×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

30 Rock

This inside-TV comedy might very well be the "Murphy Brown" of its day.

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

Three Emmy wins later, “30 Rock” returns for its fourth season as the most gold-plated not-exactly-a-hit currently on television. At this point, the show is among the least of NBC’s problems, which should put the threat of imminent death behind it. Yet despite all the awards glory, this inside-TV comedy might very well be the “Murphy Brown” of its day — a program that deftly played to its times but which was so specific to that moment as to lack much of a shelf-life.

The premiere (appropriately titled “Season Four”) and a second episode showcase much of what’s fine and what’s not-so-great about this much-ballyhooed sitcom, which probably peaked last season, buoyed by creator-star Tina Fey’s pitch-perfect Sarah Palin impersonation on “Saturday Night Live.”

“Rock’s” foundation — Fey as Liz Lemon, the creator of sketch comedy series “TGS,” and Alec Baldwin as her ruthless corporate boss, Jack Donaghy — remains solid, and solidly amusing. When the conservative Jack toasts his producer and stars by saying of the great unwashed U.S. public, “We’ll trick those race-card-loving wide loads into watching your lefty, homoerotic propaganda yet,” the series exhibits some of the sharpest writing on TV.

It’s the other showbiz caricatures where “30 Rock” has always felt uneven, from Tracy Morgan’s scene-chewing antics as a crazed star to Jane Krakowski’s cliched turn as a wildly insecure actress. Nor does the show benefit from a season debut that — while yielding some very funny bits — leans too heavily upon chipper Kenneth the page (Jack McBrayer), who organizes a strike among his peers after Donaghy hurts his feelings.

The second episode is stronger, thanks to guest Will Arnett’s return as Jack’s former corporate nemesis, while the “B” plot involves Tracy squatting in Liz’s apartment.

Baldwin is such a consistent hoot as Donaghy — and the well-tuned ear for corporate-speak and synergies is so accurate — that “30 Rock” remains an easy half-hour to watch. Still, the accolades have probably come more freely than they would have, frankly, had the sitcom not sunk to such dire lows at the moment the program made its debut — especially given that “The Office” continues to represent the creative highlight of NBC’s sitcom block.

The good news in general is seeing comedy exhibit signs of a comeback; the bad news for “30 Rock” might be that like “Murphy Brown” in the 1990s — which soared to its highest heights, come to think of it, thanks to a dispute with a Republican vice president — the show’s most golden moments might actually be behind it.

30 Rock

NBC, Thurs. Oct. 15, 9:30 p.m.

Production: Filmed in New York by Broadway Video and Little Stranger in association with Universal Media Studios. Executive producers, Tina Fey, Robert Carlock, Marci Klein, David Miner; co-executive producers, John Riggi, Ron Weiner, Matt Hubbard, Jeff Richmond; producers, Alec Baldwin, Paula Pell, Don Scardino, Jerry Kupfer; director, Scardino; writer, Fey.

Crew: Camera, Matthew Clark; production designers, Teresa Mastropierro, Keith Ian Raywood; editor, Ken Eluto; music, Richmond; casting, Jennifer McNamara Shroff. RUNNING TIME: 30 MIN.

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

More TV

  • keeley-hawes-starring-netflix-film-rebecca

    Keeley Hawes to Star in and Produce Honor-Killing Drama for ITV

    Keeley Hawes will star as a detective attempting to bring a group of killers to justice in the wake of a so-called honor-killing in “Honour.” The two-part drama is based on the real-life case of Banaz Mahmod, a young Londoner murdered by her own family for falling in love with the wrong man. It is [...]

  • Love Nature Teams with Arte, BBC,

    Love Nature Teams with Arte, BBC, Smithsonian on Natural History Series ‘Stormborn’

    Love Nature has greenlit “Stormborn,” a wildlife series about animals living in the wildlands of countries on the edge of the North Atlantic. The three-parter will bow on Love Nature’s 4K linear channel and streaming service and then play on Arte in France and Germany, BBC Scotland and Smithsonian Channel. Love Nature is the natural [...]

  • john-farrar-joins-barcroft

    Barcroft Studios Hires John Farrar as Creative Director, Ups Two Execs (EXCLUSIVE)

    John Farrar, whose credits include “The Imposter,” has joined U.K. producer and digital content specialist Barcroft Studios. The company has also upped two senior staffers, with Alex Morris elevated to chief creative officer and Caspar Norman to chief operating officer. The new recruit joins Barcroft from Nerd TV, the U.K. shingle he co-founded with Jago [...]

  • Mary J. Blige and Rihanna

    Rihanna Presents Mary J. Blige With BET Lifetime Achievement Award

    Rihanna took the Microsoft Theater stage on June 23 to present Mary J. Blige with the BET Lifetime Achievement Award. Hailing the legendary singer for her style and sound, Rihanna also made mention of Blige’s history-making two Oscar nominations in the same year, for best actress and original song for “Mudbound.” Accepting the trophy, Blige [...]

  • Offset, Takeoff and Quavo of MigosBET

    BET Awards' Carpet Colored Blue in Honor of Late Nipsey Hussle

    The 2019 edition of the BET Awards doubled as a celebration of late rapper Nipsey Hussle, who was killed in March outside of his Marathon clothing store in Los Angeles. In honor of the man affectionately known as “Nip,” the carpet was colored blue. “The marathon continues” was a common refrain on the carpet (as [...]

  • Cardi B accepts the album of

    BET Awards 2019: The Complete Winners List

    The 2019 BET Awards kicked off with a performance by Cardi B, who came into the night leading with 7 nominations and, not surprisingly, picked up the award for album of the year for her “Invasion of Privacy.” Other top nominees included Drake with 5, and Beyonce, Travis Scott and J. Cole, each with four. [...]

  • Norah O’Donnell Photoshoot for NIH Magazine.

    CBS Plots July Debut for 'Evening News' With Norah O'Donnell

    In less than a month, Norah O’Donnell will start delivering the headlines at “CBS Evening News” – and, most likely, start generating a few of her own. CBS News plans to launch a re-tooled “CBS Evening News” anchored by O’Donnell on July 15th, part of the network’s ambitious plans to overhaul its morning and evening [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content