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Why your next TV binge should be... 30 Rock

One of the funniest, most quotable comedies ever televised. You’ve got two eyes and a heart, don’t you?

Image: NBC

Your Next TV Binge is TheJournal.ie’s new Friday feature, recommending a box set for you to get stuck into over the weekend. This week: Tina Fey’s cult comedy 30 Rock. 

ANYONE ALREADY IN the know will have decided that 30 Rock is up there with Friends and The Office as one of the funniest, most quotable comedies ever put on TV.

Those who aren’t may possibly just refer to it as ‘that show about the other show.’ And 30 Rock is indeed based on a fictional version of Saturday Night Live/SNL. It’s a show about a crazy cast of characters trying to make a show about a crazy cast of characters.

Creator and writer Tina Fey also stars as Liz Lemon, head writer for the show-within-the-show (which is called TGS… are you confused yet?). Fey started it off back in 2006 as the little show that could, but it wasn’t long before 30 Rock became the must-watch comedy for those who liked to blur the line between smart-funny and crazy-funny.

Source: Kim/YouTube

Liz Lemon’s main comedic foil is overbearing TV exec Jack Donaghy. Fey wrote the role with Alec Baldwin in mind, based on her old SNL boss Lorne Michaels, and was overjoyed when Baldwin agreed to do it. It was a good decision – the role can likely be thanked for his subsequent career resurgence in the likes of The Departed, It’s Complicated and Blue Jasmine. (Plus of course his appearances as Donald Trump on, you guessed it, SNL.)

Source: Giphy

Source: Giphy

But 30 Rock is far from being just a two-person show. From the start it was packed out with comedic talent in each and every episode, and it wasn’t long before the A-listers were queuing up to join in… some in quite intimate ways.

Over the show’s seven seasons, Tina Fey locked lips on screen with a plethora of guest stars including Jon Hamm, James Franco, Michael Sheen, Jason Sudekis, Peter Dinklage, Steve Martin and Matt Damon.

Not to be outdone, Alec Baldwin got romantically entangled with the likes of Salma Hayek, Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks, Isabella Rossellini, Edie Falco, Emily Mortimer and Condoleezza Rice. Yes, THE Condoleezza Rice.

You might argue that every episode essentially follows the same format. (It is this: With the action taking place inside the titular 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan, Liz finds that she has a problem with this week’s episode of TGS, and ends up battling it out with Jack; meanwhile all the supporting characters make everyone’s life a living nightmare; and we’ve all learned a little something by the end.) But the amount of mileage Fey et al managed to get out of this relatively simple setup is phenomenal.

Source: Giphy

For example, an episode synopsis: Jenna Maroney (played with wide-eyed insanity by Jane Krakowski) is the co-host of TGS, but following a recent career resurgence, she has been approached by The Wool Board to be the new face of wool. The head honchos of the wool industry – who are overseen by an actual sheep – love how “normal” Maroney seems to be… not aware that she is currently dating female impersonator Paul L’astname (Will Forte) who makes his money in drag bars by dressing up as, yep, Jenna Maroney…

Source: I demand pie/YouTube

See? Bonkers, but in the best possible way.

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Over the 138 episodes, the show picked up more than 80 awards, including several Golden Globes for Best Actor and Actress for Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey, as well as Best Comedy Show, with plenty of Emmys and SAGs thrown in for good measure. As well as pretty much every outlet from Newsweek to Vanity Fair to the Writers Guild Of America naming it one of the best comedies of all time.

Off the back of it, we’ve been gifted with the rise of Tina Fey – one of the funniest people in show business right now – as a performer, a writer (check out Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, another great oddball female-led comedy scripted by Fey), and even as herself (her co-hosting gigs at the Golden Globes were nothing short of hilarious). But for most of us, 30 Rock is where it all began.

Source: palaisdementhe/YouTube

It finds a perfect balance between high IQ comedy and lowest-common-denominator punchlines – the show is never above a well-timed fart joke – while building some emotionally invested relationships among the cast and crew, and culminating in one of the best final episodes ever made.

All of that, and we didn’t even get to mention Doctor Spaceman (pronounced Spa-che-men), the local GP who isn’t above prescribing ecstasy tablets for a mild headache.

So where can I watch it? 30 Rock seasons 5, 6 and 7 are currently available on-demand on Virgin TV Box Sets.

More: Why your next TV binge should be… Scandal>

About the author:

Rory Cashin

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