I wanted the seg to live up to the show's Emmy win for best comedy. It even boasts Jerry Seinfeld...but the upshot was, I liked it, didn't love it. That's kinda how I felt about the show last season, even after friends kept opining how much funnier it became in the second half of its frosh year.
In the sophomore season opener, "SeinfeldVision," which airs next week, there seems to be a concerted effort to put a wee bit of heart in the show, and to Tina Fey's Liz Lemon TV producer character in particular.
"I think it's going to be my year," Lemon declares at the top of the episode -- signaling of course that things are about to go awry.
For me, "30 Rock" is still a little bit too clever for its own good, what with its endless inside-the-Peacock references. Alec Baldwin, however, makes takes the edge off every time he's on screen. I've watched the show more than once wondering if I wouldn't like it more if Baldwin's nutty TV exec character Jack Donaghy was the main focus.
The "30 Rock" definitely has its moments. As the network prepares to launch a new season, Donaghy gets the bright idea to use old NBC footage of Seinfeld to digitally insert him into new episodes of shows ("Heroes" and "Deal or No Deal" among them). When the real Seinfeld returns from vacationing in an exclusive European enclave that only super-rich people know about, he takes exception with the "SeinfeldVision" campaign, forcing some fancy footwork by Jack.
The concurrent storylines involve Liz and preparations for her oh-so-skinny assistant Cerie's wedding; Jane Krakowski's Jenna character coming back from hiatus with a little something extra after doing "Mystic Pizza" on stage all summer; and Tracy Morgan's Tracy exhibiting more spoiled-star tendencies as he grapples with domestic troubles. It's all very well written and witty, but is it best-comedy-series funny?
I couldn't help but think the same thing backstage at the Shrine Auditorium two weeks ago when "30 Rock" bagged the top Emmy comedy prize. Everybody loves a good upset on Emmy night -- gives us plenty to write about -- but after the surprise wore off I kept thinking about all the "Office" segs that had me laughing out loud, cringing and laughing some more. I'm thinking that Emmy voters picked "30 Rock" as a vote of confidence in the comedy form itself, as if to demonstrate that the half-hour form (and the prospect for fat syndication profits) is still vibrant. Which is not a bad reason to cast a vote for a statuette whose importance is vastly overrated anyway.
But I'm not too hip to admit that I laughed more at the hourlong season opener of "My Name is Earl" than I did at "30 Rock."
"Earl's" opener, which airs tonight before the hourlong "Office" preem (thus pushing "30 Rock's" 8:30 p.m. bow to Oct. 4), finds Earl in the big house after making the ultimate sacrifice to spare his pregnant ex-wife Joy the trauma of going to jail for a scrape she got into after getting upset with her purchase of a home entertainment system. Seg offers prima facie evidence as to why Jaime Pressly deserved her supporting comedy actress Emmy trophy. (With all due respect to "Entourage's" Jeremy Piven, "Office's" Rainn Wilson wuz robbed in the supporting comedy actor competish.)
Although "Earl" has a tendency to feel like the same show every week, if you give it rest for a while and come back, it's goofy enough to make for a good time, even in this elongated season preem format. Jason Lee as the earnest Earl and Ethan Suplee as his dim-witted brother Randy manage to blend sophomoric, sometimes vulgar humor with just enough heart and hijinks to make it work.
As for the tonight's return of "Office," let's just say it's been a long summer. The supersized opener, dubbed "Fun Run" (pictured below), looks like a ton o' fun. NBC.com has plenty of clips (click here), as does Yahoo TV (click here) if you can't wait until 9 p.m. tonight.