Then I was on an airplane and, being a captive audience, I went ahead and watched the episode they showed, which was pretty damn funny. The very next day, buffseeds linked this great pimping post in fandom_picspams. There were two things that stuck out: the fact that the main character, Liz Lemon, was apparently a big nerd who made Star Wars references all the time, and this exchange:
Liz Lemon: You're not gonna come to our crappy poker game, are you?
Jack Donaghy: No I'm not.
Donaghy: I bluffed, yes I am coming.
That right there convinced me that 30 Rock and I would get along. (Okay, to be honest, I knew we would get along from the promo where Liz described a "talking like this contest." And, er, that joke doesn't translate in text.)
So I watched it all this weekend, and it was hilarious.
30 Rock = (Sports Night + Arrested Development)/Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It's what Studio 60 should have been: an entertaining behind-the-scenes look at a sketch comedy show. It's much like Sports Night in the setup, with a great deal of the episode taking place inside the building with all the characters working on the show, although there isn't as much focus on making the show. It's very Arrested Development in its sense of humor, which is inappropriate and highly random (while it's not nearly as clever, it has its moments of brilliance).
"I wanna hold a mirror up to society. And then win world record for biggest mirror."
Lemme run through the characters, real quick.
Liz Lemon is totally adorable. She's terminally endearing with lettuce in her hair, and she has this cute cleavage that's not sexy but just there and cleavage-y, and she does in fact make Star Wars references all the time. She's the sort of chick you'd want to hang out with if she actually took the time to hang out with people. Much of the show is about her struggle to balance her professional life and personal life. And by balance I mean have a personal life.
"Dr. Spaceman, is it true that bread eats away at your brain?"
"We have no way of knowing, because the powerful bread lobby keeps stopping my research."
"Well, folks, bread will never maybe attack your brain again!"
Jack Donaghy is Liz's boss, and Alec Baldwin basically owns the part with his deadpan. Jack and Liz have a fun relationship, since he's not overtly an asshole; he's just trying to do what he thinks is best for other people.
"Damn, Jack, you went all out; that's a giant SHRIMP."
"Made out of shrimp, and diving into a bowl of shrimp."
Jenna Maroney is Liz's long-time friend and star of The Girlie Show. She's basically Jane Krakowski's character from Ally McBeal in a new setting.
"Son, to have you, your mom must have been so stupid, she thinks Grape Nuts is an STD."
"Well, sir, your mother must not have raised you right, 'cause you're not saying very nice things!"
Tracy Jordan is the star of such hits as Who Dat Ninja and Honky Grandma Be Trippin', added to the show to boost ratings. Also, he's crazy. Literally. This can be annoying sometimes, but it gets toned down as the season progresses. Tracy gets some of the best lines in the show since he has no filter and will spout random nonsense when you least expect it. For example, his motto is "Live every week like it's Shark Week." Through him, the show gets to do a lot of race humor (while at the same time poking fun at race humor).
"If Kenneth could beat me, and you could beat Kenneth, then by the transitive property, you should beat me too!"
Pete is the producer and sort of a straight-man. Frank is notable for his hat, which says something different in every episode (and sometime every scene). Toofer is the stereotypical unstereotypical black guy. Lutz is fat. Josh is a young actor who acts young. Jack's Indian assistant is Indian by virtue of the actor but not written any differently, which I like. Cerie's entire purpose is to be ridiculously, inappropriately hot, and she succeeds admirably.
"My mother always told me that even when things seem bad, there's someone else who's having a worse day, like being stung by a bee. Or getting a splinter. Or being chained to a wall in someone's sex dungeon."
And then there's Kenneth, the Secondary Character Who Steals the Show. Kenneth is a page, naive as a button. It took me a long time to realize he reminded me of Randy from My Name Is Earl, since they have a similar brand of funny. But whereas Randy always seems to be out of it and not really aware of what he's saying, Kenneth is fully confident of himself, which makes it a different kind of funny. At first, he seems unreal, but they add some subtleties to his character that make him more plausible as a human being.
"And I have an idea about a show about a teacher named Art. I call that one Art School. And one about a Jewish guy who opens an ice cream parlor. That one's called Ice Cream Coen. And a drama about two cops, one named Cash, and one named Carrey. I don't have a title for that one."
I like the absurd, off-the-wall pseudoreality of the world (like I said, rather Arrested Development-ish) that allows for hilarious recurring characters like Dr. Spaceman, who, like most characters on the show, is played by someone from SNL. I like the bits of satire of the television industry. I like jokes about mathematical logic. I don't think the secondary characters (with the exception of Kenneth, of course) are all that strong, however, and they're fairly underdeveloped. It doesn't really start to have anything resembling an arc until the last few episodes of the season, and I hope that continues into the second season, since this is a show that would do well with continuity-based humor. It doesn't have a lot of depth to it, even though it's really very entertaining and funny. I don't agree with people who put it up there with The Office; it's not there yet. It's probably at the level of first-season My Name Is Earl or thereabouts, although MNIE has more cleverly plotted scripts.
Basically, I don't love 30 Rock so much I want to take it out behind a middle school and get it pregnant, but I definitely want to make out with it. Maybe even get to second base.