Part 12 ANGRY MEN homage, part surrealistic NBC retrospective fever dream and 100% 30 ROCK absurd brilliance at its best, night's live episode of the gold standard NBC comedy series 30 ROCK was precisely that - pure gold. Not only did Tina Fey and the impossibly creative team of writers give the motley assortment of players that comprise the cast a chance to seriously show off their live sketch show skills and theatrical training, but provided Broadway and Hollywood crossover star Alec Baldwin with some of his strongest material to date - with the charismatic erstwhile comedian absolutely killing in his moments portraying a host of wacky and weird characters besides the usual stone-faced Jack Donaghy, a role which has brought him a copious amount of well-deserved statuettes over the six seasons so far. Speaking of hosts, the Dean Martin parody, THE JOEY MONTERO SHOW, stands out as being perhaps the most memorable and guffaw-inducing of all the night's trove of treasures, which is certainly saying something significant - Baldwin owned. Besides the ingenuous conceit of paying tribute to the landmark original live television drama 12 ANGRY MEN acting as a fresh and amusing framing device for the episode, the opportunity afforded by Kenneth (Jack MacBrayer)'s hallucinatory flashbacks of fictional former lesser glories of NBC's long and storied history gave rise to the fabulous fodder allowing for some of the funniest sequences on the series in recent memory - moments that will linger in the mind and funny bone long after this episode or season. Yes, once again, 30 ROCK proved why it is the finest comedy on TV and why Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin have a special sort of chemistry that can only be compared to the finest pairs in the rich history of the form - Mary & Mr. Grant included.
Live From Studio 6H
"Live television? Who cares!" brays Jack Donaghy, "Who cares? Everybody! We all love live TV!" opines Liz Lemon. From there on, the 30 ROCK train left the station and we were lucky enough to be allowed along on the comedy ride of the Spring with the sharpest and smartest of conductors as our guiding force - as the writer and star of the show, the inimitable and seemingly endlessly gifted Tina Fey, outdoing herself throughout in the former category and knocking it out of the park in the latter (especially THE LOVEBIRDS). "Welcome To The 30 ROCK Live Show On NBC" sung by Tony Award-winning Broadway star Jane Krakowski as Jenna Maroney replaced the usual opening credits theme (which was penned by Fey's real life husband, , just as the duet version featuring frequent 30 ROCK guest star Cheyenne Jackson did last time the company went live on air (or close). Broadway favorite Cheyenne Jackson returned to the show for a brief cameo, and, also, serenaded the West Coast audience with the theme song in Krakowski's place. Oh, yeah - for those who are not aware, just as last time, the 30 ROCK cast and crew put on two separate, slightly different shows for both sides of the States. Among the discrepancies between the two feeds of last night's "Live From Studio 6H": reality show queen Kim Kardashian spelled original Beatle Paul McCartney in the first scene cameo and last scene tag (Kardashian was expectedly stilted but was given funnier material, whereas McCartney was affable but unmemorable); BrIan Williams subbed for Jon Hamm in the news segment; Baldwin impersonated Paul Lynde to even more hilarious results than Nixon in the 60s LAUGH IN parody; Chris Parnell's filthy and intentionally over-the-top offensive Dr. Spaceman made gay allusions instead of Nazi ones in the "unscripted" portion; lastly, Scott Adsit and Alec Baldwin did not tag the episode with a passionate kiss (they actually did on the East Coast show).
Speaking of the guest stars, if a Beatle and a Kardashian were not enough to satiate our burning desire for star-wattage given the super-special circumstances of the 30 ROCK live show and the plethora of A-listers who have come before in the show's illustriously bedecked previous seasons - Oprah, Matt Damon, Elaine Stritch and Patti LuPone among them - there were even more to enjoy for those keeping an eye out for such appearances, all adding to the overall exceptional entertainment experience. From SNL and PORTLANDIA's Fred Armisen, PARKS & RECREATION star (and Fey friend) Amy Poehler and MACGRUBER's Will Forte (outfitted as a drag queen Jenna angel and singing the recent MAD MEN hot pop culture musical breakout curiosity song "Zou Bisou Bisou"), all the way to Fey's frequent scene partner and fellow SNL Weekend Update alumnus Jimmy Fallon and beyond - plus, most of all, MAD MEN's Jon Hamm in blackface and whooping it up for our delight as those who only know him from MAD MEN and BRIDESMAIDS probably never quite anticipated, alongside Tracy Morgan; Hamm again proving he is equally adept in comedy as in drama, if not even more so. The cameos on the 30 ROCK live show never distracted and always acted as enhancement of the show, never distracting from the comedic intentions as they often can do (which happens from time to time on 30 ROCK and even more often on other live entertainment shows, especially talk shows). 30 ROCK Live is so vastly superior to nearly anything else on TV insofar as sheer excitement and entertainment value as to make one wish it were a weekly occurrence, especially in these dark days for SNL and other strong live comedy series on TV. Perhaps a 30 ROCK Live Broadway experience could be cooked up, using topical humor of the day and weaving it into a musical of sorts - if anyone could make something like that really work effectively in an innovative way it would probably be Tina Fey, after all. Isn't there anything Fey can't do? Broadway would certainly test her talent limits - as it is wont to do and is what makes it the sweetest victory in all of entertainment when it all works. Pulling off a live TV comedy like last night's 30 ROCK live is damn close, though. Bravo to Baldwin and the biggest brava to Fey - this was a show to treasure time and time again.
Check out whichever feed you caught last night again and compare it to the other show below with these two Hulu embeds of the East Coast and West Coast version of "Live From Studio 6H".
So, what was your preferred show, the East Coast or West Coast version? Who sold the theme song best, Jane or Cheyenne? What was your personal favorite moment of the night? What guest star left the most impact in their role? Whichever show you prefer, we can surely all agree this was 30 ROCK at its best and about as good as live TV gets - ever, especially in this day and age when it is so rare to experience. Let's hope we have another 30 ROCK Live show in Season Seven, and, if this one wins enough awards, maybe two?