Friday, October 20, 2006

Never Judge a Show by it’s Pilot: 30 Rock

I feel that before I watch the pilot episode of 30 Rock I must purge some things from my mind. First is going be the obvious comparison to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. This half-hour sitcom should be judged on it's own merits and not be compared my favorite new hour-long drama. Second, and not so obvious is my own frustration after attending various networking functions and constantly being told by many network comedy development heads all saying they do not want "Behind the scenes" shows (Please don't ask me to name names.), but every fall I still see new "Behind the scenes" shows. Some feel that this is because Hollywood's new young writers have never worked outside the entertainment industry so they write what they know. Others feel that those who work in Hollywood think that their lives and jobs are just so interesting that everyone in America will find their lives and jobs just as interesting (Again please don't ask me to name names.). Finally, I like Tina Fey. I think that she is an incredibly talented writer and performer, but I can't let those feelings influence my evaluation of the show.

I watched the show. I would describe the show as Dilbert meets backstage Saturday Night Live, but in a good way. I really like the fact that the show is set in a real place (NBC Studios) and the characters work for a real company (NBC). Tina Fey writes, executive-produces and stars as Liz Lemon the head writer of The Girlie Show. Fey told, "It's not meant to be Saturday Night Live. None of the actual events are real, just sort of the vibe of the place. And the people are amalgams of people." The people include Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy, the new VP of development for NBC GE Universal K-Mart. Donaghy is the Peter Principle, "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence", realized. He was successful in GE's microwave oven division and was put in charge of Lemon's show. His first decision is to have Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), an unstable movie star, to join the cast. The idea of someone moving from microwaves to TV development seems plausible to me in this world or corporate owned media. The part I did not find plausible is the NBC page Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) who seems somewhat slow and unambitious for someone in this entry-level position with the network, then again he might be running the network in five years. This workplace sitcom has great possibilities when you have the corporate people thinking that the creative people are crazy and the creative people thinking that the corporate people are stupid. This pilot is very funny but it is a premise pilot (I've heard that Network people don't want to see premise pilots either, again please don't ask me to name names.), but I never judge a show by it’s pilot.

The next episode has the same style and pace as the pilot. The important thing is that the show is funny. I am also glad that this is a single camera sitcom. I don’t think that the show would be nearly as good if shot with three or four cameras in front of a live audience. This show is the exception of rule that "Behind the scenes" would only have appeal to people who live in New York or Los Angeles. Tina Fey created a show that should be appealing to anyone who has worked for a big corporation and has used the words "Management" and "Idiots" in the same sentence.

To quote
Jack: I'm Jack Donaghy. New VP of development for NBC/GE/Universal/Kmart.
Pete (Scott Adsit): Oh, we own Kmart now?
Jack: No. So why are you dressed like we do?

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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