30 Rock’s pacing in a non-live atmosphere is very specific, and tossing in all the variables that come with a live setting can throw that pacing off. I understand that the laughter of a real, human studio audience is needed as “proof” that the episode is indeed taped live but it ruins the pacing of the show because the actors have to wait for the laughter to subside.
I mean, imagine if It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or Arrested Development had audience laughter. PASS.
“Live Show” takes place during a taping of TGS which falls on Liz Lemon’s 40th birthday, which nobody seems to remember. Jack has chosen to abstain from drinking while his girlfriend is pregnant. Tracy, having seen the non-porn version of The Carol Burnett Show, makes it his personal mission to “break” and mess up every skit that he’s in.
Cameos for the episode included Julia Louis-Dreyfus as “flashback Liz”, Matt Damon as Liz’s airline pilot boyfriend Carol (with Bill Hader as his co-pilot), Rachel Dratch as the Fonzie-loving cleaning lady Jadwiga, Jon Hamm as Liz’s ex-boyfriend and pre-owned hand user Drew Baird and Chris Parnell as Dr. Leo Spaceman.
The entire episode, both the east coast and the west coast tapings, had a real SNL vibe. This was both good and bad. It was more reminiscent of the SNL of the late 90s or early 2000s. You know, when it was funny. However, there’s two sides to that coin. Jack’s icy-cold demeanor was completely absent and some of the acting really suffered (some scenes had actors holding scripts in the east coast taping).
The west coast version seemed a bit more refined. There were no scripts in hands that I noticed, some jokes had better delivery their second time through and the pace worked a little better. Second time’s a charm, I guess.
Overall, “Live Show” wasn’t a particularly bad episode of 30 Rock. It was still cleverly written just like the rest of the series, but like Jenna sang in the east coast intro, “Why, though, do a 30 Rock live show?”