In a single scene of 30 Rock, there’s almost always too much going on to actually take it all in on one watch-through. The (very welcome) issue is not every joke lands because there’s always the chance it’s a callback from something that happened in a previous episode, and that’s what keeps things exciting. If a joke is good enough, then there’s almost a guarantee that it will soon become a running gag. A great example is when Alec Baldwin’s character Jack’s father needs a kidney transplant, and he gets celebrities to record a song about it — Clay Aiken being one of those celebrities. Then in a quick throwaway line, Jack mentions that Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) and Clay are actually cousins. Kenneth never mentions this, but it doesn’t matter; you either caught the joke or you didn’t.
Of course, the barrage of comedy would be nothing without the excellent characters to deliver it, and everyone is at their best here. Tina Fey as the whimsical Liz Lemon, the head writer of an SNL-style variety show who’s just “trying to have it all,” is the babysitter for every character at one point or another. Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy is the complicated executive who pretends to only care about profits and self-gain, all the while cleverly nurturing relationships with the people who work under him. And then of course there’s the arguable star of the whole show, Tracy Morgan’s Tracy… Jordan, who steals every scene he’s in with his child-like attitude.Certainly, a lot of 30 Rock’s humor comes from its willingness to constantly break the fourth wall. It never feels out of place to see Liz look right at the camera and call a commercial break, or to have Jack know things he couldn’t possibly have known just to make him appear insanely in touch with everything going on around him. While it may seem mildly humorous at first that your fake variety show has Snapple ads inside your real show, which exists on the same network, baking in funny tidbits about how Snapple is great, it all eventually comes together by having a character stare right at the camera and basically ask for ad money. It’s a layered gag that one may think “hey, that’s funny,” but if you really get it, well that’s just gravy.
Because 30 Rock’s show within a show TGS takes place in the “real” world of show business, guest characters and cameos are abundant. But once again, it’s not a simple one-size-fits-all for these celebrity appearances. In one episode, you may see David Schwimmer dressed as Greenzo, the out-of-control NBC-made superhero who’s trying to save the planet. Other times we’ll see celebrities going by their real names, but still playing characters. Take Oprah, who gives Liz advice on a plane ride after she’s taken medication, only for it to then be revealed that it was not even Oprah that Liz had met.
30 Rock is a show we can all relate to. Oftentimes, a work-life balance can be a difficult thing. So if you’ve found yourself working just a bit too hard during these crazy times, then maybe a seven-season binge of one of the smartest, funniest, and most relatable shows is something you might need right now.
The 25 Best Comedies
More From Binge It!…
Binge It! is IGN’s recommendation series. Movies, TV shows, books, comics, music… if you can binge it, we’re here to talk about it. In each installment of Binge It!, we’ll discuss a piece of content we’re passionate about — and why you should check it out.