As Lindsay pointed out yesterday, the new episode of 30 Rock that went on-line yesterday, and which airs on NBC next Thursday, is “fucking great.” It is easily the best sitcom on television right now, which was only made clearer with last night’s episode of The Office. That’s a good show, and last night’s episode was a good episode, but it lacks the absurd exuberance of 30 Rock. Admittedly, even though the American version of The Office is definitely broader and more jokey than the original Ricky Gervais series, it definitely follows in a slightly more subdued vein of cringe-based comedy . So that explains some of the emotional difference between watching that show vs. watching 30 Rock. But when I was watching the new episode yesterday I couldn’t help but think, “this show reminds me of Arrested Development.” Now, part of the reason for that, in the spirit of full-disclosure, is because I’ve been rewatching Arrested Development this week. (Right? Full disclosure? Professional journalism!) Man, Arrested Development, you guys. I can’t believe no one has ever talked about how great that show is! Did you guys know it got canceled? Why? It shouldn’t have gotten canceled, it’s so good! Why doesn’t anyone even know about this? Perfect. Collect your blown minds and let’s get back on track (let’s=let US, I’m not the only one to blame).
What 30 Rock shares with Arrested Development is an incredible ensemble cast and a love of small-bore inside jokes that appeal to a fraction of the viewing audience and make them both shows that demand multiple viewings. But what 30 Rock lacks is perfection. Seriously, not a moment of Arrested Development could have been better. But the same isn’t quite true of 30 Rock. It’s got its weaknesses.
1. Go Bigger Or Go Homer
One thing that Arrested Development managed to pull off beautifully was the grand-scale absurdity of every character (Buster had a bionic hand by season 3, FOR JUST ONE EXAMPLE), while still allowing them to be relatable and human. Many of 30 Rock’s side characters are stuck in two-dimensional sub-roles. Frank is “messy dude.” Cerie is “dumb blonde.” There is so much potential to be had in these side characters to tap into. TAP, BABY, TAP.
2. Get More Involved in the World
30 Rock started to do this last season with Jack’s relationship to Celeste and his stint at the Department of Homeland Security, but again, if you think on Arrested Development, which was a show about exceptionally self-absorbed, petty characters, things still moved well outside of the model home. There were George Sr.’s dealings with Saddam Hussein, and his flight to Mexico, as well as Tobias’s run with the Blue Man Group, and Gob’s USO tour. Not that 30 Rock isn’t heavily loaded with pop culture and political references, but sometimes it seems almost too enclosed and grounded to one locale. The name doesn’t help.
3. Hire Jeffrey Tambor and Tony Hale
They’ve already got Will Arnett. Surely there’s room for two more. I’d recommend Michael Cera, too, as, like, a page who threatens Kenneth a-la What Makes Sammy Run? but he might be too busy making Superbad 2: Infinite Playlists, or whatever. Oh, and another pro-tip: never, EVER invite Seinfeld back as a celebrity cameo. That set 30 Rock back 10 “It’s The Best” points right there.
4. Ignore The Audience Even More
Admittedly, this is probably terrible advice. If Tina Fey’s recent streak of success has shown anything it’s that despite some of the most famous actors in lead roles of any show, and an award winning team of writers, 30 Rock still struggles to find an audience. And you probably didn’t know this, but Arrested Development was CANCELED. Nevertheless, one of the things that made the show so enjoyable to the discerning viewer was it’s complete dismissal of the audience’s needs. If you got the joke, great. If you didn’t get the joke, maybe you’d watch the show again later and get it that time. But they definitely weren’t going to explain it to you. 30 Rock definitely aligns itself with this philosophy, but it could easily be taken farther. Are you ready to go all the way? TO THE LIMIT?
5. Just Be Arrested Development
I do not want 30 Rock to go away. I’m just saying that the most logical conclusion of a complaint like this that gets all up in some show’s business about why can’t it be more like another show is to just wish it was altogether the first show. I don’t actually want that. It’s called devil’s advocate, guys.
In conclusion, 30 Rock is great, but once there was this other show that I think was even better, but just so we’re clear they’re both really great, great, the end.