Friday, 19 October 2007

30 ROCK 1.2 - "The Aftermath"

Friday, 19 October 2007
Writer: Tina Fey
Director: Adam Bernstein

Cast: Tracy Morgan (Tracy Jordan), Alec Baldwin (Jack Donaghy), Judah Friedlander (Frank), Tina Fey (Liz Lemon), Scott Adsit (Pete Hornberger), Jane Krakowski (Jenna Maroney), Jack McBrayer (Kenneth the Page), Keith Powell (Toofer), Katrina Bowden (Cerie), Lonny Ross (Josh), Teddy Coluca (Stage Manager), Maulik Pancholy (Jonathan), Rachel Dratch (Maria), Sorab Wadia (Tourist), Kevin Scanlon (Harbor Patrolman), Adrienne Frost (Tourist) & Tom Broecker (Lee)

Tracy Jordan's arrival annoys everyone involved on the show, except for Jack Donaghy, so reconciliation is required...

"Paranoid? Well, that just confirms all my suspicions!"
-- Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski)

It's only episode 2, but I'm under 30 Rock's spell. It's been awhile since a new sitcom arrived with a pure intent to make you giggle, without being constrained by realism. As much as I like stuff like The Office and Extras, sometimes you just want something fast, lean, keen and under no pretensions.

30 Rock's premise (behind-the-scenes at a TV show) leads to expectation of another oh-so-insightful peep behind the curtain of TV production, but there are no painful or downbeat laughs here. It's high-energy nuttiness, but devoid of the total lunacy that makes comedies like Scrubs so distancing and false.

Following the Pilot, The Aftermath shows us the... well, the clue's in the title. Incoming movie comedian Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) is immediately hated by everyone but the guy who hired him, Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin).

Tracy's brash, mouthy, incompetent and apparently insane, but also a hot new star. His impromptu appearance on The Girlie Show last week caused a sensation, so it's not long before the show is rebranded TGS With Tracy Jordan and Girlie Show star Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) is being nudged out of the limelight...

The only thing that's causing me concern at the moment is how easily Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) allows herself to be bulldozed by corporate Donaghy! As 30 Rock's lead, Liz is charming enough as our focus, but she's lacking in conviction, and doesn't show much distress over changes to her show. If a crazy movie star practically hijacked my sketch show, I'd be more upset than Liz seems to be!

Maybe that's because we're not meant to actively hate Jack Donaghy, who seems to be well-meaning and misguided, rather than intentionally disruptive. Alec Baldwin has an unforeseen gift for comedy, stealing every scene he's in with his deadpan delivery and maddening behaviour. A real gem.

The episode builds towards a reconciliation taking place, with The Girlie Show's cast and crew upset and disappointed by both Liz and Tracy. Amends are made when Tracy stages a surprisingly tasteful party aboard a luxury yacht, only for Liz to discover Tracy doesn't own the boat...

While the plots thus far haven't been particularly great, there are some wickedly funny and childishly silly scenes. I particularly liked Tracy's deluded inability to read from idiot boards, Donaghy learning everyone's roles using photo cards, and a recurring gag where Liz's private conversations are caught on microphones and/or TV cameras. It's an oldie, but a goodie!

It's only episode 2, but if they can give Liz a backbone and develop the sketchy supporting cast, 30 Rock has the performances and gag quotient to make it a show I'm already looking forward to each week. But, 10:45 pm? Far too late, channel Five...

18 October 2007
Five, 10.45 pm