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Friday Notebook: "30 Rock"

By admin Published: May 15, 2009

"A guy crying about a chicken and a baby? I thought this was a comedy show." -- Alan Alda on "30 Rock"

Lots to write about, including the above, "The Office" (lovely), "Bones" (weird) and "Survivor" (hooray). But we'll start with "30 Rock."

Watching "30 Rock" last night had me thinking of the old line about the genius of Howard Stern. It's not that he talks about sex, or that he's outrageous. It's that he built a show that is fundamentally about him, and that people tune in not because of the guest or anything else but because they are fascinated by Howard, his opinions, his quirks.

The reason this came up with "30 Rock" is that last night's season finale was not as much about Liz and the other characters as it was about Tina Fey and the act of making "30 Rock." The line I mentioned above (as Ann V., for one, was quick to notice) was a mocking reference to the series finale of Alda's own "MASH," and particularly to a plot that was deliberately dramatic -- and so heavy-handed, in a finale that still ranks among the worst by any series. Where "30 Rock" has had its sharp edges, it was making a clear point that it still is, in its heart, a comedy.

And a comedy that is very hard to do, and wearing, and perhaps not as rewarding as it sometimes seems. The idea that "TGS" is not "Wings" is a way of saying that "30 Rock" isn't either. Two more years, tops, and the concept will be getting tired, the ideas run out.

Even now, the show can be uneven. Consider having to come up with 40 more episodes, some with multiple storylines, and the virtual certainty that -- after all the Emmys and such -- people will start muttering that the show isn't as good as it used to be. So Tina may well be determined to get hers now.

Two years may even prove to be too long, considering that for the season finale it fell back on a "We Are the World" parody. (Written, by the way, by NE Ohio's own Jeff Richmond, who is also Fey's husband.) And the season finale suggested that the show is moving into a world where Liz is no longer a multiple-level loser; carrying over from last week, when she instead of Jenna got the Time Out New York cover, this one turned into a TV star and gave her a book deal. Not to mention a sandwich from Quizno's.

But the episode had its flaws; the Tracy storyline went flat, an extended effort basically to set up the Alda joke. I expected more of a reaction from Jenna when Liz took over the talk show. (I also wonder if the constantly self-confident Jenna really would have fumbled with the question, instead of simply babbling an answer.) On the other hand, as weak as the song-parody story was, I did enjoy for the Clay Aiken/Kenneth joke and Sheryl Crow's foreign accent.

Here's a fund-raising tie-in:

NBC today released a special music video clip from NBC's "30 Rock" season three finale featuring a video message from show executive producer/writer/star Tina Fey and a star-studded musical performance of the original song, "He Needs a Kidney" on the iTunes Store (www.itunes.com).

The music video clip is available on the iTunes Store in the US for $.99. NBC, Universal Media Studios and Apple will donate 100 percent of the proceeds of all sales to the National Kidney Foundation.

In the May 14 finale titled, "Kidney Now," Grammy award-winning artists Sheryl Crow, Adam Levine, Mary J Blige, Elvis Costello, Clay Aiken, Norah Jones, Rhett Miller, Steve Earle, Rachael Yamagata, Moby, Michael McDonald, Wyclef Jean, Sara Bareilles, Cyndi Lauper, Robert Randolph, Ad-Rock, Mike D and Talib Kweli team up with Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) for a celebrity benefit concert in honor of Jack's father, Milton (guest star Alan Alda) who needs a new kidney. "30 Rock" music supervisor, Jeff Richmond, wrote and composed the song.

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