Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Where Have You Gone, Jerry Seinfeld?

It's hard to say any network has had a better history with comedies than NBC.

"Cosby," "Family Ties" and "Cheers" in the '80s. "Friends," "Seinfeld" and "Frasier" in the '90s. "The Office" and "Scrubs" today. It's not just that these comedies were funny; they were also innovative.

NBC's two newest sitcoms, "30 Rock" (8 p.m.) and "20 Good Years" (8:30 p.m.) won't be joining that august list.

Let's start with "30 Rock," which I had high hopes for because it was being done by Tina Fey. But all of the edgy writing Fey is known for is absent here. While the pilot had a few clever one-liners mixed it, the overall plot was bland and the show itself couldn't decide whether it was going for traditional sitcom or hip and edgy. It's neither.

I will say some around the office liked it better than I did, so watch for yourself and decide. The two stars that shine are Alec Baldwin as a somewhat clueless (or is he?) network executive who tries to shake up a "Saturday Night Live"-style show. Baldwin has always shown a knack for good comic timing, and he does well with the part here. Jane Krakowski ("Ally McBeal") genuinely shines as the show's extremely neurotic lead actress.

The rest of the cast is hit and miss. Fey hasn't really written herself a great part that could display all of her talents. I found Tracy Morgan, who plays a Martin Lawrence-type superstar who joins the show, to be annoying mostly. The big scene in which he rescues the fake show in the pilot fell flat for me and didn't deliver any laughs.

"30 Rock" is the second of NBC's "SNL"-type, behind-the-scenes series after "Studio 60," and even though both shows are completely different in their presentation, the former suffers in comparison to the latter. (Though the NBC promo of Baldwin talking to Fey and believing he was on "Studio 60" were brilliant.)

Meanwhile, "20 Good Years" were 22 excruciating minutes to watch. John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor play a surgeon and a judge, respectively, who come to figure they have 20 good years left on Earth to do all the things they wanted to do. The show is grating and painfully unfunny. It may not make it past the pilot. There's a reason why NBC flip-flopped the two sitcoms earlier this fall.

"30 Rock" has at least enough talent to improve down the road; "20 Good Years" is a lost cause.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BET: The New York Mets continue their run to glory with the first game of the National League Championship Series (Fox, 8 p.m.), battling the St. Louis Cardinals. While the Mets' starting pitching has kind of limped along because of injuries, the bullpen and the offense have been brilliant.

Game 2 of the ALCS airs on FX at 8 p.m.


tadkil said...

Mind of Mencia, Daily Show, Colbert Report.

That's what I have replaced sitcoms with.

Zodin2008 said...


You are missing out on two of the best sitcoms anywhere, "Scrubs" and "The Office". (Though I like "Daily Show" and "Colbert", but "Mind of Mencia"?).

I would also add to the mix the edgy Cable fare of "Weeds" on Showtime and "Entourage" on HBO. Plus, "My Name is Earl" and "How I Met Your Mother" are both very funny, strong shows so the state of comedy is actually in pretty solid shpae after where it was about 3-4 years ago when "Frasier" and "Friends" were in their final years and there was nothing else.

As for "30 Rock", I hear Alec Baldwin may get a shot at an Emmy with this role if the show sticks and I will check it out when it premiers in a half hour. I am hopeful. I won't be checking out "20 Good Years" though--no thanks.

Phillip Ramati said...

tadkil, I consider those shows to be different sorts of comedies, more of the variety/standup sort. It's not really an equal comparison with a sitcom.

I would reiterate that although I didn't like 30 Rock itself, I did think Baldwin and Jane Krakowski really nailed their roles. Krakowski was a last-minute replacement for SNL alum Rachel Dratch, who will be in a variety of roles on the show, and I think it was a wise move by the producers.