Friday, October 15, 2010

"30 Rock" Live -- Funny as Usual!


Opinions are a little mixed about last night's "Live Show" on 30 Rock, performed two times for East and West time periods, but I thought it was charming, technically interesting and imaginative, and most importantly funny, just like all episodes of what is clearly the apex of today's crop of smart non-family comedy series. From the beginning, with Jack's apt "Mexican soap opera" line, to the fun cameos by returning Jon Hamm as Dr. Drew Baird and Matt Damon as Liz' airline captain beau, to America's other female comic treasure Julia Louis-Dreyfus playing Tina Fey's Liz in flashback, and everything in-between, "Live Show" was a delight.

I was happy to see that the episode had the usual wonderful 30 Rock musical score, composed by show producer Jeff Richmond. Every week the music on 30 Rock is an integral part of what makes it such a unique achievement; it's bright, clever, intelligent and sets the show far apart. (At least Richmond got an Emmy nomination back in 2007 for the Main Title Theme Music, and there's a 30 Rock CD coming out next month. That should be good.)

NBC has the two versions of "Live Show" available on their website, and it's worth watching both. In the first place 30 Rock always stands up to multiple viewings, and this curiosity of an episode is no exception. Chief differences between the Coasts are different opening theme song renditions, different faux commercials by Jon Hamm and Chris Parnell as Dr. Leo Spaceman, different lines for Julia Louis-Dreyfus in a scene with the always-great Alec Baldwin as Jack, and other slight variances. Everything's funny, East or West.

Once again, special sighs for the scintillating and irresistible Jon Hamm. We so seldom see him smile on Mad Men that it's such a revelation when he does...and he's so good at comedy! Here are the two versions of his bit from last night's show.

East Coast Version



West Coast Version




Okay, so maybe everything last night did look and sound just like Saturday Night Live, but that doesn't take anything away from the awesome job done by the entire 30 Rock ensemble. No matter what else happens with television, we know there's something extra special when something is live. Even a brilliantly-scripted TV comedy could have gone either way -- to glory or up in flames -- and as we saw this week with the Chilean miners' rescue, when live TV is good, it's really good.

Three cheers for 30 Rock and the "Live Show"!

(P.S.: I also loved that Rachel Dratch's cleaning lady had a thing for Happy Days, and especially Jack's desperate cry of "Everybody loves the Fonz!" when Liz questioned why her birthday cake had Henry Winkler's picture on it. In a meta sense, the shout-out to the classic sitcom also references that the show's best episodes were in the first two seasons when Happy Days was a single camera filmed show -- like 30 Rock usually is -- and the show got gimmicky when it went to filmed before a live audience. Something about the presence of an audience doesn't always do any favors for quality!)

1 comment:

Jane said...

I did actually like the "everyone loves the Fonz" line as well as all the guest stars (Jon Hamm, Matt Damon, Julia Louis-Dreyfus). But I the videotape visuals in HD gave me a stomach ache...uch, all those blotches and sags and pores the size of the Grand Canyon! Also, the Saturday Night Live feel didn't work for me either. I'm probably just resistant to change. I wanted desperately to like it, but it felt over the top and slap sticky to me.