When it was originally on: 2006-2013
Original network: NBC
Where you can stream it now: Hulu or Amazon Prime
Had I seen it before: I’ve seen the first couple seasons and enjoyed them, but never enough to make me commit to finishing the whole series.
What IMDb says: Liz Lemon (Tina Fey), head writer of the sketch comedy show “TGS with Tracy Jordan”, must deal with an arrogant new boss and a crazy new star, all while trying to run a successful television show without losing her mind.
Why I picked it: 30 Rock and some of the other NBC sitcoms of this era usher in a whole new era of network sitcom. As shows like like Friends and Frasier were ending in the early half of the decade, the torch was being passed to single-camera shows like The Office and 30 Rock. It also won Outstanding Comedy Series at the Emmys for its first three seasons, and was still nominated for seasons 4-7.
I also thought it would be even more fun to review the pilot immediately after reviewing the pilot for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
What I liked: Much like I talked about in my review for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the 30 Rock pilot excels in how it gives us a multitude of funny, weird characters in a short amount of time. I already feel like I have an understanding for Liz, Jack, Tracy, Ken, and Jenna. I can see how the latter three are each going to make life hell for Liz in their own unique ways.
There’s also some genius in how the first thing we learn about Liz is that she’s a stickler for the rules. We learn this when she buys 150 hot dogs just to prevent a line jumper from getting any. Yet by the end of this pilot, the person making the rules is Jack, an unapologetic capitalist with no television experience. We know that moving forward, Liz is going to have numerous clashes with Jack, and this should also cause meaningful internal struggles that make the show more interesting. If you love following the rules and the person who makes the rules is an idiot, what do you do about it? This provides a catalyst for Liz to grow and change over the course of the show if the writers decide to go anywhere with that.
I also just love the premise of a workplace comedy that takes place in such an unorthodox workplace. It should 30 Rock to still play around with semi-common workplace tropes, while also feeling fresh and original in its own right.
What I didn’t like: The Pete character feels relatively bland by comparison, but yet not in a way that makes him a functional straight man. We don’t really see much interaction between him and the more eccentric personalities of the show such as Tracy, Jack, and Jenna, so he’s just bland without his blandness serving other characters’ development in any way.
In a lot of ways, Liz is already a fully functioning straight man on her own, and I’m struggling to figure out what Pete’s role is in the show. Towards the end of the pilot, Liz seriously considers quitting her job over Pete’s firing, and I wish we could’ve had a better understanding for why. Maybe a clever sketch that Pete wrote, or a nice emotional moment between him and Liz.
Would I watch Ep. 2: Yes. I actually thought this was funnier than I remember 30 Rock being on past watches, and I can definitely see myself revisiting 30 Rock to fill that not-too-serious-show-I-put-on-while-I’m-busy-with-other-things slot in my rotation.