I didn't expect to be writing this post, back when what passes for "the season" began last fall. As a long-time Aaron Sorkin fanboy, and as someone who hasn't watched more than a YouTube's worth of SNL since, oh, 1979, and therefore knew nothing about Tina Fey, it was pretty clear where my loyalties would lie in the faux-SNL sweepstakes. But then Studio 60 turned out to be a composite of all of Sorkin's bad points with too few of his good ones. And meanwhile I was issued something of a challenge by a friend here on this blog, and ended up watching a few episodes of 30 Rock. It was a series that grew on me … I'm not the only one, most people think it took awhile for the show to hit its stride … and by the end of the season, I was hooked. I don't watch many sitcoms … I watch three on NBC on Thursdays. 30 Rock is the second-best.
What is it about 30 Rock? It's funny to me, but humor is pretty subjective. It's well-written and acted, they pay attention to the details, they sneak in lots of in-jokes without making the audience feel like we're missing all of the in-jokes. Alec Baldwin has been winning most of the acting kudos, but it's really an ensemble affair with Fey and Baldwin at the top. Mary Elizabeth Williams nailed some of the appeal:
What other show so wickedly exposes the entertainment industry as the glorified Dunder Mifflin it truly is? Tosses out carelessly scathing jibes at Ann Coulter and Brian Williams, and gives a central character a doomed love affair with Condoleezza Rice? Or serves as such a pungent post-Imus reminder that we are not in fact so p.c. we can't make abundant sport of gender and race -- it just helps to be really good at it?
This, after all, is the show that devoted a whole episode to its heroine's Elisabeth Kübler-Ross-like response to being called "the C-word," that anointed our third president a "jungle-fever haver." An equal-opportunity comic blowtorch, the series has also given us a gay Will Arnett in a shortie robe. Thrown in a character with a dubious relationship with prescription meds. Introduced a pugilistic Irish clan of con artists and possible sheep rapists. Then, for the mother of 21st century taboos, added a spectacular fireworks celebration that bears an unfortunate resemblance to a terrorist attack. "30 Rock" is the series that even dared to take on the "powerful bread lobby."
I'm pretty sure that many people read the above and think "you'd never catch ME watching that show." The thing is, it's not enough to simply go against that which is considered correct (although it's pretty damn funny when the black star of the show-within-a-show finds himself being attacked by the "Black Crusaders" … you know, Cosby, Oprah, Gordon from Sesame Street, and the afore-mentioned Condi Rice … for giving in to stereotypes about African-American behavior). No, the key phrase in Williams' review is "it just helps to be really good at it." 30 Rock took its time getting really good, but somewhere about halfway through the season, it made it.
Grade for Season One: B+
Predicted Grade for Season Two: A-