Well- scripted sitcom mocks the genre
THE absence of canned laughter in this American comedy is the giveaway: 30 Rock s audience will not need artificial encouragement to laugh, because this is terrific television where the script is a star.
The show — its title stands for the Rockefeller Plaza, New York, address where it is set — is about a sketch comedy TV program. Network boss Alec Baldwin persecutes neurotic head writer Tina Fey, who in turn tries to get some work out of the cast and crew, an idea that strikes most of them as either incomprehensible or impossible.
Baldwin is grimly entertaining as the enigmatic executive who exploits the show’s staff for his amusement. In this episode he is determined to beat them all at poker and also sets Fey’s character up with a blind date that has an inappropriate beginning and a humiliating ending.
The woman Fey plays is also a monster, just not as efficient at it. She uses her work as an excuse for her utter absence of interest in anything other than fragile ego.
And the rest of the characters are cynics and slackers determined to survive their superiors with the least possible effort.
In the wrong hands, 30 Rock could have become any sitcom on and about TV, from The Mary Tyler Moore Show to Murphy Brown .
But Fey’s hands — as series creator as well as star — are the right ones. She is a veteran of the long- running Saturday Night Live comedy mill, and is thus well placed to present TV as a cruel and ultimately pointless process inhabited by people such as those in any office, only with much shorter attention spans and an inflated sense of their own importance.
The show is as cynical as it is amusing. This episode makes fun of women who live alone and the cruelties of class that require American workers to grovel to the upper orders. Above all it laughs at the way people pursue power and sex with an ugly opportunism as sleazy as it is superficial.
In tonight’s episode, two characters’ hopes are cruelly betrayed, but in a way that makes their fates funny.
The show zings along thanks to a terrific script and a cast that recognises great lines. This first series of 30 Rock was a critical rather than a popular hit in the US last year, and Fey and her colleagues were lucky to survive to make a second.
The Seven Network obviously struggles to get the joke, screening the show late at night. So enjoy 30 Rock while it lasts.
Duelling monsters: Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin lock horns in 30 Rock