Share this article

print logo

NBC looks for '30 Rock' to get on a roll

You may recall the recent "Saturday Night Live" exchange about "30 Rock" between Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Lorne Michaels, the executive producer of both shows.

When Gov. Palin asked why they didn't do the "30 Rock" sketch she wrote for Tina Fey's NBC series, Michaels dryly replied: "Honestly, not enough people know that show."

Sad but true.

But NBC which desperately needs some good news this season is hoping the attention that Fey has received playing Palin, the show's back-to-back Emmy wins as best comedy and the Emmy acting wins by Fey and co-star Alec Baldwin will get viewers on board.

It may not work, as evidenced by the plight of Fox's "Arrested Development," another show that was an acquired taste and won few Nielsen votes despite its Emmy wins.

Buffalo has been among the slowest markets to embrace "30 Rock," which returns tonight at 9:30 p.m. with the first of two terrific back-to-back episodes that feature Megan Mullally ("Will & Grace") and Oprah Winfrey, respectively.

Since most Western New Yorkers don't know "30 Rock" from Chris Rock, a little explanation of the characters is needed.

The series, which premiered on NBC the same season that Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" flopped, is set inside a fictional sketch comedy version of "Saturday Night Live" that is written by Liz Lemon, the character played by Fey.

She's a single woman in her 30s with a challenged romantic life whose family is her co-workers. Like most sitcoms, the characters are stereotypes. Baldwin plays her foolish boss, network president Jack Donaghy. Jack took a job with Homeland Security last season and is no longer the boss now, but he'll do practically anything to get his job back from Devin Banks (Will Arnett of "Arrested Development," who also is Amy Poehler's husband), who is running the network now.

The cast also includes Jane Krakowski as Jenna Maroney, one of the stars of the show and her insecure friend; Tracy Morgan as the show's outlandish star, Tracy Jordan; Jack McBrayer as the naive and sweet Kenneth the Page; Scott Adsit as producer Pete Hornberger; and Judah Friedlander as Frank, the dry-witted slacker of the staff.

Created by Fey, the show skewers television, television executives, performing divas and America's fascination with celebrities.

Sometimes, the scripts are too clever for their own good. Some lines may go over the head of viewers who aren't strong students of pop culture and wouldn't know Colin Firth from Colin Powell.

Even with expectations high, tonight's opener exceeds them with a hysterically funny episode in which Liz tries to impress an adoption agency worker (Mullally) into believing that she would be a fit mother.

"Is it wrong that I want to have [a child] to grow up and resent me?" asks Liz.

She needs her staff to act normal and illustrate that she works in a family-friendly environment, which is about as likely to happen as Palin is to capture a liberal's vote on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Jenna is most perturbed that Tracy isn't sharing the residuals for the video game he invented with the staff's help.

The scenes and jokes fly by like shootings in a video game, often hitting their targets a few seconds after they are launched in one of the series' funniest episodes.

Next week's episode featuring Oprah is a close second and includes some political humor. Liz is going to Oprah country -- Chicago -- because she wants to vote in a swing state.

The episode also has fun at the expense of NBC's Olympic coverage and drops in lines about women's soccer, racial and sexual stereotyping, "the poor defensiveless cable company," "Boston Legal," "Star Trek," Adrien Brody, Halle Berry, Katie Couric, Hillary Clinton, President Bush's approval rating and politics in John McCain's state.

"Do you know it is still illegal to be black in Arizona?" claims Tracy.

But my favorite line is the advice that Jack gives Liz after she mistakenly does something that works. "Be a white man, take credit," said Jack.

Fey deserves a whole lot of credit for "30 Rock" even if its approval rating unfortunately has even been lower than President Bush's the last two years.



"30 Rock"

Review: Four stars (out of four)

9:30 tonight Channel 2

There are no comments - be the first to comment