Disclaimer before I share my thoughts on 30 Rock:
I love Tina Fey.
On-camera/off-camera, with glasses/without glasses.
I always knew she was a terrific comedy writer and sexy (two compliments that are rarely used in the same sentence) but I never knew she was such a great showrunner. 30 Rock, under her guidance, has grown tremendously since its debut.
Instead of giving Bonnie Hunt series after series, they should have given one to Tina Fey long ago.
Creating a show is almost the easy part. Sifting through the volumes of notes and suggestions from networks, studios, critics, "helpful" friends, research, talk shows, panhandlers, and worst of all -- bloggers, Tina had to maintain her vision, identify the real problems, and find inventive, fresh solutions. All the while starring in the damn thing. (What's really tough is when the problem is YOUR character but happily, that's not been the case.)
I don't agree with those who felt 30 Rock winning the Best Comedy Emmy was an upset. It's smart, funny, and one of the few comedies that strives to be an actual comedy. It's not "sitcomish," it's not a "dramady," it's not an improv "slice-of-life" that stumbles onto amusing things now and then. It aggressively wants to make you laugh. It employs funny people doing funny things. It eschews the tired rhythms of multi-camera sitcoms, and takes chances: some lunacy, some social and political satire, and unpredictability.
But good jokes mean nada if there's not good storytelling and 30 Rock does a terrific job of juggling up to three subplots an episode and having them all come together at the end. It's similar to what we did on MASH except without the weekly sucking chest wound.
And 30 Rock has a breakout character -- the HuffPost's own Alec Baldwin as Jack. He's a revelation. I'm still shocked he didn't win the Emmy. Watch. It's going to come out that the Blue Ribbon Committee consisted of Kim Basinger, William Baldwin, and Stephen Baldwin.
I understand that Tina is going to give the jokes "more room to breathe" this season. I think that's a good call. Some very good jokes don't land because they go by too fast or are not really heard. That's one of the traps of single-camera comedy. Things can get lost.
My one big concern for the show is Tracy Morgan. I like him. But I know a lot of people don't. It's hard to really have a home run series when a sizable portion of your audience dislikes a character. However, if he were to be used more sparingly in situations where he could really score I think his fans would be fine and many of his detractors would be won over. Of course, try selling that to the actor. Another marvelous perk of being a showrunner.
And my last note -- a quibble, really -- is that I think Tina shortchanges her own character. It's lovely that she's so generous, allowing other cast members to shine but she herself is not only very funny, but also grounds the series. It's evolving from a cartoon into a character-driven comedy set in a heightened world and Liz Lemon is the fulcrum. Let's see more from that young lass!
Hopefully the Emmy win will bring more viewers to this very deserving show. And the network that revels in superheroes realizes that their greatest one is Tina Fey -- with or without glasses.
You can read more from Ken at kenlevine.blogspot.com