Fall is upon us TV enthusiasts. The leaves are turning, the weather is changing, Californication has ended its freshman season, South Park has stepped it up holy trilogy style, and the pumpkins have returned, as they do every year, in the form of bread, pies and jack o' lanterns. The fall has also ushered in the triumphant return of 30 Rock, the funniest primetime comedy currently on television (and I preemptively call shenanigans on all those who would argue The Office tops it). Much like during the golden age of Arrested Development I find myself making 30 Rock references during my daily life, mostly quoting Tracy Jordon, which leads me to wonder if Tina Fey has sparked the next great cult comedy?
Every time anyone says the word pumpkin (which has been abundant lately, as previously insinuated) I'm immediately reminded of 30 Rock... season 1... episode 1. Tracy Jordon sits down to lunch with his whole crew to meet Liz Lemon for the first time. The waiter leans in to Mr. Jordon and says: "May I suggest the pumpkin ravioli sir, it's very subtle." Tracy stares blankly for a moment while Liz rattles off her monologue about why he shouldn't join her show, before Tracy exclaims: "Did he just say pumpkin to me?" When a TV show gives me a scene I can laugh about on a daily basis without getting old I know there's something special going on.
I love the premise of a television show about the production of a television show. Aaron Sorkin did a nice job with the concept on Studio 60 even though the show didn't make it past its freshman year. 30 Rock, oppositely to Studio 60, executes the premise with fast paced comedy and an ensemble cast of completely over the top characters, quite similarly to the aforementioned Arrested Development.
Leading the pack of zany characters is Alex Baldwin's Jack Donaghy, a GE executive who, after years of intense market research, invented the "Trivection Oven" which combines heat, convection and microwaves to cook food five times faster than a traditional oven. Riding on the coat tails of his oven invention he was promoted to become the "Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming." GE has brought Jack in to make a NBC sketch comedy show called "The Girly Show" more appealing to the masses. To achieve his goal Jack adds Tracy Jordon, a completely insane movie star, to the cast despite being opposed by the show's head writer Liz Lemon (played by Tina Fey, who is also the head writer of the actual show, a paradox I've come to appreciate more with time).
Tina used to write for and star in SNL, and her experience really shines through on 30 Rock. The quick pace of rapid fire jokes that's associated with sketch comedy shows remains here, but is never cheesy like most of the crap I see on sketch shows. Mad TV was basically unwatchable except for sketches with Stuart the boy man. 30 Rock, quite unlike Mad TV, will sit well with everyone from any walk of life; its brand of humor is omnipotent. If you've yet to try 30 Rock I'd suggest picking up those DVDs of season 1. You can pick it up for $35 here in the Movieweb DVD store, I can guarantee you won't be disappointed. For those veteran 30 rockers I hope you've been enjoying season 2; I certainly have. My honorable mentions of hilarity include the page off and Jack's impersonations of Tracy's family, which had me crying with great jollity. They deservingly won the Emmy for best comedy series for season 1, and season 2 has been no disappointer excluding the first episode with Jerry Seinfeld (I'm not seeing Bee Movie simply because Jerry wouldn't shut up about it on any of his nine thousand guest appearances and commercials). I can only hope the ratings don't kill 30 Rock like they killed Arrested Development. 30 rockers unite and spread the word!
Californication's finale didn't disappoint in the slightest. Hank Moody played all his cards just right at the wedding; I must admit I'm proud of him. With only minutes left of the final episode I was almost brought to tears, which quickly shifted to a wry smile when Karen came running from Mr. Tightass to our favorite sexual miscreant. Thinking back to the beginning of the season I can't tell if Hank has really grown from within as I would hope a main character would throughout a season. His sexual promiscuity has certainly toned down, but only because he got a wakeup call from inadvertently sleeping with his ex-wife's fiance's 16 year old daughter. The bottom line though is that Californication had a great freshman year, and I'll certainly be there next summer to enjoy round two.
I know last time I sung Weeds' praise to the high heavens, but the season has since been somewhat uneventful, albeit entertaining. After the season finale I'll give my final thoughts, but my guess is that they'll be somewhat unenthused. Despite my worries that Dexter's first season could not be topped, Showtime has held the spot of best fall TV show in my book with the deeply satisfying second season. The tensions are building and the stakes are raised. Good luck Dex.
Feel free to post up your thoughts on 30 Rock and the Showtime trio or whatever you feel like writing about. I'll be keeping up the rants as often as I can manage, so if any fair readers want opinions on a show let me know with a comment. Until next time...