The brilliance of ”30 Rock”
This year was full of competent, B-grade TV — which just makes the fizzy bit of brilliance that is NBC’s 30 Rock gleam all the more. Tina Fey’s Emmy-winning sitcom isn’t just clever or shocking or chock-full of pop culture witticisms, it also happens to be plain hilarious. How refreshing to giggle aloud at a comedy and not feel like a cheap-laugh sucker. 30 Rock earns every guffaw with its left-brain/right-brain zigzags. It’s incisive but squirrelly, satiric but joyfully goofy. In a single episode, the comedy — ostensibly about the actors, writers, and execs behind an NBC sketch show — can skewer racism, sexism, ageism, liberalism, and conservatism, and still find room for a visiting Carrie Fisher to make loopy H.R. Haldeman jokes and slug down a thermos of wine. The whirligig writing is ambitious but never ostentatious, and the cast, from Jack McBrayer’s starstruck Kenneth the Page to Jane Krakowski’s fat-thin diva, is superb. But it really comes down to the show’s triumvirate, doesn’t it? In this second season, Fey has surpassed her flustered straight-woman role: She feels genuine, bright, and occasionally nutty, but with enough sense to remark on her own madness. Tracy Morgan continues to perfect his blank-eyed craziness as an overindulged, posse-pampered comedian with a love of inscrutable license plates. And as purry, synergy-obsessed executive Jack Donaghy (”I run a Sheinhardt Wig subsidiary called NBC”), Alec Baldwin is flawless, combining bone-deep insecurity with sky-high megalomania. Smart, playful, weird, and occasionally quite sweet, 30 Rock isn’t just the best comedy on TV this year, it’s simply the best TV.