Episode 4 - The Live Show
23 February 2012
Synopsis: A special live episode. Jack decides to give up drinking to support Avery during the pregnancy but finds it increasingly difficult. Jonathan takes revenge on Liz for a bad joke by hiding the fact that it's her birthday from the staff. Liz is upset and spends the day resenting her cast and crew for forgetting. Tracy learns how much fun it can be to break from script and start laughing and determines to put it into practise live on TGS.
The Good: I liked a lot of what was done to cover the transition from pre-taped to live audience and I think it made for a fun experience. Using Jack's lack of drinking to cover the change in perception was a nice idea and getting Julia Louis-Dreyfus to play the cutaway version of Liz was a great choice. That extra layer of self referential humour had an obvious purpose and made the episode more entertaining than the same story would otherwise have been.
Jack giving up drinking was predictably funny with him learning to nit, do magic tricks and sniffing paint all in an attempt to not be sober anymore. The idea of Tracy breaking on purpose was also fun though his attempts to do so on TGS would probably have been funnier without the live audience giving him easy laughs.
The "commercial breaks" involving Jon Hamm and "Dr" Leo Spacemen (who put in his own inverted commas) were a good idea to further play with the format. Spacemen's cure for erectile dysfunction was a fun skit.
The Bad: I hated the Jon Hamm bit though. Spacemen is essentially a sketch show character and so placing him in an actual sketch made him seem more plausible. However Drew Baird has been one of 30 Rock's crimes against believable comedy and somehow the stupidity just escalated here with him getting a new hand from an executed criminal with a mind of its own. Brilliant.
The live audience is no judge of what good comedy is (neither am I of course but ignore that for now) but I was curious as to how they would react to the jokes offered up. I wasn't surprised at all to see them react with far greater laughter to obvious sit com jokes like Tracy wanting to hire male strippers (instead of female) than they did to the topical jokes about Chilean miners and Brett Favre which Jenna came out with. Other gags like Jenna's ten year drunk chip and Carol's co-pilot declaring his love for him fell equally flat. I honestly don't think this proved anything but here were hardcore fans and even they didn't laugh hard at most of the jokes which had no believable context. When those jokes have so little value why does reality have to be sacrificed to include them?
Comic Highlight: Carol realises he made a mistake in forgetting Liz' birthday and calls to talk to her. As they are speaking she walks into Jack's surprise party. Carol quickly latches on to this and says "Is that a surprise party? SURPRISE! I was totally in on it! It was really expensive..."
The Bottom Line: A nice departure from the norm.
Add your comments on this episode below. They may be included in the weekly podcasts.