Friday, February 01, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—30 Rock (2006-2013) ****

TV-14, 139 21-min. episodes
Creator: Tina Fey

Directors: Don Scardino, Beth McCarthy-Miller, John Riggi, Michael Engler, Gail Mancuso, Adam Bernstein, Ken Whittingham, Jeff Richmond, Stephen Lee Davis, Scott Ellis, Steve Buscemi, Tricia Brock, Todd Holland, Millicent Shelton, Claire Cowperthwaite, Linda Mendoza

Writers: Tina Fey, Robert Carlock, Donald Glover, Jack Burditt, Matt Hubbard, Kay Cannon, Ron Weiner, John Riggi, Tracey Wigfield, Dylan Morgan, Josh Siegal, Vali Chandrasekaran, Tom Ceraulo, Luke Del Tredici, Brett Baer, Dave Finkel, Jon Pollack, Tami Sagher, Jon Haller, Paula Pell, Sam Means, Colleen McGuinness

Starring: Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, Jack McBrayer, Scott Adsit, Judah Friedlander

Guest starring: Keith Powell, Katrina Bowden, Kevin Brown, Grizz Chapman, John Lutz, Maulik Pancholy, Lonny Ross, Chris Parnell, Sue Galloway, Rachel Dratch, Dean Winters, Elizabeth Banks, Will Forte, James Marsden, Jason Sudeikis, Cheyenne Jackson, Kristen Schaal, Sherri Shepherd, Marceline Hugot, Subhas Ramsaywack, Elaine Stritch, Will Arnett, Ken Howard, Brian Williams, Jon Hamm, Rip Torn, Thomas Roberts, Steve Buscemi, Selma Hayek, Matt Lauer, Mary Steenburgen, Meredith Vieira, Julianne Moore, Lester Holt, Edie Falco, Jimmy Fallon, Matt Damon, John McEnroe, Michael Sheen, Tituss Burgess, Kelsey Grammer, Emily Mortimer, Chloë Grace Moretz, Alan Alda, Patti LuPone, Margaret Cho, Bobb’e J. Thompson, Billy Bush, Megan Mullally, Steve Higgins, Will Ferrell, Fred Armisen, Denise Richards, Ghostface Killah, Al Gore, Jan Hooks, James Rebhorn, Susan Sarandon, Buck Henry, Paul Sheer, Ann Curry, Al Roker, Michael Benjamin Washington, Michael Keaton, Isabella Rossellini, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Hanks, Matthew Broderick, Rachel Ray, Kelly Ripa

Another television show ends for good for me this year, and the year is still so young. I didn’t start watching “30 Rock” until the end of its first season. I don’t think I got a DVR until the start of the 2007 Fall season. I must’ve been busy when the show started. Anyway, once I did start watching, I never stopped.

“30 Rock” is one of the most original sitcoms ever to air on network television. Its brand of comedy owes more to animation than it does to traditional live action sitcoms. Reality was never something anyone in the “30 Rock” universe ever really had to adhere to. Could Tracy Jordan exist in real life? Not a chance. His own stupidity or someone else’s frustration with him would’ve had him dead before he ever left grade school. Jenna Maroney’s fate would’ve been similar in a less cartoony reality.

While the exaggeration of corporate greed and ego that is Jack Donaghy certainly exists in real life, nobody could ever get away with being quite so perpetually right (in every sense of the word) as the man who had far too much to do with one of the network’s shows than any division head/CEO ever could. Kenneth’s perpetual hickdom would’ve cracked and corrupted long ago for a real hillbilly.

Only Liz Lemon seemed based in anything close to a real world, and even she had issues that would’ve precluded some sort of institutionalization. But, Liz and Jack (not Tracy or Jenna) did have some insight into how the world works, or more often doesn’t. This allowed the audience to connect and yet live out some sort of cartoonish fantasy of life backstage at a live television sketch comedy show. Perhaps, that’s really how the people are at Saturday Night Live. But I doubt it. “30 Rock” is a more magical place than anyplace real.

Heck, one episode even featured the entire cast as Muppet versions of themselves thanks to the genius idea of showing us all what the world looked like through Kenneth’s eyes.

It says something about the show that so many big name stars were willing, even wanted to appear on the show. I’ve never had a guest star list quite like the one I had to compile for this show, and I didn’t even include anyone who appeared in less than two shows. From news anchors to the biggest name movie stars, anyone in Hollywood could appear on “30 Rock”. Sometimes they were playing fictionalized versions of themselves (Brian Williams, Denise Richards). Sometimes they played characters with major plot lines (Elizabeth Banks, Matt Damon, James Marsden, Jon Hamm). Either way, anyone who ever showed up on “30 Rock” always added to the chaos and the life of the storylines; and they always looked like they were having too much fun.

“30 Rock” also opened a huge door to female television creators. Sure, there were pioneers before Tina Fey, but none were quite as high profile as what Fey was able to accomplish with her little show that could. After the semi success of the series, more female headlining shows started to pop up (“Parks & Recreation”) and more female created shows started finding wider success (“Girls”, “Nurse Jackie”, “New Girl”).

Whether you watched it or not, “30 Rock” left a mark on television that everyone has felt. It was revolutionary, it was unusual, it was quirky, but most of all, it was a helluv funny. Blerg.

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