It took a long time for Channel 5, sorry, Five to start airing the second season of 30 Rock (and they’ve buried it on one of their silly offshoot digital channels, Five USA – what a stupid name – which annoyingly has one of the worst receptions on our DVR, thus causing the signal to scramble and lose words, sentences and even bits of scenes). They think they’re making up for it by airing double episodes, but at least I’m getting to watch it in an entirely legal and free fashion.
I loved the first series [LINK] and the second season, although shorter due to the writers’ strike, is even better. Tina Fey is cuter (and more comfortable acting) as Liz Lemon, Alec Baldwin is brilliant and having a ball as Jack Donaghy (impersonating Nixon, doing the various voices of Tracey’s family in an improvised therapy session, sparring with Jerry Seinfeld), Jack McBrayer as Kenneth is flourishing, Tracy Morgan is even more absurd as Tracy Jordan, and the range of guest stars is impressive: even though Seinfeld can’t act, it was funny seeing him pimping his film and Fey doing an impression of him; Carrie Fisher was great a writing idol of Liz (and kudos for uttering the line, ‘Help me Liz Lemon, you’re my only hope!’ in such wonderful fashion); Steve Buscemi, David Schwimmer, Edie Falco – looks like somebody bought in a lot of favours.
But the important thing is that the show is constantly funny. I think this is because of the background of working on the sketch-based SNL – one of the things that people said about Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (another show I loved [LINK]) was that the skits weren’t funny, which entirely missed the point, because that’s not what it was about, whereas everyone said 30 Rock was funny straight away. This is because the sitcom is just condensed skits, looking for the zinger, using all the forms of comedy available to get the laugh: outrageous humour (‘We used to call this the Jew Room.’) or lowbrow humour (doing fat jokes in the first few episodes when Jenna has put on weight from being in Mystic Pizza: The Musical) or I-can’t-believe-they-went-there jokes (MILF Island) or clever humour (Jack Donaghy: ‘Look how Greenzo’s testing! They love him in every demographic – coloured people, broads, fairies, commies. Gosh, we gotta update these forms.’). I can’t remember a sitcom that was this consistently funny and sharp.
It helps that the characters are easily defined and delineated, yet can be empathised with; even Baldwin is sympathetic as the controlling network executive. The big cast doesn’t always get the air time the credits would suggest: Scott Adsit and Judah Friedlander have their names up front, but the show is mostly about Liz, Jack, Tracy and Jenna, with a bit of Kenneth to tie them together. However, that is only a small flaw in a programme that is laugh-out loud funny, tightly written and polished until it gleams. Bring on season 3 – I just wish it wasn’t on Five USA …