Friday, October 19, 2007

"Every time I meet a new person, I figure out how I'm gonna fight 'em.": 30 Rock

(OK. The weird ignoring of posting this week's episode photos in favor of posting photos from next week's episodes is getting on my nerves. Hence, you get a photo of those two nice hot dog guys from last episode. Thanks a lot, NBC! -- ed.)

I don't have a lot to say about this week's 30 Rock, which wasn't as disappointing as the season premiere but also didn't hit the heights of last week's episode. It was just a solid, funny episode, with some great lines but not a whole lot else beyond that. While I liked the slow building of the cookie jar collection subplot (culminating in two weirdly wonderful scenes where Jack and Kenneth confronted their family issues, which had been sublimated into the jars) and I thought the story as a whole was pretty good, I wasn't as invested in Liz trying to make Tracy's marriage work or Jenna trying to gain back all of that weight. The show is doing a great job of keeping its five main characters bouncing off of each other, but that's one of the problems.

In season one, the show went beyond the central five (Liz, Jenna, Jack, Tracy and Kenneth) to do some great stuff based around the characters who worked in The Girlie Show's writing room. Pete, Frank, Twofer, Josh and Cerie all had fairly distinct personalities (heck, even Lutz did), and when Liz was trying to ride herd over them, it led to some of the show's funniest moments. I understand that the show has tried to simplify its storylines a bit (adding in characters gradually) in order to get new viewers up to speed (and it appears to be working somewhat, as the show has gone from out-and-out bomb to disappointment in the ratings). This meant that the first week was largely focused on Jack and Liz, while the second week rolled in plots for Tracy and Jenna and this week rolled in a storyline for Kenneth.

But I miss the frantic pace that the best episodes of 30 Rock had last season, the feeling that just about anything was about to happen and that the large ensemble cast would be involved in some way. It also helped that Pete (who's still technically a regular) was always there to balance out Liz when she got too crazy or that Frank was always there to be the extra level of sleaze that the show needed sometimes. The conflicts between Twofer and Tracy or Cerie and Liz were also funny. I get that throwing a dozen characters at new viewers would be just too much for them to handle, but couldn't the show have worked a couple of them back in to the rotation in this episode.

It all comes down, I guess, to how much America wants to watch a show about show business. My guess is that most folks don't particularly want to, but the show is set there, and that's what Tina Fey knows, so there you go. To that end, the writers are playing up the "workplace" aspects of the show and playing down the show biz aspects, like the writers room. But couldn't they do crazy stories in the writers room that were more workplace-y? Newsradio was always about how hard it was to be a decent boss, and Liz could easily fall into that template with the other writers (especially as she has Jack there to be her own Jimmy James).

I'm not worried about this season of 30 Rock like some are. I'm glad that they're catching new viewers up, but I hope that the show soon shoots back into the stratospheres of craziness we know it to be capable of.

(And why bring on Buscemi if you're just going to give him a thankless part that will be over in a handful of scenes. 30 Rock isn't at the guest star whoring level of Will & Grace or anything, but it does need to figure out a way to make the guests it gets work better in the context of the show. Just a quibble.)


eBay Rookie said...

I'm waiting on the review of My Name is Earl.

That was gawd-awful crap last night. I didn't even watch the whole thing. It was such a waste of time.

Bianca Reagan said...

I want the supporting characters to come back. I love Twofer, and even though their personalities clash with mine, I need more Frank and Cerie. This is way too much Jack and Tracy. Let people appreciate their humor; don't let it overtake the show.

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