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October 15, 2010  | by: Laura Rosenfeld

A scene from Thursday night's live episode of '30 Rock.'

The critically-acclaimed yet not highly-rated 30 Rock finally got a much-needed boost in ratings last night with their live episode. The NBC comedy saw a 43% increase over last week in adults aged 18-49, according to Entertainment Weekly.

The live 30 Rock episode was certainly widely-publicized and highly-anticipated. Overall, it was a decent episode, but not one of the series’ best.

It’s Liz’s 40th birthday, but no one seems to remember or care as everyone is caught up in their own personal drama, as usual. Jack stops drinking in solidarity with Avery during her pregnancy. His assistant, Jonathan, “forgets” to add Liz’s birthday to the company’s master list after she makes a racist joke to him. Tracy has the urge to crack up, or “break,” during the show after he watches a “non-Porn” version of The Carol Burnett Show. Liz’s boyfriend Carol, in a guest appearance by Matt Damon, is having the worst flight of his life and only cares about his mom not seeing the porn in his apartment if he dies and recording Bones if he survives. It doesn’t help that all the cast members remember the Happy Days-loving cleaning lady’s birthday, making sure everyone signs her birthday card.

Maybe it’s because so many of the actors have either starred or guest starred on Saturday Night Live, but the live taping of 30 Rock felt like an extended SNL sketch. There were sketches within the show, jazz-y musical interludes and even fake commercials. SNL alum Chris Parnell as Dr. Leo Spaceman advertised his new CD of songs for intimate occasions and Jon Hamm made an appearance as Dr. Drew Baird, Liz’s ex-boyfriend, endorsing a new hand transplant procedure. It was nice (and also unexpected) to see a fresh face among the 30 Rock veterans when Julia Louis-Dreyfus stood-in for Tina Fey as Liz in flashbacks.

The cast not only performed the live episode at 8:30 p.m. for the East Coast, they also did a minimally-altered second version of the show for West Coast viewers. The West Coast taping, which I did not view live, changed a few jokes, but was mostly identical to the East Coast version. Naturally, the cast seemed more at ease and less nervous in the second taping, but they surprisingly fumbled their lines more.

Other than that, there were not many surprises, which is somewhat disappointing considering those are the best parts of live TV. All in all, the live episode was a bold and interesting move from the comedy. It allowed the writers to add more timely jokes, like when Jenna receives a picture of a hot dog from Brett Favre. I wouldn’t want to watch 30 Rock live every week, but if that’s what it takes to keep the show on the air, maybe it’s not such a bad idea.

What did you think of 30 Rock live?

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