October 12, 2006

TV: 30 Rock

The second "backstage at a sketch-comedy show" show of the year.

This one's a sitcom, created by and starring Tina Fey as Liz Lemon, head writer for The Girlie Show. Liz's best friend, Jenna (Jane Krakowski), is the star of the show, and life is good. But then the new network executive arrives.

Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin, the best thing about the first episode) wants to make changes to the show. Not because it's bad, necessarily, but because "sometimes you have to change something that's perfectly good to make it your own.) The change Jack wants Liz to make: Hire Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan, playing equal parts Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy), a reckless, unpredictable movie star. Liz isn't happy, but doesn't have much choice, and her struggle to fit Tracy into the comfortable world of The Girlie Show will clearly be a major storyline of the show.

On the whole, it's not a bad show. Baldwin is very funny, and while Fey's not an actress with a wide range, she's smart enough to write the part of Liz to suit her skills and limitations. The show's major flaw -- and it's a big one, maybe big enough to be fatal -- is Tracy Morgan. He wasn't funny during his years on Saturday Night Live, and he's not funny here. If Fey can't find some way to make Morgan's presence bearable, then 30 Rock will be unwatchable, despite its considerable assets.

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