugh until you cry.

Season Four of 30 Rock premieres Thursday evening at 9:30 pm ET/PT on NBC.


Mimi C said…
This is what I've been waiting for all fall. I'm so glad the TGS gang is back.
Veronica said…
Sooooo happy that 30 Rock is back. I can't wait!
S Broggie said…
Great review. Glad it's that time of year again!

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