When I spoke to Tina Fey earlier this week about ‘30 Rock‘s live episode, I suggested that the show pull off its “flashback” gags by enlisting a certain former governor of Alaska to play Liz Lemon in the live cutaways.
As it turned out, Fey’s own idea made mine Palin comparison. Yep, put Julia Louis-Dreyfus in some spectator glasses and bam! Just like Lemon.
The utilization of Louis-Dreyfus – easily the East Coast broadcast’s most-surprising cameo – was a highlight of an otherwise smooth and steady live performance by the ’30 Rock’ crew.
That’s right – the harshest expletive blurted on Thursday night was “Blurg,” and as far as we know Jenna never whipped out her wardrobe malfunction.
Fact is, no one expected this cast – populated as it is by so many veterans of ‘Saturday Night Live‘ and stage work – to actually screw up. And despite some noisy news headlines leading up to the episode, none of the ’30 Rock’ stars I spoke to earlier this week – Fey included – were genuinely nervous about the without-a-net undertaking.
In practice, the live ’30 Rock’ had the visual feel of an extended ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch (fitting, since it was performed on the ‘SNL’ stages). As Jack put it in an opening scene, “Everything looks like a Mexican soap opera.”
The plot was threadbare, as dictated by the live nature of the telecast: Liz is waiting for someone to remember that it’s her birthday while trying to put together a ‘TGS’ taping. Not helping matters is Tracy’s new determination to crack up on camera, Jenna’s jealousy of same, and Jack’s preoccupation with staying alcohol-free out of deference to pregnant baby mama Avery.
So while there were some funny lines within the storylines, the greater sport within the episode was spying celeb cameos and enjoying the fake commercials (Jon Hamm stumping for transplanted limbs from executed criminals! Dr. Spaceman’s CD solution for ED!) that teed up each real ad break.
The most ‘daring’ moment within the episode probably involved Alec Baldwin repeatedly sticking his nose into Jane Krakowski‘s mouth, so that dry and desperate Jack could drink in the liquor on Jenna’s breath. That scene begged for a bust-up, but Krakowski stayed solid.
Here are some fave lines:
* Jenna having once coined a song titled “It’s Your Birthday, Slut.”
* “Fox News, a division of Fox Nonsense, Incorporated.”
* The ‘TGS’ show’s fake Fox Newscast ID’ing Tracy Jordan’s Obama as “Kenyan Liar”
* “Erectile dysfunction – it’s not just a dog problem anymore.”
* Among Carol’s litany of night-flight horrors: “The in-flight meal was a frittata.”
* Matt Damon‘s Carol beseeching girlfriend Liz to TiVo ‘Bones’ for him – a nice nod to ’30 Rock’s time slot rival.
* Jenna boasting, “I was on stage in ‘Pippin’ with Irene Ryan when she died, and I kept going.” (Fact: Ryan died in 1973, so Jenna was how old…?)
* Liz commenting that the stand-in “Jack” used for his flashback was much more fit. Jack in turn noted, “But [his] penis was smaller.”
* Jack’s blatant plug for a certain credit card, punctuated by Frank’s shirt bearing the company’s logo.
* “You stole an old cleaning lady’s cake just to make me happy?”
Tweaks made for the West Coast broadcast include a change to the Jon Hamm commercial (he was attacked by a woman‘s transplanted hand, versus an African-American man’s), and different opening theme song lyrics.
Blooper-free as it was, did you nonetheless enjoy ’30 Rock’s live outing?