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30 Rock Fodder

30 Rock: "Season 4" Review

"Welcome to Season Four," said Jack straight to the camera. And thus began the fourth (only the fourth?) season of one of the most critically-acclaimed comedies in modern TV history. But will it last?

'30 Rock' seems to get more and more 'meta' every season--that is, self-aware of its own existence as a TV show. Jack's opening statement to the camera seemed to be saying to the viewers, "Yep, believe the hype. We're back. The fall TV season is finally complete again."

Whether you agree with that or not, 'Rock' didn't really disappoint in this episode. It wasn't the funniest episode of the series...but it was definitely the funniest this season so far.

Jack sends Liz and Pete on a quest to find a new cast member, which they decide they have to keep secret from the rest of the staff. Consequently, it ends up looking like they're having an affair (or "intercoursing each other" as Liz falsely admits to later).


While in real life, Liz and Pete would seem ideal candidates for an office-place romance since they work so closely together (way more likely than a Liz/Jack romance, anyway), in the world of the show they seem like the most asexual coupling since the Honeymooners. And it's pretty funny/sad.

Although they were some of the first characters we saw, and they were given arguably the most important role in the episode, we really didn't see that much of either of them. In fact, we didn't see any result of their searching. This episode was jam-packed with plot, which usually means no single character gets to shine, and no single plot gets adequate screen time. That seemed to be the case with 'Season 4,' for sure. Besides Tina Fey and Scott Adsit being absent through a large portion of the episode, Kenneth's page strike was underused, and Tracy's "get in touch with the common man" quest was also too brief. Each of these subplots could've easily been the basis for an entire episode by itself. It's almost as if 'Rock' is saying "Hi, welcome back. We know you've probably forgotten all about us over the summer, so here's all the zany characters on our show doing the zany sorts of things they do. Remember now? Remember? You still like us, right?"

Calm down, NBC. '30 Rock' is your flagship show for a reason, and it's not because people don't care about it. Granted, ratings for the show apparently haven't been that great. But guess what? The people who don't watch your show aren't watching it. I know that's a little confusing. Read that sentence again if you like. The point is, make your show for the people who like your show. Don't worry about pleasing everybody. It won't work. No matter how many celebrity cameos you bust out or how many different directions you take the show in, you won't get 100% of the audience.

Even in its heyday, 'Seinfeld' was not universally loved. Plus, 'Seinfeld' basically had four characters. Most episodes, no matter what they were "about," generally involved all four of them, and many times all together. '30 Rock' seems to think each of its five or six primary characters (depending on who you count) needs his or her own plot, which ends up making episodes like 'Season 4' too disjointed, and seems to rob each of those characters and their adventures of the real potential they have.

That said, 'Season 4' was a great start to the new season, and while it did try to showcase too much in one episode, the overall result still made me laugh out loud numerous times. And hopefully the focus will narrow more in subsequent episodes, particularly when Liz and Pete get around to actually looking for a new cast member.

So now is the part where you give your opinion, since that's really what you're here on the Internet for anyway. Believe me, I want to know what you think. Do you agree with my assessment? Do you think the show suffers from too many points-of-view? Or do you think the collage of subplots is actually one of its strengths? Which character do you think deserves their own episode, and which one do you really think needs to sit one out?

Tags: Alec Baldwin, jane krakowski, scott adsit, Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan
Posted by Bobby Bierley on October 17, 2009 10:59 AM
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