Friday, April 27, 2007

30 Rock: What's the upside?

Just FYI: Because I was at last night's disappointing Yankee game until late in the evening, the only Thursday show I've seen so far is "30 Rock," and I may not get to watch the others until tonight. Sorry. Donaghy-themed spoilers coming right up...

Ah, well. After all the recent Alec Baldwin unpleasantness in the press made me feel squickier than I usually do at celebrity gossip -- not to mention Alec telling the folks on "The View" in today's pre-taped episode that he wants to leave acting in general and "30 Rock" in particular to focus on parental rights -- I had hoped that the "30 Rock" season finale would be so funny as to make me forget about that stuff for a while. Instead, after a long streak of absolute brilliance, Fey and company closed out their first season with the flattest episode in a while.

Sure, there were definite moments of hilarity: Dr. Spaceman's sex book, "You're Doing It Wrong!" ("My techniques guarantee a male orgasm") and Spaceman's explanation for his bloody lab coat; Jack's mouth tasting like purple and his speech about regrets in life; Kenneth promising to get Tracy back to New York in time for his traditional pre-show rant ("I think this one's going to be about immigration!"); and Jack's mom using the EKG as a lie detector.

But a little of Sean Hayes doing his Kenneth impression in the middle of a "Misery" parody goes a long way, the tension over how to do the show without Tracy didn't really work (though the bit about the RoboCop impression would have been funnier if Liz or Pete had responded to it with, "What else have you got? Juliette Lewis?"), and Emily Mortimer wasn't used as well as in the previous two episodes (though I like Phoebe's vertigo compounding the hollow bones problem in bed).

So before we enter the real hiatus, two questions: 1)Does the voicemail thing in any way affect your appreciation of Baldwin as you watch him?; and 2)If Baldwin is insistent on leaving and NBC decides not to force him to honor his contract, can "30 Rock" survive without him? Is there any actor who could adequately replace him -- and would be willing to do a weekly TV show?

34 comments:

Kristin said...

I liked this one...once again, because of a tiny bit of Jenna and a not-as-outrageous Tracy. I thought Jack's mom was hilarious. They should bring her back in a semi-recurring role. Loved her.

I'm not sure what would happen to "30 Rock" if Alec Baldwin leaves. Although I would be more than pleased to have Will Arnett come back in a more permanent position.

Baldwin and Fey are the reasons I find this show as funny as I do. So, I'm not sure how it would work. They would really have to work hard to convince me the show without Baldwin would be of the same caliber.

Matt said...

Someone over at our place suggested Steven Weber as a variant on his "Studio 60" character, which could actually work, as his performance there was actually a lot of fun.

If they wanted to go younger, what about someone like Liev Schrieber?

Anonymous said...

Christopher. Walken.

Anonymous said...

Baldwin's real life problems don't interfere with my enjoyment of the show at all. But that might also because I enjoy him so much on 30 Rock that he'd literally have to kill someone for me to not find him funny. I definitely think the show would lose A LOT of its humor without him. The Will Arnett replacement had occurred to me too, but I LOVE the Walken idea. Hopefully they'll never have to use it, though.

Wallwriting said...

Am I the only one who thinks that Alec's voice mail rant really wasn't that awful? Certainly it was rough, but it just sounded like a dad who was really mad at his kid.

M.A.Peel said...

Christopher Walken and Steve Weber are 2 great suggestions. They could get a William Paley/Frank Stanton thing going, except much funnier.

Louis said...

This show's finished if Alec Baldwin leaves.

Mr. Bad Example said...

I completely agree on Walken (and on Baldwin's phone faux pas being blown out of proportion), so let me add the only other candidate I would consider as Donaghy's replacement: Stephen Root. To be specific, Stephen Root as his Jimmy James character in NewsRadio. I've been watching the reruns lately and that underrated show stioll holds up!

Chris Littmann said...

Count me in on the Christopher Walken suggestion. I think the show can survive without him, but it's got to be the right person. After all, the way the show was written, it wouldn't be a great stretch to say Jack got fired after losing microwaves and also the fireworks incident.

After the greatness that was "Cleveland," I was REALLY disappointed with this finale. There were a few funny moments, but it wasn't close to the last few.

Alger said...

First - the voicemail - while certainly not fun to hear or anything Baldwin should take lightly – it wasn't that big of a deal. Maybe because I have a hot-tempered Dad and on occasion heard him flip out at me and my brother in similar ways... it doesn't excuse it of course and parents should always try to rise above those impulses but parents are people too. And sometimes people lose their temper and say unfortunate things they don't really mean. To quote some VH1 or E comedian/commentator – “Whose father talks to them that way?! Oh right - everyone's!” If all parents were held to the same standards Baldwin is currently being held to, The View would be a 24 hour cable channel that ran nothing but pre-taped interviews of contrite fathers and mothers apologizing to their kids and the society they have offended.

As for him wanting to leave 30 Rock…I really think he and NBC should stick it out one more season and see how he feels then. If he still wants out – at that point I think they could maybe replace him without killing the show. And the suggestions here have been great – Walken, Webber, Arnett. At this point though, the show is too dependent on the Lemon/Donaghy dynamic to do without it.

"Ride it, Donaghy. Ride it straight to hell."

“I think he may have scurvy – he keeps asking for lemon.”

“So, I’m your emergency contact?”
“You’re the only person I knew wouldn’t hesitate to pull the plug.”

dan said...

Well, if Jack leaves I hope Devon Banks gets the job after all.

I was watching the old Scrubs episode yesterday with Mathew Perry and thought he might be good on 30 Rock until I remembered, Studio 60. DOH.

I laughed the hardest last night with Kenneth's "By the hammer of Thor." I am easily amused with running jokes.

Alec's voicemail only showed me that the guy is human, and not perfect like like people expect celebrities to be.

Marty McKee said...

We all know how bad the news media is at its job, but elevating Alec Baldwin's voicemail to his daughter to a major story is its nadir.

30 ROCK is, frankly, dead without Baldwin.

R.A. Porter said...

Steven Root's a nice suggestion, but I counter with Dave Foley!!! (I'm only half-kidding...imagine Dave playing it cheerful and happy-go-lucky, coffee cup in hand one minute and a ruthless, smiling backstabber the next.)

As for Baldwin's "rant"...both my parents said worse to me when I was a petulant pre-teen and teen. And neither of them had to schedule time to call me and then be blown off to do it. I'm not scarred that I can tell, just because my parents were occasionally mean.

Jaynee said...

The phone call thing with Baldwin doesn't bother me in the least - I still think he's one of the funniest men on TV right now. I also think the phone call thing was blown WAY out of proportion and I feel bad for the guy. I really hope he comes to his senses and doesn't leave the show - there's a REASON he won the Emmy for his performance...

Cinnette said...

I think if Baldwin leaves that'll be the end of 30 Rock. Which will blow, since I keep telling people it's the funniest thing on tv right now, and it is...

I was appalled at how he spoke to his daughter, but I agree that the guy is human and he f***ed up. No one can be a perfect parent. And really it's none of our business anyway. God forbid all of my parental blunderings were made public.

All I really want is my funny to stay on the air!

james said...

Alan, a bit off topic but I want to give you some tips since there is a lot of TV to catch up on. I strongly suggest watching last night's Office first, as it was probably the funniest 30 minutes of TV this season.

Rick said...

I'm down with the bring back Will Arnett idea.

Part of problem isn't just that Baldwin is so funny in the role, but that he and Fey have natural chemistry, which is arguably more valuable.

sunsetgal said...

I had also thought of Steven Weber as a possible replacement, but I'm sure Alec will be back. I also feel that there has been waaaayyyy too much overblown media sanctimonious hysteria about his rant to his daughter. How low can the media go? Speaking of "media", where is that much-ballyhood media "discussion" concerning the Imus implosion and its aftermath. Seems that has gone by the wayside as well. I realize the Va. Tech tragedy occurred just after Imus was fired, but I suspect there would have been no followup in any event.

And, yes that Yankee game was a dud...hopefully Phil Hughes will now embark on a great career!

Isabel said...

I don't care what Alec said to his daughter (who wouldn't take his scheduled phone call!!) on that phone message. That man still crack me up every Thursday night. I hope he sticks around. It just wouldn't be the same without him.

(And I agree with the other comments. I don't think the phone call was that bad. I think Kim sucks for leaking it to the media. Not a lot of class there, Kimmy.)

Ted F. said...

Alec Baldwin exhausted my patience with him with his idiotic political ranting in 2000. So the voicemail doesn't really give him additional demerits. I watch him because he's entertaining, and don't listen to him when he's not performing. If anything, I'm more sympathetic to him for having to go through a heavily litigated divorce: it's Basinger who's losing points by me.

As much as I like the actor on AD, Will Arnett's 30 Rock character is too thin to be an adequate replacement for Baldwin. Just keep him on the show; he's under contract. And if he goes, Baldwin's not that irreplaceable. The actor is just a vehicle for the writing, and stick another actor in there with the same writing, make a joke about drastic plastic surgery, and it will still work. Trade Baldwin for Charlie Sheen, and Sheen would work on 30 Rock while Baldwin would suck on Two and a Half Men.

Homertojeebus said...

I posted about the voicemail on last week's 30 Rock thread, but I guess I was ahead of the curve. (patting self on back). It is zero big deal, and in fact, kind of hilarious. As I said then, if I left a message like that for one of my kids, they'd have played it at dinner every night and laughed at me. When you factor in the very high provocation factor, it's hard to fault the guy.
Actually, the whole thing gives me a great idea: "Glengarry Glen Ross 2: School's In", wherein Alec trains a sales force of 'tweens to raise funds for the Key club, or whatever. "Second prize? A set of Number 3 pencils."
As for replacing Alec, hopefully it never comes up. Walken, Arnett are excellent choices, but why not another Baldwin? Billy, are you busy? Just kidding.
Actually, they could go to a rondelay of frequent SNL hosts, a la Harry Potter's Dark Arts professors. Walken, Spacey, Hanks, etc. It would be fun, and it would completely avoid the pitfall of trying to replace Baldwin's and Fey's superb chemistry.

cheesesteak said...

The good news is that there's a whole summer hiatus before any new episodes are filmed. I really doubt that anyone will even be talking about it in a couple weeks and he'll regain his mentality a little over the summer. I think he's one of the best parts of 30 Rock and I'd be very sad to see Baldwin go.

dez said...

"Ride it, Donaghy. Ride it straight to hell."

That was my favorite part of the ep (followed closely by his mom using his heart monitor as a lie-detector).

I think the show could survive without Baldwin, but I hope it doesn't have to. He's hilarious. From what I've read, NBC won't let him out of his contract, and I hope they stick to that. I'm sure the media-manufactured hysteria over his voice mail will peter out long before the new season is ready for filming, too (sure, it was uncomfortable to hear, but that's mostly because it's so freakin' personal and sooo none of our business).

Anonymous said...

Alan, I only watched Grey's this week so I could enjoy complaining about it here in the comments! Where's the review?

Anonymous said...

I actually watched Grey's cause I still love it - despite the complete idiocy that is Izzie and George.

I haven't seen 30 Rock in 3 or 4 weeks (but at least I know which tapes the eps are on now - I hate the 20th century!) but I hunted up the Baldwin Rant (or had it dropped on me, I forget.. no I actually downloaded it and I have to say - my father said lots and lots (and lots and lots and lots) of horrible things to me, but "pig" was never among them. It's really sad. (not worthy of firing/quitting. just sad. hey! maybe he could go to rehab like Isaiah! Sounds like he needs it.)

maybe he needs this PSA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CU3m4N9iOQI
(hopefully that doesn't cut off)

J said...

The voicemail's a non-issue (though a pretty funny one). It's not like Baldwin's playing a loving father on a family show. He's playing a moderately-unhinged network executive. Compromising photos with barnyard animals could only help.

I'd hate to see him go. As has already been noted, his chemistry ads a lot to the show. As does his willingness to underplay things. Walken would be fun for a while, but everybody'd want a freakshow. Arnett would be going for laughs all the time. Baldwin's a rock.

I hope they sort things out. And avoid the temptation to work this into the script. (Unless Baldwin does leave. Then I call for a single-week stunt by Kim Basinger.)

The finale suuuuuuuuuuucked. Too much sprawl between Kenneth's hometown, Cleveland, the Hospital. Sean Hayes was awful. The point that TGS has become Tracy-dependent didn't play because we rarely see TGS (and when we do, it's with Jenna anyway).

The one redeeming thing was the burgeoning relationship between Stritch and Fey. Stritch didn't make the impact the character demanded - probably just crowded out in a busy script - but I loved that she locked on Lemon. And the "Tell him his mother loves him-- but not in a queer way" line.

Withnail said...

Anyone shocked by how Baldwin talked to his kids obviously never had kids.

What shocked me is that is shrew of an ex wife leaked the tape to the press in an effort to embarrass him. Who does that?

bebe said...

I don't think Baldwin's going anywhere, but if he were, Jack should not be fired. He should die.

Jennifer J. said...

Want Alec to stay. Think Alec should stay. He's perfect on 30 Rock.

Love NewsRadio. Loved Jimmy James. I'd say do it, but only if you could bring back a few other characters, too. Still miss Phil Hartman.

I thought Elaine Stritch was a perfect choice as his mother. I hope they do more with her next season.

Kenneth's cousin fell flat with us.

Lyle said...

So... was I the only one who heard the Alec Baldwin voice mail and think of Jack's cell phone conversations with his mom? "These flimsy cell phones keep breaking!"

Losing Baldwin would hurt 30 Rock but I think the show could recover... Will Arnett's character could grow into an interesting replacement that wouldn't feel like a stand-in (see Oliver on Coupling) though they could get a little crazy and... say have Jack arrange a promotion for Kenneth before Jack exits.

That said, for someone with a temper like Baldwin, three months is a long time to cool off about the frustration, embarrassment and anger over his voice mail. People with hot tempers tend to cool quickly and I suspect Baldwin is like that and forget about his desire to quit the show (if the media lets him) by the time filming re-starts.

Anonymous said...

I think all shows that are well-written can endure big cast changes. Although Tina alone is certainly not enough, Will Arnett would be good. Better than good.

Anonymous said...

Christopher Walken's the only viable choice, the only one who could without a doubt replace Baldwin and balance the show. He'd have great chemistry with Morgan probably with Fay as well.

Anonymous said...

Only question is if he'd do it, and if he'd do it for an amount NBC would be willing to shell out for.

Anonymous said...

Good old Jimmy James may well work, but he wouldn't be guaranteed to be as good a replacement for Baldwin as Walken would.