Further proof that Channel 5 pwns the rest of terrestrial television in the UK was provided by their dual acquisition of Californication and 30 Rock – the latter being Tina Fey‘s brilliant comedy following the behind-the-scenes action of The Girlie Show, a fictional female sketch show taken over as a vehicle by god awful black comic Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan). Fey plays Liz Lemon, the put-upon lead writer of The Girlie Show as she plays go-between between the clinically insane Jordan, the main actress Jenna (Jane Krakowski) , and studio boss Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin). Liz has to deal with Jack’s management-speak, Tracy’s domestic and mental health issues and Jenna’s addiction to fame. You can see this girl’s going to have her hands full.
"30 Rock is an incredibly strong comedy because there are four lead characters strong enough to carry their own show."
30 Rock is an incredibly strong comedy because there are four lead characters strong enough to carry their own show. Liz Lemon is the socially retarded high achiever screwing up all her relationships, Tracy Jordan is the egg-hatched offspring of Eddie Murphy and Dennis Rodman – a cross-dressing mentally ill accident waiting to happen, Jack Donaghy is the demographics obsessed marketing genius determined to apply economic rationalist principles to comedy, Jenna is the arch media whore – willing to do anything and any one to raise her profile. When any of these characters clash it’s comedy hog heaven.
"Fey complained at the time that she was going up against the most powerful writer in Hollywood (Aaron Sorkin). And guess what? She won."
The showed gained inevitable comparisons to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Fey complained at the time that she was going up against the most powerful writer on television (Aaron Sorkin). And guess what? She won. Studio 60 is no longer with us and 30 Rock is still going strong. Four shows into its second season and it’s already got a lifetime of brilliant moments – Jenna’s weight gain and her subsequent Me Want Food catchphrase, Tracy Jordan’s filmHonky Grandma Be Trippin’, The Fighting Irish episode where Jack confronts his brawling drunken siblings (they’re Micks – what do you expect?). And there are lots more.
"It does all this at lightning pace while actually making you laugh. Remember making people laugh Vivienne Vyle? Of course you don’t, unless you’re suffering from false memory syndrome."
It’s one of the best written shows on the box – brilliantly economical with the a, b and c stories set up in a flash and intertwined with a deftness of touch most comedies would die for. The dialogue is terrific, the characters are consistent, conflict arises naturally from the action of the characters, nothing ever feels forced and it does all this at lightning pace while actually making you laugh. Remember making people laugh Vivienne Vyle? Of course you don’t, unless you’re suffering from false memory syndrome .
"Alec Baldwin pulls off one of the best comic vignettes you’ll ever see."
There’s a scene in the current episode where Jack Donaghy, ever the hands-on control freak, roleplays as both Tracy’s father and mother in Tracy’s therapy. Alec Baldwin pulls off one of the best comic vignettes you’ll ever see. It must have been funny in the shooting script but he absolutely knocks it out of the park. He may be having family issues but the ironic refrain from Team America that Baldwin is the best actor in the world doesn’t look so dumb on this performance.
"The ironic refrain from Team America that Baldwin is the best actor in the world doesn’t look so dumb on this performance."
I haven’t even mentioned the marvellous pie of Cerie (Katrina Bowden) – a willowy blonde piece of intern pie who freaks Liz out with her inappropriate dress around the office. That particular scene is another triumph for Fey, brilliantly exposing Lemon’s awkwardness, insecurity and paranoia. Her background as performer and lead writer on Saturday Night Live has clearly given her a wealth of material to construct this smart, funny brilliant show. It might be useful for something after all.
The best thing about it: Alec Baldwin – the best actor in the world
The worst thing about it: Not enough Cerie pie
The verdict on 30 Rock: 30 rocks on.
Marks out of 10: 9