“30 Rock” needs to find new direction

Liz (Tina Fey) tries a relaxing Hamptons vacation in the season finale of "30 Rock"

By Tom Comi

Tonight marks the season finale for 30 Rock on NBC (10pm ET), and it’s too late to undo what has been a somewhat lackluster year. But this could be a pivotal point for the show moving forward, especially if it has any intentions of being around for a significant length of stay.

30 Rock is one of those shows that is critically acclaimed but viewer-challenged. It tries to be way too smart for its own good, and that ends up turning off a lot of potential fans. And one need look no further than the former Fox comedy Arrested Development to see how well that strategy turned out.

Contrary to what you have read to this point, I am actually a very big fan of this show. I love the behind-the-scenes look at an SNL-type late-night program, and I love Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey. I also find many of the obscure TV references to be very funny, and there is never a shortage of A-list actors who have stopped by for cameo appearances.

For example, a few weeks ago Tom Hanks showed up briefly to address actors who have appeared on TV and in the movies. He then started to sing the song “My Life” by Billy Joel, which happened to be the theme song to his 1980s TV comedy Bosom Buddies. I literally laughed out loud at the very obscure reference, but then I wondered how many other people connected the dots.

We need more intelligent writing like that on television, but there is also a great risk is catering to the highest common denominator. The witty scripts and cameos are great on 30 Rock, but there are far too many times when the show goes way too far out of its way to be smart rather than funny.

Moving forward, I would love to see more focus on the sketches within the show and far less on the non-believable storylines involving the extremely unlikeable characters played by Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski and Jack McBrayer. The truth is the show really loses its luster when Fey and Baldwin aren’t on screen.

30 Rock truly is one of my favorite sitcoms when it is on, but it’s not on enough to really be a great sitcom. Hopefully, NBC figures out a way to right the ship between now and next fall.