by Samantha Rullo
From the moment last season’s live episode ended, “30 Rock” fans have been waiting for another, and this week they were rewarded with a star-studded live show that even topped the first. An expectedly self-aware episode, it showed off the huge talent “30 Rock” has, as well as that of many guest stars, all while taking a look at the history of television.
The first lines of dialogue in “30 Rock” began a recurring theme of the episode, drawing attention to the fact that it was live. From the opening shot of Jack staring directly into the camera asking, “Live television? Who cares?” the show continued to play to the audience, facing them for certain jokes and asking for applause when boldly stating that New York is the greatest city in the world. “30 Rock” has never shied away from meta-moments, and the live format was a great way to integrate them in a way that made the show more exciting.
Yet the most exciting moments of the night really came from the guest stars, most of which were surprises. Tina Fey had been hinting that like last year’s guest, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, someone would be playing her in flashbacks, but it was a huge surprise to see that role filled by Amy Poehler, whose arrival has been eagerly anticipated. But Fey wasn’t the only one to have a fellow NBC-star play a younger version of her character–Jimmy Fallon appeared as pre-executive Jack and “Community’s” Donald Glover was a dancing Tracy. Though their screen time was brief, they were great additions to the show and added to the exciting atmosphere. Of course the biggest surprise guest was Paul McCartney, and while he appeared very briefly and didn’t contribute to any of the storylines, having a Beatle on your show never hurts.
Besides the character flashbacks, “30 Rock” also featured parodies of classic past television genres that were absurd yet accurate, and hysterically funny. Besides the great acting that they all included, the technical aspects of these fake shows-within-the show cannot be overlooked. They all had different camera styles based on the era, and the ability of the actors to completely change clothes, hairstyles, and characters so quickly was impressive.
The superstar of these TV spoofs was Jon Hamm, who has previously guest-starred, but this time appeared as two different characters. One of his scenes was definitely the night’s most memorable, an old-fashioned television show about two African-American characters, one played by Tracy Morgan, and the other by Hamm…in blackface. He acted completely ridiculous while Morgan played a rare serious character, and though it was at first surprising to see, it was one of the funniest moments of the episode. His other character tackled diversity in television as well, a sexist 1970s news anchor shocked by a female coworker.
“30 Rock” was at its absolute best this week. Full of energy and scene-stealing guests, the live show gave a sarcastic look into the history of television and provided constant laughs. They even managed to squeeze in some plot development and make Kristen Schaal less annoying than usual. With too many great scenes to count, “30 Rock” was truly at its best when under the most pressure.
Samantha Rullo is a staff writer. Email her at email@example.com.