30 Rock recently aired its very last episode, drawing Tina Fey’s critically-acclaimed comedy to a close. It was a show which arguably never quite managed to go beyond the status of a “cult” program. 30 Rock – NBC’s offices at 30, Rockefeller Plaza, New York – takes inspiration from Fey’s stint as head writer at Saturday Night Live, and details the turbulent life of her writer alter-ego Liz Lemon. It ran for seven seasons, so the end was not quite a surprise.
30 Rock’s best material – truthfully, belonging in earlier seasons – revolves around the working relationship of Jack Donaghy, played supremely by former SNL host Alec Baldwin, and Liz Lemon, the head writer of a lousy live comedy show. Ambitious and right-wing, Donaghy acts as Lemon’s “mentor”, despairing at the life of his hapless left-wing employee. It’s worth getting the DVD box set just for the host of catchphrases, endless character antics from the frustrated writers or insane actors, and to learn life wisdom from Jack Donaghy, such as “never follow a hippy to second location.”
If you are a fan looking for some US comedy to 30 Rock’s gap, or if you are just looking for something new, there are other options out there.
Close to 30 Rock is Parks and Recreation, the latest comedy vehicle for Amy Poehler, a close friend of Fey. Following, documentary-style, the lives of government employees in the department of Parks and Recreation, it is a child of The US Office. After a shaky first season, it comes into its own. While it seems “nice” next to 30 Rock, this does not detract from the sharpness of the comedy. It is currently only available on DVD as a US import, but BBC4 have obtained the show, so it could be on iPlayer this year.
Modern Family, currently available on UK Netflix, is a Golden Globe success. It follows, also in the documentary style, three branches of one eccentric family. In two episodes, it hooks, with a funny script and loveable, memorable characters.
This year, the Golden Globes honoured the writer, star and creator of Girls, Lena Dunham. While brilliant, Girls is harshly realistic in tone, and as it focuses on recent graduates, it is especially raw to watch.
Finally, fans of Arrested Development –about the dysfunctional, once-rich Bluth family – are anticipating the return of the show in May, when new episodes will appear on US and UK Netflix in one go. So, for those who have not yet seen it, there’s plenty of time to find the box set. This is a great era for US comedy, and these are gems in which it’s worth investing a laugh.