×

30 Rock

The symbolism of Jerry Seinfeld's appearance on "30 Rock's" season premiere isn't hard to grasp -- attempting to link the sophomore sitcom to NBC's comedic heyday, as opposed to its perceived status as the next "Arrested Development," a critical darling whose Emmy win won't keep the dogs at bay forever.

With:
Liz Lemon - Tina Fey Jack Donaghy - Alec Baldwin Tracy Jordan - Tracy Morgan Jenna Maroney - Jane Krakowski Kenneth - Jack McBrayer Pete Hornberger - Scott Adsit Frank - Judah Friedlander Josh Girard - Lonny Ross Toofer - Keith Powell Cerie - Katrina Bowden

The symbolism of Jerry Seinfeld’s appearance on “30 Rock’s” season premiere isn’t hard to grasp – attempting to link the sophomore sitcom to NBC’s comedic heyday, as opposed to its perceived status as the next “Arrested Development,” a critical darling whose Emmy win won’t keep the dogs at bay forever. This week’s debut, however, neatly highlights this series’ strengths and weaknesses, elevated by moments of inspiration and Alec Baldwin’s brilliance and leavened by considerably-less-flattering silliness. Situated against formidable Thursday-night competition, fans should savor a piece of this “Rock” while they can.

As writer Liz Lemon (series creator Tina Fey) continues to grapple with her moribund romantic life, NBC honcho Jack Donaghy (Baldwin) is actually coming off a terrific summer, with replacements like “M.I.L.F. Island” having packed in viewers. The GE shill’s latest bright idea, however, is rather dicey from a legal standpoint – splicing footage of “Seinfeld” into existing NBC shows as part of a stunt he calls “Seinfeldvision.”

Meanwhile, sketch comedy star Jenna (Jane Krakowski) has packed on some pounds by sampling the props in a “Mystic Pizza” musical, and in an effort to control daft co-star Tracy (Tracy Morgan), fresh-faced page Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) is assigned to become his on-set handler, resulting in a peculiar kind of marriage.

Fey’s acting has improved markedly since the series began, and the program has proved more inventive than expected in balancing personal indignities with show-within-a-show backstage politics. The writers also clearly revel in biting the hands that feed them, such as when Seinfeld contemplates what shows he’d be willing to support, and responds, “I like `Lost.’ Is that you guys?”

Still, “Rock” simply isn’t the great show that NBC’s comedic standard-bearer “The Office” has become, only truly approaching greatness when Baldwin’s onscreen – the very model of a modern network weasel, deadpanning his way through a character that could easily be a complete cliche, yet one the actor manages to make endlessly amusing and occasionally even improbably endearing.

NBC is seemingly giving “30 Rock” every chance, sandwiching this vulnerable half-hour between “My Name is Earl” and “The Office,” which managed to carve out solid demos last week despite the killer competition. The next few weeks should tell the tale on whether that can raise the program a mere notch or two above last season’s mediocre ratings.

If not, with “Studio 60” having gone belly up, then the verdict will be fairly conclusive – namely, satires based on “Saturday Night Live” really are not-ready-for-primetime players.

30 Rock

NBC, Thurs. Oct. 4, 8:30 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Long Island City, N.Y., by Broadway Video & Little Stranger in association with Universal Media Studios. Executive producers, Lorne Michaels, Tina Fey, JoAnn Alfano, Marci Klein, David Miner, Robert Carlock; co-executive producers, John Riggi, Jack Burditt; supervising producer, Ron Weiner; producers, Matt Hubbard, Don Scardino; director, Scardino; writer, Fey.

Crew: Camera, Vanja Cernjul; production designer, Keith Raywood; casting, Jennifer McNamara. RUNNING TIME: 30 MIN.

With: Liz Lemon - Tina Fey Jack Donaghy - Alec Baldwin Tracy Jordan - Tracy Morgan Jenna Maroney - Jane Krakowski Kenneth - Jack McBrayer Pete Hornberger - Scott Adsit Frank - Judah Friedlander Josh Girard - Lonny Ross Toofer - Keith Powell Cerie - Katrina Bowden

More Film

  • Florence Pugh, O. T. Fagbenle, Rachel

    'Black Widow': Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh Go Head-to-Head in First Footage

    Marvel’s “Black Widow” has only been in production for a month, but studio president Kevin Feige still delivered the goods for fans at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. Filmmakers brought an intense sizzle reel of on-location shots, kicked off by a dazzling and bone-crushing fight sequence between lead Scarlett Johansson and her on-screen sister Florence [...]

  • Natalie Portman Thor

    Natalie Portman Returns for 'Thor: Love and Thunder' as Female Thor

    Natalie Portman is coming back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but she’s no one’s love interest this time around. The Oscar winner will play a female god of thunder in the fourth film from the Chris Hemsworth series, titled “Thor: Love and Thunder.” Portman hit the stage at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday to great [...]

  • Fantastic Four

    New 'Fantastic Four' Movie in Development at Marvel

    Marvel is going back to the Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige announced that a new movie based on the superhero group is in the works at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. Further details, however, including a release date, were not revealed. It marks the first Fox property for Disney to mine since the [...]

  • Mahershala AliMarvel Studios panel, Comic-Con International,

    Mahershala Ali to Star in Marvel's 'Blade' Reboot

    Marvel is rebooting the “Blade” series, and has cast Mahershala Ali to star. Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige announced the news at Comic-Con on Saturday as the panel’s big ending surprise. Ali also took the stage at the announcement to massive applause, donning the Blade baseball cap. Wesley Snipes previously played the half-vampire superhero in [...]

  • Doctor Strange

    'Doctor Strange' Sequel Billed as First MCU Horror Film at Comic-Con

    A sequel to “Doctor Strange” was announced as expected on Saturday at Marvel’s Comic-Con panel — what we didn’t see coming was the tone. Director Scott Derrickson said the film, titled “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” will mine the original comics and play up “the gothic, the horror.” Derrickson said it will lead [...]

  • Simu Liu Shang-Chi

    Marvel's 'Shang-Chi' Finds Its Lead

    Marvel has found its next superhero. The studio announced that Simu Liu has been tapped to star in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” during its Hall H presentation at Comic Con, joining cast member Awkwafina, who was also announced during the presentation. Additionally, Veteran actor Tony Leung has joined the film as [...]

  • Angelina Jolie The Kept

    Marvel Reveals Cast and Plot Details for 'The Eternals'

    “The Eternals” have arrived. The first film announced at Marvel’s San Diego Comic-Con presentation on Saturday, unarguably the hottest ticket of the weekend, confirmed months of speculation by unveiling its cast: Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Richard Madden, Brian Tyree Henry, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff and Don Lee will star as 35,000 -year-old aliens. “This movie [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content