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30 Rock Live Show 

Photo Credit: NBC

Live from New York it’s…30 Rock??  Last night 30 Rock put on its first ever live show and I have to admit, I was nervous all day about it.  For a time, 30 Rock was the best comedy going on primetime television.  However, the quality of the episodes started decline ever so slightly starting last season and this season (albeit we’re only 4 episodes in) has been hit or miss so far.  So the live show had the potential to be a monumental disaster of biblical proportions (ok that’s a bit dramatic, but hey…it’s live TV…stranger things have happened).   Fortunately, going live turned out to be exactly what the show needed.

The episode was pretty basic in its plot and structure.  It’s Liz’s 40th birthday but nobody cares/remembers, Tracy decides that breaking character in the middle of a sketch is the cool thing to do, and Jack is having a hard time giving up drinking.  30 Rock is known for its cut-away scenes (think Family Guy but not as random and crude) so when the first one was set up I thought “how on earth are they going to cut away to Liz from another time when Tina Fey is standing right here.”  Enter the brilliant Julia Louis-Dreyfus who took on the role of “flashback Liz” for the night.  That was the moment that clinched it for me.  This was going to be good.

Another great little surprise were the faux commercials featuring Chris Parnell as Dr. Leo Spaceman in an awkward yet hilariously appropriate erectile dysfunction commercial and Jon Hamm of Mad Men fame reprising his role as Dr. Drew Baird in the “give someone a hand” commercial which I’ve heard was much funnier in the West Coast version of the show but I can’t see how it wouldn’t be funny in both versions.  Throw in a Matt Damon appearance as Liz’s pilot boyfriend, a hilarious one line cameo from Bill Hader as Matt Damon’s co-pilot, and Rachel Dratch as a cleaning lady obsessed with The Fonz and you have the makings of not only a great episode, but a true event.

It was a spectacle for sure, and that’s EXACTLY what the show needed.  It decided to be more than just a mediocre episode and really brought back the notion of must-see TV, something that has been sorely lacking this season from the NBC Thursday night comedy lineup.  There was a true sense of excitement while watching the show and a feeling of spunk and spontaneity that was reminiscent of the first season of 30 Rock back when it was still considered the underdog as opposed to the Emmy magnet it has become since its inception.  The cast, many of them from a live background in improv sketch comedy on SNL, seemed to really be enjoying themselves and it showed in the performances.  Sure some of the jokes fell a little flat and didn’t hit as hard as you’d think, but maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe having a live audience there gives the writers some direction and lets them know what we like and what we don’t.  Maybe this is the beginning of a comeback for 30 Rock to bring it back to the glory days..

At the end of the episode, Jack and Liz have a toast and suddenly, the image cuts from the soap opera like 30 frames per second video look to the actors in the same positions in a pre-filmed segment using the 24 frames per second film look that we’re accustomed to.  It was a transition back into the world we know of 30 Rock and hopefully now that we’ve had this fun little detour the show can get back on track and be the dominant comedy it deserves to be.

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