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Thoughts on this week’s 30 Rock and Breaking In

The title card for the American comedy series ...

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Told you I’d get to Breaking In!

30 Rock: What was this, meta-analysis week on NBC? For those of you who were there five years ago for 30 Rock’s premiere, the idea that the show would make it to 100 episodes seemed ludicrous, especially given the premiere of Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Even with lower ratings, critical acclaim and reduced costs brought 30 Rock back while Studio 60 fell to the wayside (whatever Sorkin, you did The Social Network).

So here we are, 100 episodes later. A miracle. And in typical 30 Rock fashion, the cast is able to revel in this miracle thanks to lowered expectations at NBC (a secret that 30 Rock loves to bring up again and again. Hey, I’m not complaining). So how was this hour-long 30 Rock spectacle? Weird. Very strange. And while 30 Rock is no newcomer to the bizarre, last night’s episode dipped into a world previously unexplored. There was sideways Jack. Rapist Jenna. Lovable Tracy. And a high-out-of-her-mind Liz Lemon.

Just like with Community, the episode works as a clip-show, yet it works better than Community’s episode largely because of the volume of development (or lack thereof) available to 30 Rock’s writing team (Community is only on its second – miraculous – season). The episode largely succeeds above where Community couldn’t because we’ve been with these characters for five years; this relationship the audience has with these characters and the knowledge of their parsimonious past actions drives the comedy. The A-plot is literally these characters facing the quirks of their past. Liz reunites with her loser boyfriend from the first few episodes of the show. Jenna becomes pregnant through sheer nervousness. And Jack meets Jack of the past, sideways present, and future.

Let’s celebrate NBC’s fall from grace that lead to 100 episodes of this marginally-rated sitcom. Because on any other network, it probably wouldn’t have made it past the first 13 episodes. Thank you, Jeff Zucker (you can file that in a pile of “words I’d never thought I’d say”).

Grade: A

Breaking In: Fox’s newest comedy, Breaking In, is the network’s latest attempt to find a hit live-action sitcom. Traffic Light and Running Wilde crashed and burned, while Raising Hope shows some promise for success while it trots to its second season. That’s why Breaking In, a show that originally passed by Fox only to be resurrected after Sony’s insistence, is important to the network. If they can finally launch two (comparably) successful comedies, they’ll reverse a dangerous trend that has developed since the finale of The 70s Show.

Last night’s episode of Breaking In isn’t the best episode of television, and while there’s plenty to complain about, but there’s a lot to love. It’s quite obvious that the writers are beginning to write more for the cast’s strengths than in the pilot and its following episode. While Bret Harrison continues to play some form of Bret Harrison, Christian Slater, Odette Annable, and Michael Rosenbaum all were previously under used. There’s no denying that the cast is strong, but whether the writing was on par with the talented cast was up for debate. And while some of the joke choices are suspect and ill-fit, it’s more evident now that the writing team behind Breaking In has, at the very least, shed some of its growing pains.

Some of the jokes are still cheap and I’m not entirely convinced of the chemistry between Harrison and Annable, but each character works well enough in their own bizarre world that there’s potential for more. Especially since bringing Rosenbaum on the team.

Grade: B-


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