Wednesday, October 11, 2006

TV premiering tonight: 30 Rock & Twenty Good Years

The last fall season roll-out (not counting a few comedies that ABC has pushed back to mid-season) is an interesting contrast between old and new styles of sitcom. 30 Rock (NBC, Wednesdays, 8 p.m.) has been retooled significantly since the pilot I saw, with Rachel Dratch reduced to more of a cameo position, and Jane Krakowski added as a character (I assume) similar to Dratch's original part. So for all I know it might be much worse, but what I saw was funny and entertaining, much lighter certainly than Studio 60 but in certain ways more believable. There weren't that many laugh-out-loud moments, but there was a consistent pleasant, fun tone that left me with a good feeling and made me want to keep watching. Tina Fey is a very sharp writer, and unlike Aaron Sorkin she seems able to both write jokes and develop characters. I worry about all the meddling that's gone on prior to actual airing, but I still have high hopes for this show.

And while 30 Rock is a single-camera, laugh-track-free show with a sort of offbeat premise and a bit of drama and real emotion mixed in with its jokes, Twenty Good Years (NBC, Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m.) is like a relic from another era, a sitcom so formulaic and old-fashioned it might have been prepackaged for TV Land. It's the old mismatched buddy formula that goes back to The Odd Couple, with John Lithgow actually overacting more than he did on 3rd Rock From the Sun, if that's even possible. It's got a loud laugh track responding to unfunny jokes, and every cliche imaginable. It's really a terrible companion for 30 Rock, and a disappointment to find on the network that also has My Name is Earl and The Office. Ideally, it'll die off quickly and 30 Rock will do well enough to get paired with Scrubs, a much more compatible show, when it comes back in January.

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