Live '30 Rock' Episode Goes Off Without a Hitch
By Zach Dionne Posted Oct 15th 2010 12:50AM
So much for worrying about Tracy Morgan -- the '30 Rock' live episodes (one for each coast) went off without a hitch Thursday night, showing just how well-oiled the Emmy-winning machine is. While live primetime programs have over the years seemed clunky or odd, '30 Rock' was spot-on thanks to the cast's stellar live TV and theater pedigree. The roster of former improv champs and ultimate 'Saturday Night Live' host Alec Baldwin led the laughter charge for an episode that felt exactly like '30 Rock,' with the addition of some studio audience laughter and a wink to all things meta -- it was, after all, a live show ('30 Rock') about a live show ('TGS') inspired by a live show ('SNL').
Guest stars Matt Damon, Jon Hamm, Rachel Dratch, Bill Hader and Julia Louis-Dreyfus kept things lively for the half-hour installment. Louis-Dreyfus, the erstwhile Elaine of NBC's seminal comedy 'Seinfeld,' performed a pitch-perfect Liz Lemon impersonation, playing Tina Fey's character in a whip-fast flashback. "Why are you better looking in your memory?" Baldwin quipped to Fey.
The topic of bloopers -- a constant concern with live TV, particularly with a cast this raucous -- was cleverly addressed in the actual script. Jane Krakowkski's Jenna threatened to "slip a nip," but her theatrical chops kept her going without a problem. Tracy Morgan's onscreen alter ego mimicked live TV screw-ups that could potentially go wrong, all but winking at the camera in light of how smoothly everything was really running.
The jokes remained topical as always, even infusing Brett Favre's recent sext message fiasco and the rescue of the Chilean miners. The episode centered on Baldwin's Jack Donaghy trying sobriety for the first time in 10 years, and Liz flailing for a fitting 40th birthday celebration. Pete informed Liz while copyright expenses made 'Happy Birthday' too expensive to use, "We can use, 'It's Your B-Day B***h,' by Snooki's mom."
Jon Hamm, who plays a hook-handed stud on '30 Rock,' guest-starred in a faux advertisement, gravely saying: "Thanks to an idea that started as a pitch for a horror movie and grew into a charitable organization, Hands for Executed Criminals are now making life better for people all over the world," Hamm said. "People like ... me."
The evening ended in a very 'Saturday Night Live' fashion, with the cast taking the stage and thanking everyone as the credits rolled. Tina Fey, the first female head writer at 'Saturday Night Live,' directly thanked "the 'SNL' crew."
Those handy-dandy geniuses at Vulture stayed up all night compiling a list of the 17 differences between the East and West Coast performances. Most changes were deliberate dialogue or gag switch-ups, although Tracy Morgan broke character a bit and Jane Krakowski semi-flubbed a line on the West Coast feed. And Jon Hamm's bit included the verb "frankensteining" the second time around. See the complete West Coast episode:
In a recent interview with PopEater, Jane Krakowski teased the Tracy Morgan-ness of the live '30 Rock.' See the clip:
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