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March 5, 2014

The Couch Potato: Does ‘30’ rock? It’s only the best sitcom — ever

NEW CASTLE — The Couch Potato has written about a lot of different television shows over the past months, hitting on great dramas, comedies and everything in between.  

From “Breaking Bad” to “Seinfeld,” “The Wire” to “The Simpsons” and “The Americans” to “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” we’ve touched on just about every good thing that television has to offer.

But something hit me this weekend.

It actually started a few weeks ago as I was scrolling through the channel guide, just searching for anything that might catch my fancy, when I came across an old favorite — “30 Rock.” The show had ended in the Spring of 2013, and had always been one of my favorites throughout its seven-year run, but I hadn’t watched it in a while.

So I clicked the “record” button so that my DVR would start recording the reruns on a daily basis and soon I had a nice stable of episodes waiting for me.

Now to explain, whenever the Couch Potato is eating a snack or just needs to zone out for a little while, I go through my DVR offerings and try to find something that is short and sweet, but entertaining in its brevity. I love half-hour comedies on the DVR (because fast-forwarding through commercials gives you a solid 22 minutes) for this reason.

So over the past few weeks, my go-to show for some quick entertainment has been “30 Rock,” and then finally this weekend, a revelation — this is the best sitcom of all time.

Now I know that’s a grand statement to make, but when you break it down, it’s not that crazy.

First of all, Tina Fey is a comedic genius, whose writing and performing skills are on par with anyone in the business. Her self-deprecation and wit are always on full display in “30 Rock” and the show shines because of it.

Fey and her writers crafted a show that aimed to be as dense (in number of jokes) as “The Simpsons." They succeeded in that by creating a show that had wordplay (Tracy Jordan to Jack and Liz, “What am I?Surrounded by horses? Because all I hear are naysayers!”), showbiz insight (a show about a show) and fantastic characters.

The main cast is one of the best ever assembled. Tina Fey shines as Liz Lemon, a disheveled late-night show-runner, but much of the comedy comes from the support.  

Like him or hate him, Alec Baldwin is a force as NBC executive Jack Donaghy. Tracy Morgan essentially plays himself as show star Tracy Jordan, but it’s the perfect role for him. NBC page Kenneth Parcell (played by Jack McBrayer) provides continual laughs, as does Tracy Jordan’s bodyguards (Grizz and Dot Com) who play against type by being thoughtful, creative and sensitive souls.

The show provided such strong writing and characters that it became a destination for big time stars to guest appear. These are big names who knew that they would be given some genuinely funny stuff to work with: Jerry Seinfeld, Matt Damon, Paul Giamatti, Al Gore, Brian Williams, David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Martin, John Hamm, Betty White, James Franco, Conan O’Brien, Matthew Broderick, Bryan Cranston, Kelsey Grammar and the list goes on and on. What other show could attract such a list?

A little known (or unnoticed, possibly) gem of “30 Rock” is the music. Composed by Tina Fey’s real-life husband Jeff Richmond, the jazzy tunes are almost another character of the show, and often add to the comedy, if that’s possible. I think it is, and if you happen to watch, see if you can pick up how it adds to the show.

So there it is, my case for the best sitcom of all time. I know there’s room for debate with the “Seinfeld” and “Arrested Development” fans of the world (which I have been a part of), but there’s just too many good parts to this show to not say it's the best.


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