Wednesday, October 29, 2008

rock rock to the 30 rock, don't stop

So the wife and I just finished watching Season One of 30 Rock on DVD. We certainly liked what we had seen of the first two seasons, but somehow we never watched the show regularly. I think we'd seen maybe three complete episodes (including the amazing 2007 one with "who's crazier, me or Ann Curry?," Alec Baldwin role-playing all the parts in the Tracy Morgan intervention, and the "NBC page-off") and parts of four or five more, so we had a lot of new-to-us stuff on these DVDs.

And color us impressed. Season One was consistently funny, delivering rapid-fire, smart, quality laughs every episode. I'm really looking forward to guzzling the second season in what will likely be a couple of big, delicious gulps.

The funniness of 30 Rock raises this question, though: Why in the h-e-double-hockey-sticks was Saturday Night Live so desperately unfunny over the last few years? Tina Fey was SNL's head writer from 1999 through 2006, and many of her SNL co-conspirators play prominent roles on 30 Rock. Based on that alone, I'd expect 30 Rock to bite the big one, but instead, 30 Rock achieves an almost Arrested Development-like level of intelligent, densely-layered hilarity.

While I do think that SNL improved during Fey's final years on the show, that's like saying that Revenge of the Sith was an improvement on Attack of the Clones. SNL's been an unmitigated disaster since 1992-1993, the season after the last of the excellent Hartman / Carvey / Myers / Lovitz / Hooks / Miller cast flew the coop. Heck, I laugh more at Tracy Morgan in any two minutes he's on 30 Rock than I did during his whole SNL tenure.

So what's holding SNL back? Is it Lorne Michaels? Lingering Mary Gross syndrome? What?


PCarino said...

I think sketch comedy is just really hard to do consistently well, whereas sitcoms--even gag-heavy ones like 30 Rock are character-driven. We laugh because these folks are like exaggerated versions of people we know, and the multi-layered, self-referential stuff gets even funnier over time.

I love 30 Rock--one of the few sitcoms I'd rank up there with AD, MTM, Bob Newhart, etc.

(Also--so sorry to be this way, but I'm an editor--it doesn't "beg" the question, it raises the question.)

Miles said...

But sketch comedy can be done well... SCTV, Kids in the Hall, Python, etc. Original Cast SNL is overrated on their hit/miss ratio but they were darn good, as was the 1986-1992 cast as mentioned in the post. It just seems weird to me that the same people responsible for dreadful year after year of SNL can do something this funny.

As for "beg" vs "raise," I accept editing! I have a good attitude toward editing! And I'll edit the post to look ex post facto erudite. :)