The comedy's live episode went off without a hitch, even though the whole plot made fun of live television gone wrong
Jennifer Graham Kizer -
October 14, 2010
Leave it to NBC's 30 Rock to do a live episode chock full of gags about… live TV. Naturally, Tina Fey and company know what goes through your mind when you hear the words "live television." "Will something go wrong?" you wonder. "Will someone crack up or forget a line? And won't it look weird?"
Within the first ten minutes, the east coast episode addressed all of those questions head-on. "Does it seem weird in here to you?" Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) asks Liz Lemon (Fey) in the opening scene. Of course it does -- the look of live television is crisper, less polished. If you're a regular viewer who's seen Lemon stride into Jack's office a dozen times or more, then yes, it's jarring to "see every line and pore" on the actor's faces, and Jack naturally points this out. "It looks like a Mexican soap opera in here," he quips. It's the perfect start to an episode full of screwball antics and choppy camerawork -- both hallmarks of live comedy.
Liz's storyline (everyone forgets her 40th birthday) is typical 30 Rock fare. But the subplots were obviously tailored for this episode: Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) deliberately breaks character during his skits, a stunt which he alone finds hilarious. Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski), humiliated by how his lack of professionalism reflects on her, seeks revenge through a planned wardrobe malfunction, a.k.a. "slipping a nip."
Guest stars like Matt Damon (Lemon's boyfriend, Carol), Jon Hamm (Dr. Drew Baird) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (as Lemon in her own fantasy of herself) all go along with the playful, sight gag-based humor.
The overall effect? It was like watching the Saturday Night Live version of 30 Rock. And yes, that's a little trippy, considering it's a sitcom about life behind the scenes at a show like Saturday Night Live. (Plus the episode was filmed in the studio where SNL films, rather than its usual set, a Queens soundstage.) We've seen almost every one of these actors on SNL already -- as either a cast member or a host -- and the episode was peppered with former SNL actors, like Chris Parnell and Rachel Dratch. Once you got with the SNL vibe, the whole experience was a hoot.
At the end, the actors seemed relieved. "We did it!" Krakowski cried. "We did it once," Fey replied. She was clearly already thinking about the next live performance, at 8:30 p.m. Pacific Time.
Did you think 30 Rock pulled off the live episode?