Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What I'm Watching: 30 Rock

30 Rock: Season 5, Episode 4 “Live Show” (B-)

I've never been a big fan of the idea of a live show, and the most recent major effort I saw, the Santos-Vinick debate episode of “The West Wing,” didn't impress me too much since I think it would have worked much better as a pre-filmed, dramatized episode. My main problem with this show doing a live episode is that it leads to two things: mimicking “Saturday Night Live” since a good portion of the cast members have appeared on that show at some point, and utilizing a laugh track. The trouble is, this is a show that was built on not having a laugh track and letting the jokes speak for themselves, and therefore reminds of the time “Scrubs” re-imagined itself for an episode (with the help of Clay Aiken) as a laugh-track comedy, and it just didn't work. Fortunately, most of the jokes are funny enough and it's still a decent, if weak, episode. Everyone forgetting Liz's birthday is hardly a surprise, and beyond that, the show doesn't really have any other threads (I'm not sure Jack quitting drinking counts). The guest appearance of Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Flashback Liz was clever, and that's a fun way in which this show took advantage of the live format. The commercial segments with Chris Parnell and Jon Hamm were amusing, and that's not something this typically tends to do. This live show is a peek into an alternate reality where this show would have focused much, much more on the sketches, like the short-lived “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” did at first, and I think it's a format that only works somewhat well.

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