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Friday, November 14, 2008

Is 30 Rock's Liz Lemon the new Mary Richards?


NUP_109306_0103Thank you, Sarah Palin.

Yes, folks, you don't need new glasses and it ain't a misprint. I'm giving credit where credit is due--and that "you betcha" gal from way up north deserves a big hug for doing at least one thing right (besides helping McCain lose). The lady saved 30 Rock's butt. Wait a minute, maybe I should be thanking her running mate instead since he is the one who selected her. Whatever. If Palin hadn't come on to the national scene and Tina Fey hadn't impersonated her so perfectly on Saturday Night Live, the actress's comedy series may have bit the dust this season. Despite its critical success and a few Emmy Awards, 30 Rock struggled to find viewers (it averaged 5.8 million viewers and ranked 102 out of 142 shows during its first season). But with Fey's Palin becoming an overnight sensation, the sitcom's third season premiere was seen by 8.5 million viewers, which was an increase of 21% from its second season debut. People are finally discovering the show--like myself. I watched an episode during its first season, and it didn't really do much for me. I liked Tina Fey's Liz Lemon, the head writer of The Girlie Show, and Alec Baldwin as her boss, network executive Jack Donaghy, but I felt the rest of the cast was underused--especially the wonderful Jane Krakowski (whom I loved as Elaine on Ally McBeal)--and Tracy Jordan's character was more annoying than funny. It also didn't help that 30 Rock was up against ABC's Ugly Betty, which is still one of my favorite shows.

Fortunately, NBC has moved 30 Rock into the timeslot after The Office (which I also adore), and everyone in America now loves Tina Fey due to her Palin impersonation (which I will dearly miss). I've watched the first three episodes of the show this season, and though I'm a bit concerned by the use of so many guest stars, I think the series has almost reached the legendary heights of The Mary Tyler Moore Show--but it's not quite there yet. I enjoyed the season opener with the delightful Megan Mullally as an adoption agency evaluator. Then I really liked last week's Oprah episode. And finally with last night's "The One with the Cast of Night Court" (the clever title paying homage to guest star Jennifer Aniston's old show, Friends), I fell madly in love with 30 Rock. It was a perfect episode with both main storylines working well together and being equally hilarious. I thought it was truly inspired--and very bizarre--to have Tracy trying to cheer up Kenneth by filming a proper series finale of another old NBC show, Night Court (1984-92), with help from its former cast members Harry Anderson, Markie Post and Charlie Robinson. And Aniston's appearance as Liz's crazy friend was a lot of fun as Liz dealt with Jack's involvement with the woman. I especially liked Jane Krakowski's Jenna, who shined as Sparky Monroe, the werewolf lawyer on Night Court--a totally absurd plot twist that made me laugh out loud. I think my favorite character on the show is NBC page Kenneth (Jack McBrayer), who makes me smile without even saying a word.

So is Liz Lemon the new Mary Richards? Yes, she is. And her relationship with Jack is very reminiscent of Mary's with her boss, Lou Grant. Tracy appears to be the Ted Baxter of the show, while Kenneth is definitely a Georgette (though I doubt he and Tracy will ever get married--but who knows). I'm not sure who Jenna represents--is she Rhoda or Sue Ann or a combination of the two? And the character of Pete (Scott Adsit), the producer of The Girlie Show (which I believe has been renamed TGS with Tracy Jordan), kind of reminds me of Murray Slaughter, who always had a crush on Mary. 30 Rock's humor is more off-the-wall than Mary's ever was. Every show is like the classic Mary episode, "Chuckles Bites The Dust", in which a clown gets shelled to death by a rogue elephant--and which was the exception rather than the rule for that sitcom. I would like to see a little more character development on 30 Rock--along with all the wacky stuff. The show could someday rank right up there alongside Mary's show as a classic comedy if it continues on its current path of hilarity. I am hoping that all the guest stars go away after the November sweeps (it reminds me too much of the last few seasons of Will & Grace, which was so much better when it just focused on its four core characters). It's okay to have an occasional guest star, but not every single week--especially when you already have such great regular characters to write for. Tina Fey has got herself a winner with 30 Rock, which I'm looking forward to watching for many years to come (at least seven--that's how long Mary ran). But she really should write a thank-you letter to Sarah Palin for presenting her with so many comic opportunities in the past few months. Without Bible Spice, 30 Rock would not be where it is today. And perhaps Tina's impersonation could make a special appearance on the show--for February sweeps? Now there's a guest star I wouldn't mind seeing.

4 comments:

MaxStone01 said...

Glad to see you've finally come around to 30 ROCK! The Oprah episode was classic and the Night Court episode was exceptional as well (how on earth did they get Warner Brothers to let them "infringe on their intellectual property"?) If you want to see a totally hilarious, bizarro episode, check out the one with Paul Reubens. It has to be seen to be believed! We've been on board with 30 ROCK since day one and I'm so happy to see it finally getting the viewers it so richly deserves!

Deep Dish said...

I might have to check out the first two seasons of the show to see what I've missed. I'm always late to the party.

Eoghan said...

I love 30 Rock and I'm gonna miss Tina's Sarah Palin impression too! Great blog. Gonna start coming regularly.

Deep Dish said...

Thanks for checking out the Dish, Eoghan!