Why 30 Rock should be your next box set
Chris Bryant | On 22, Feb 2014
Created, executively produced and written by Tina Fey, 30 Rock is a sitcom loosely based on her experiences working on Saturday Night Live. Fey’s Liz Lemon is head writer for her own series, The Girlie Show, with long time collaborator and self-obsessed blonde Jenna Maroney (a never faltering Jane Krakowski). When Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin – as suit-wearing, Republican and business-savvy as any human has ever been) takes over and employs Tracy Jordan as the star attraction, even renaming the show “TGS With Tracy Jordan”, Lemon and her team struggle with the adjustment.
It’s not Tracy Morgan’s toughest stretch as an actor; Jordan is infamous for being mentally unstable and far-fetched – “He once bit Dakota Fanning on the face!” – but he’s supported by a shining cast that includes Scott Adsit (Lemon’s producer and friend Pete), Jack McBrayer (NBC Page and loveable, ultra-naive redneck Kenneth) and Judah Friedlander and Keith Powell (part of Lemon’s misfit writing team).
In addition to the expert casting, 30 Rock also pulls its weight when it comes to writing. Engaging on a personal level, Fey keeps Lemon’s troubles light-hearted while still making them matter: it’s as interesting to know how she will cope with her new boss and his demands as it is how Tracy will avoid being killed by LL Cool J (more on that later); and as it is to see the depths of Tracy and Kenneth’s mismatched bromance.
Always witty and occasionally surreal, 30 Rock’s genius lies in the details. The comedy is ever-present, in a clever phrase or in someone slipping on a banana peel, but it is always precise and always funny. Added to that is its self-awareness – 30 Rock knows exactly when it’s being silly and that creates a joy unparalleled by other sitcoms.
Delivered in bite-sized 25 minute episodes, 30 Rock is ideal for binge viewing. The episodes are relatively self-contained, aside from a few multi-episode story arcs, resulting in an almost addictively enjoyable show – at which point 30 Rock breaks out the big guns: guest appearances. LL Cool J as a maniac rapper, Emily Mortimer as a dislikable auctioneer and Chris Parnell as Dr. Spaceman (a recurring and ever questionable medical practitioner), to name but a few, plus SNL alumni and other popular comedians unite to ensure that 30 Rock’s satire remains as edgy and exact as the surrealism and drama that it delivers pristinely. Jack’s relationship with Condoleeza Rice and business war with gay arch-nemesis Will Arnett (over whom will take over Rip Torn’s empire) both seem perfectly plausible at the time of watching.
While good jokes and sitcoms may be ten a penny on streaming services now, few (possibly none) can match 30 Rock for causing a genuine happiness among its viewers; the wonder of the series lies somewhere between a mastery of comedy and a good heart. More than perfectly cast, beyond well-written and intriguingly ridiculous, the first season of this staple of American comedy will leave you laughing – and searching for the second within moments.
30 Rock is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription. It is also available on Sky Comedy. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, for £9.99 a month with no contract. For the latest Sky TV packages and prices, click the button below.