30 Rock -- an early look
The Premise: Tina Fey stars as Liz Lemon, the head writer and producer for a female themed sketch comedy show called The Girlie Show. Everything was going great until Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) was promoted from GE's Microwave Research Unit to head NBC's east-coast programming. He sees it as his mission to fix The Girlie Show, despite Liz's insistence that nothing is broken.
My Thoughts: First things first. 30 Rock is not Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Everybody heard it all in the off-season. NBC was pushing out two shows based on the behind-the-scenes action of a sketch comedy show. Here's the difference. Studio 60 is a brilliantly written, wonderfully acted, hour-long drama that's arguably the best new show of the fall season. 30 Rock, on the other hand, is a bland, flat, unimaginative half-hour comedy that seems forced and under-uses it's very talented cast.
I've screened the pilot episode twice now and it pains me to know that Tina Fey is behind it. The show is very much in Fey's voice, and because of that, the episode contains numerous laugh-out-loud moments. But don't let that fool you.
The show is ripe with clichés and stereotypes including Tracy Morgan's Eddie Murphy-esqe portrayal as black comedian Tracy Jordan. That sentence would have sounded better if the writer's had taken eight seconds to give Morgan's character a name different than his own. I like Joe.
But the clichés, stereotypes, and inside jokes don't end there. I feel as though the title of the show will be lost on a large majority of people, and unless you've actually toured NBC in New York or Los Angeles, most folks aren't going to know what an NBC Page is either.
The two shining points are Jane Krakowski and Baldwin. Both deliver great performances. The role of Jenna DeCarlo (the show's star) was originally written for Rachael Dratch and was then re-cast for Krakowski. Smart move. The romantic tension that undoubtedly will manifest between Jenna and Jack would just not be as believable if Dratch was still in place. However, Baldwin made his mark too. We've all seen his numerous SNL hosting gigs and the way he delivers lines is hilarious. Look for plenty of that here.
Overall, I'm unimpressed and don't expect this show to last beyond the fall. 30 Rock premieres Wednesday, October 11 at 8PM on NBC.