Why is 30 Rock doing another live episode? Well, NBC asked them to do it, and they were "just dumb enough to say yes," says Tina Fey in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. This Thursday, the show will air live at 8:30 p.m. ET, and then restaged at 8:30 p.m. PT.
Are live shows risky? Of course. But let's not forget that the first time they did this, back in October, the episode came off without a hitch. "Not one camera shot was missed," the episode's director, Beth McCarthy-Miller, told The Hollywood Reporter. "I mean, it was so lucky. All the special effects happened on time; all the cues happened on time. It was crazy how perfectly it all came together…Everyone was like, 'I want to do this again!'"
Just like that first live go-round, which featured guest stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Matt Damon, this year's present-tense episode will include some "exciting cameos," according to Fey. Though she didn't offer specifics, she allowed that Avery (Elizabeth Banks) and Criss (James Marsden) won't be part of this week's story. But she promised that the episode will have "some friends of comedy, some friends of 30 Rock."
The plot itself will wink at the episode's live format. "The basic premise of the episode is that Kabletown has decided that they don’t want to do TGS live anymore," Fey explained. "They want to do it more on a sort of syndicated, Tyler Perry-model where they just make a hundred of them in two days. Liz is like, 'Alright.' Basically, everyone is like, 'Okay. Great.' -- except for Kenneth because he is pure of heart and pure of television. So he spends the episode trying to convince us that live TV is important and that the studio, itself, has a history that has to be respected."
And that hints at another reason why Fey and company wanted to rise to this particular challenge again.
"It is at a time when people are always asking if broadcast TV is dying," says Fey. "The one thing that does seem to matter to people are things that are events -- like the live-results show of The Voice. People do still do want that communal experience."
Ironically, the show's season finale has already been shot, and Fey has good news to report: Both Avery and her mother (Mary Steenburgen) will be returning to thicken the plot. Does Jack (Alec Baldwin) have the emotional strength to properly handle his romantic feelings for both mother and daughter? Well, no, which will make this convergence all the more fun!
As for Liz Lemon's sad-sack love life, things may be looking up. And even Fey admits that this was unexpected. "It’s interesting because [the chemistry between Liz and Criss] wasn’t necessarily something we planned on," she told TVLine. "But I will say that James fits the show so nicely and he’s such a pleasure to have around. He plays all the jokes so well, and as a character, Criss seems to be very good for Liz. She’s always kind of bumped up against people who were so much like her, similar to her, and his kind of oppositeness has played out nicely. So I don’t know -- maybe she’ll end up with Criss!"
A happily coupled off Liz? That would be weird, but what an uplifting way to close out the season!