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Advent Calendar 2016 Box 8

30 Rock
Season 2 Episode 9

Originally broadcast December 13, 2007

I am starting to realize that this list is skewed pretty heavily toward the 2000's. I guess I did a lot of TV watching in High School and College. I can try to justify it by saying it was a very good time in Television, with a lot of really original and awesome shows. However, I suspect that I just remember it best because it was the most recent era during which I actually watched any TV. I couldn't even tell you what's on any of the major networks these days.

Anyway, here's another selection from the mid 2000's.

What is the show?

Liz Lemon is the head writer for a mediocre late night sketch variety show on NBC. It is to some degree an autobiography about Tina Fey's time on Saturday Night Live (which we already covered), and it also stars frequent SNL host Alec Baldwin (who we already covered). I think the show is more "inspired by" than "based on" in terms of biographical accuracy.

The action mostly comes from and revolves around the cast of off-the-wall characters. First, we have Liz Lemon herself, the food obsessed, socially inept, eternally frustrated main character. She has to constantly babysit her staff, including the certifiably insane stars Tracy and Jenna, the team of trouble making writers, and a bible-thumping NBC page. Finally we have the full-of-himself executive, Jack Donaghe, who was put in charge of the network in the show's pilot. Jack takes Liz on as his "mentee" but really only causes more trouble. Each episode features a smorgasbord of comedy, from the low-brow to the surreal, and I think that's its greatest strength. It's somehow cheerful, cynical, self-aware, self-referential, irreverent, low-brow, high-brow, nerdy, intellectual, stupid, silly, and serious all at once. I don't think any other show can match it in terms of variety.

I know it's yet another show from NBC's mid 2000 prime time, but I still think it's a departure from the smooth gentility of the last few items in the list. It's a wild ride, and often feels as frazzled as its main character. You should watch the show if only to catch the occasional cameo by Me-Look-Alike (and former Simpsons writer) Conan O'Brien.

What is the episode?

The holiday break is approaching, and the cast of TGS (the show within a show that 30 Rock is about) is anxiously awaiting the annual tradition of "Ludachristmas" - a debauchery-filled party that is notoriously and purposefully out of control. Meanwhile, Liz's family is in town on their annual visit. Meanwhile, meanwhile, Kenneth the page is distraught at the cast's impending debauchery and stages an intervention to teach them all the true meaning of Christmas (which mostly involves being really bored). Meanwhile meanwhile meanwhile, Jack's overbearing mother is in town, which is always an endless source of stress on him. Meanwhile meanwhile meanwhile meanwhile wild man Tracy is forced to wear a court-ordered ankle bracelet which will notify the authorities if he has any alcohol in his system. Meanwhile meanwhile meanwhile meanwhile meanwhile Liz's brother suffers from brain damage which has caused him to constantly think that he is still a high-school student in the early 80's who is about to go on the skiing trip at which he had the accident which damaged his brain.

You see what I meant by "wild ride?" Somehow they pack all this into 22 minutes, and still find time for some pretty hilarious moments.

I know I promised a story that didn't involve the main characters learning the true meaning of Christmas by watching children open presents, and basically that exact thing happens in this episode. However, I think the irreverent way in which this show handles that cliché plot device is worth it.

Where can you watch it?

Say what you will about all these shows from the 2000's, but at least they're all on Netflix and available for purchase from Amazon on DVD or streaming. Actually, that's probably a better reason as to why I'm so familiar with them.

I realize 30 Rock probably isn't for everybody. It's too fast paced and frantic, and the humor can probably come off pretty pretentious, as if to say that if you don't get it, it's because you just aren't cool enough. Hopefully there's enough on this list for everybody, and you'll find something else that you like.

Or maybe when you hear someone mention 30 Rock you think they actually meant a different show, from about ten years earlier . . .

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