Review: 30 Rock 2.1

30 Rock

In the US: Thursdays, 8.30/7.30c, NBC

In the UK: Five, at some point, now they’ve finally bought the rights

Characters re-cast: 0

Major characters gotten rid of: 0

Major new characters: 0

Format change percentage: 0%

Number of Seinfelds: 20

There’s something about Jerry Seinfeld. Funny though his own series was, in other shows, he tends to destroy anything that’s good about the show. He’s just not a very good actor.

30 Rock, easily the funniest comedy of last year, even if it wasn’t a ratings smash, doesn’t need Jerry Seinfeld to be funny. In fact, bringing in Jerry Seinfeld makes it less funny. But it does need ratings, which is what Seinfeld can bring to a show, even with a guest appearance.

Trouble is, will he make people want to stay to watch the rest of the series, or does the reduction in quality he brings means his guest appearance will turn off the new viewers to what’s normally good show?

It’s clear, at least, that the writing team have lost none of their wit since last year. America’s Next Top Pirate, countries in Europe you won’t have heard of unless your bank balance exceeds a certain figure: you have to laugh.

Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey and co are still a fine bunch of comic actors, and it’s good to see Baldwin back after his attempts to escape from his contract. I’m less sure about Tracy Morgan, but then he appears to be operating on a different planet from everyone else. He’s funny, once you get sucked into his alternative reality, but make sure you can get out again or else you’ll be trapped forever.

But as they try to regroup for a new season, everything seems to have lost its zing a little, with Liz Lemon still more concerned about her singledom status than running her writers’ room. Baldwin’s Seinfeld-related dilemma – how to avoid the wrath of a man even richer than he is after trying to insert digitally-created versions of him into all of NBC’s programming – takes him away from his usual tussles with Lemon, reducing some of the fun.

For a show that has no qualms about mocking NBC as much as The Simpsons mocks Fox, it’s somewhat disappointing to see it fawn so much to its guest star – something more Larry Sanders-esque would have been more in keeping.

I can’t help but think that anyone new watching this for the first time won’t be sure quite why so much praise has been heaped on the show, so I’d advise new viewers to stick around for at least another episode if they decided to tune in this week. Old viewers will be glad to see everyone back, but probably worried that the show might have gone off the boil over the summer break.

Fingers crossed they’ll find their feet again, without the millstone of Seinfeld hanging around their necks.