Friday, April 02, 2010

30 Rock (2006-present)

USA, TV series (NBC)
Creator: Tina Fey
Cast: Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer, Scott Adsit, Judah Friedlander, Alec Baldwin, Jane Krakowski, Keith Powell, Katrina Bowden, Maulik Pancholy

Maybe ultimately you have to slot "30 Rock" into something like feel-good sitcom rather than the kind of all-out laugh fest that eschews heart like "Seinfeld." It's extremely likeable, as warm as "Mary Tyler Moore" ever was. On the other hand, there are several items that go directly to 11 on the comedy meter: Tina Fey (to whom I credit no small part for saving our country from itself) is a comic genius, there I've said it, which comes out first in the nuanced timing of her performance (all of her performance), and then in the brilliant shtick that she not only seems to know how to draw from but then to deploy perfectly from practically everything she can get her hands on—the cast most obviously, but the music and other trappings, the throwaways everywhere (the food Liz Lemon is forever spilling on herself, Jack Donaghy dating Condoleeza Rice, GE's ever-labyrinthine holdings, "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah"), all of popular culture, screwball comedy, single women tropes and cliches. Her family is the emotionally healthiest family anyone on TV has ever had, no small feat itself, and better, it's hilarious. I didn't know Alec Baldwin could be this loose and fresh and edgy. When did this happen? Where did it come from? Tracy Morgan is always perfectly ridiculous, and so is Jane Krakowski, who is even more than that—she and her perpetual little smirk are often positively inspired. Jack McBrayer, a/k/a Kenneth the Page, gets better and more dominating with every season, and he is like no character I have seen before anywhere (outside of the Louisiana governorship), a weird amalgam of denied gay, redneck, starfucker hanger-on, and prim good boy, and you never know what he's going to do next, up to and including fits of braying like a donkey. I am recommending this show so enthusiastically that I sincerely hope I am not setting anyone up for disappointment. I know it's won boatloads of Emmys without benefit of ratings impact—one of those. I don't want to jinx anything for anyone. I just want stuff this good on TV 24-7. Is that asking so much?

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