I don't know about everybody else, but as much as I look
forward to Tina Fey's Sarah Palin impressions on SNL, what I've really been waiting for finally came Thursday night -- the third Season Premiere of "30 Rock." From episode one this show has been a tantalizing mix of character comedy, industry parody and social commentary and episode 37 is no exception.
Tina Fey's intrepid alter ego Liz Lemon ranks in the top five, maybe even three female television characters of all time. Not only is she funny and smart and persevering even when mightily challenged by the powers-that-be (in the forms of Alec Baldwin as her corporate boss and Tracy Morgan as her unpredictable, uncontrollable star), she is also selfish, self-destructive, corruptible and mean-spirited. In other words, she's an actual human being. And her love interest isn't ever really in the form of a guy -- it's in the form of her job, her friendships and her lame attempts to overcome (sometimes) her baser nature.
No need for me to gush when you can check it out for yourself (if you are new to this show, treat yourself and watch all of the episodes on NBC.com), but how many shows have lines as loony as "She was wearing Dora the Explorer panties that were meant for an obese child" and as highbrow as "We're not the best people, but we're not the worst people. The worst people are graduate students" in the same episode? Par for the course on "30 Rock," as are sight gags, cutaways, wordplay, political jabs and celebrity jokes. It's a veritable comedy grab bag almost every episode and totally gets away with it.
Why? Because Tina Fey, her writers, actors and directors are, I think, out for more than ratings or Emmys or even a good belly laugh (even though they've consistently gotten two of the three). I think they are out to tell the truth of the people and the place they are presenting, no matter how wacky, ugly, venal or petty they get. As Liz Lemon says (after tons of shenanigans and half-truths) to the woman who is evaluating her to become an adoptive mother: "Yes, this place is not ideal but these weirdos are family to me and so if this job is a deal breaker, you tear up my application and I will start someplace else." Moments like these, and the undercutting ones that follow are why this show has heart as well as humor and why I think we all should squeeze that Lemon and keep her around for as many seasons as she'll give us.
Lite Pop. We Like It.