Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 17: 30 Rock

4 Oct

You know the Thursday NBC line up is coming up through this list (and if you didn’t, well, you know now).  30 Rock might be many people’s top of the line up, but it’s my bottom, but that’s really no disrespect – it’s the best single network night on tv.

I do always feel a little bit mystified by this weird consensus that had formed around the show as the best on TV, though I think that’s faded a bit in the past year or two, as the mainstream Emmy voters throw their love towards Modern Family, and the more edgy writers towards Parks and Recreation and Community.  In hindsight, I suppose I’m glad it has its time ; it would be foolish for me to spend more time talking about how it’s a little bit overrated than on how it’s actually a very good and very funny show.

The past season had some excellent plots and parts and some exceptionally strange ones as well.  In the strange category, some of the leading candidates offhand might be the scam pulled with Jenna, Kenneth and Kelsey Grammar  involving ice cream cakes, Jack’s wife being kidnapped by the North Koreans (is this really a permanent exit for her on the show?  Seriously?) and Jack using Kenneth to fill in for his wife, after her disappearance in the last episode, featuring one of the simplest yet funniest lines uttered by Kenneth, as he says grace at the table with Jack (it’s not going to work as well written, but I’m still writing it), “Dear God, thank you for this venison. Onion god, thank you for these onions.”

Another highlight of the season for me was Jack’s competition with his boss’s granddaughter, portrayed by Chloe Moretz for future control of the company; hopefully we’ll see their rivalry again in future seasons.

It’s worth making a comment about the live episode 30 Rock aired towards the beginning of the season.  The episode had plenty of laughs, as any episode of 30 Rock does, but it felt awfully unnecessary, and although I understand the idea, it’s very hard for a live episode to not seem gimmicky for me.  Only once or twice did the episode take advantage of the fact that it was live for comedic purposes (a flashback with Julia Louis-Dreyfuss portraying Liz).

About the cast as well, all of them are funny when put in the right positions, but it feels like Kenneth and Jenna (and sometimes Tracy) are overused a little bit, at the expense of the writers (Judah Friedlander, Toofer, et al), who certainly don’t need to be elevated hugely, but in some episodes don’t even get more than one or two lines.  It all comes back to Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin at the show’s heart, with the other characters there to provide absurd b-plots, and I think the show realizes that.

Why It’s This High:  Alec Baldwin is truly masterful, and the scenes with him and Tina Fey are the essence of the show and the best part

Why it’s not higher:  The supporting cast is not nearly as strong as the two stars

Best episode of the most recent season:  “Queen of Jordan” – the entire episode is shot as a reality show starting Tracy Jordan’s wife and her entourage and it is a gimmick that actually does work, and contains another great 30 Rock wordplay joke – the promotion celebration that Mrs. Jordan’s single “My Single is Dropping” is dropping.

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