Monday, February 22, 2010

Still solid, side-splitting ‘30 Rock’

(Published Feb. 21, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Three seasons and several awards later, “30 Rock” is still a smart and diverting sitcom that pinpoints and revels in the absurdities of show business. Created by former “Saturday Night Live” writer and cast member Tina Fey, the series amusingly pries into the behind-the-scenes goings-on at an “SNL”-esque variety show, staged at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York.

It follows the workplace misadventures of Liz Lemon (Fey), the head writer occasionally dealing with the actors’ quirks, tantrums, and personal problems. Liz also leads a talented but immature writing staff and is far from perfect herself, but her network executive boss Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) respects her problem-solving capabilities. Liz is one of Jack’s few true friends, a confidant whenever upheavals in the company and his love life take place.

Every half-hour episode manages to incorporate name-dropping into effective punch lines. The fictional performers played by Tracy Morgan and Jane Krakowski also reflect many celebrities’ magnified self-worth; the characters’ need for validation translates into many hilarious situations. Just as funny are Fey’s self-deprecating storylines, her non-traditional mindset contrasting cleverly with Jack’s methodical behavior.

The talented cast is regularly joined by a who’s who of guests. Carrie Fisher, Oprah Winfrey, David Schwimmer, Nathan Lane, Jennifer Aniston, and Salma Hayek separately appeared in memorable episodes. Music artists Sheryl Crow, Norah Jones, Clay Aiken, and Cyndi Lauper, among others, appeared together for a “We are the World”-ish song about kidney donation in one episode. Fey’s former SNL co-stars, like Jason Sudeikis and Chris Parnell also appear from time to time. Much missed is Rachel Dratch, who was in several episodes of season one as different characters (including a cat wrangler and Barbara Walters).

While the short-lived but brilliant drama “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” audaciously tackled religious and political issues surrounding a sketch comedy show, “30 Rock” lightly but confidently pokes fun at some characters’ political and religious allegiances (the “Church of Practicology,” for instance).

Also spoofing the eccentricities and inanities of celebrities and creative types consistently well, “30 Rock” delights in the side-splitting pratfalls and peculiarities that seem to accompany creativity in that industry.

“30 Rock” season 4 airs on Jack TV every Friday at 8:30 p.m.

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