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Live '30 Rock' rocked

Posted by Matthew Gilbert  October 15, 2010 08:21 AM

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I loved last night's live episode of "30 Rock." It was a loose, sloppy, wonderful mess. Rather than trying to recreate the tight single-camera wit of the regular "30 Rock," Tina Fey and company turned the show into a "Saturday Night Live"-like stage production complete with audience laughter. (Indeed, the episode was filmed at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Studio 8H, home of "SNL.") From Jane Krakowski singing lyrics along with the "30 Rock" theme song to Julia Louis-Dreyfus standing in for Fey in the "flashbacks," it was a refreshing, silly delight.

Above, you'll find the entire East Coast version; in the West Coast version, which aired three hours later, Cheyenne Jackson, who plays Danny, sang the opening. That episode, which contains a few different jokes, is available at both NBC.com and hulu.com.

The whole production had a bouncy sketch-comedy vibe to it -- but with a lot of meta references, which is what you would expect from a self-referential show that makes fun of its own product placement.  "Does it seem weird in here to you?" Alec Baldwin's Jack said to Fey's Liz Lemon at the top of the half-hour. Tracy was bent on screwing up the live "TGS" episode -- a nod to the potential for screw-ups on the live "30 Rock" episode. And after the first flashback featuring Louis-Dreyfus, Jack said to Liz: "Why are you better-looking in your memory?" Her response: "My memory has 'Seinfeld' money."

The Louis-Dreyfus stuff reminded me of Fey's acceptance speech at the 2008 Emmys, when she talked about acting like Louis-Dreyfus when she's at a loss. Now here was Louis-Dreyfus acting like Fey.

The plot was pretty nothing-much, with Jack trying to quit drinking and Liz waiting for someone to recognize her 40th birthday. But that didn't matter at all. There was a Brett Favre joke involving a hot dog, there were guest spots by Rachel Dratch, Jon Hamm, and Matt Damon, and there was a Dr. Spaceman erectile dysfunction ad. The atmosphere was infectiously giddy and sketchy. It was live, and alive.

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