January 13, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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There are few opportunities left to tune in to NBC and bask in the glory of the network that used to be.  One that remains, though, is 30 ROCK, postponed this season to winter due to Tina Fey’s pregnancy but now back on Thursday nights.
WHERE WE LEFT OFF:  Wacky, smart, mildly surreal, wickedly pop-culturecentric hijinks at TGS, presided over by Executive Producer Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) and NBCKabletown network exec Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin).  

WHERE WE ARE:  Until what looked strangely like a climactic revelation, pretty much where we left off.  30 Rock has never been much interested in serialized storylines, although Elizabeth Banks and Matt Damon are among those who’ve made extended visits.  The episodes are largely self-contained bundles of anecdotes, and the 6th season premiere was, for the most part, no exception.  
This time around, we found Jenna (Jane Krakowski) in the midst of Simon Cowell-type success as the mean judge on a combo parody of several TV hits called “America’s Kidz Got Singing” (her tag-line, delivered to the hapless child performers, consisted of variations on “Climb back inside your mother!” and she memorably congratulated one little girl for successfully convincing her to convince suicide).  Jack, a new dad (Avery is still in North Korea, the show seemingly a bit behind on current events), finds himself troubled by the abuse being heaped on children–but not for too long.  Kenneth (Jack McBreyer), meanwhile, has learned that the Rapture will occur the next day, and while sympathetically telling everyone else–except Tracy–that they’ll be going to hell, he decides to enjoy this last day of his life by doing everything he’d always wanted, like arranging the dishes on the food services table in order of Jewishness.  This prompts the TGS production staff (Scott Adsit, Judah Friedlander, Keith Powell), naturally enough, to feed Kenneth’s Rapture-frenzy.  And Tracy becomes obsessed with just why Liz has returned from Kwanzaa season so happy–which would bother Jack, too, if he weren’t so utterly certain that he knows everything there is to know about her…
30 Rock has never been a beloved show, in the way that its NBC comrades like The Office (back in the day), Parks & Recreation and even Community are or have been.  It’s not really a character series, although Baldwin and Fey have certainly found moments of soulfulness over the years.  It’s a comedy that’s always subsisted on nonstop cleverness, eating up every crumb of entertainment and political subject matter in its path.   If anything, the season premiere was more sentimental than usual, with a happy ending for Kenneth, a moment of doubt for Jack, and some presumably temporary happiness for Liz.  For viewers, the feeling is more like relief:  even as the rest of the Peacock comes crashing down on itself, 30 Rock remains blissfully itself.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."