Both of the behind-the-scenes-at-Saturday-Night-Live shows launching this season are taking strong steps to make sure you don’t think it’s actually Saturday Night Live. On Studio 60, they’ve been mentioning SNL as a competing show early in each episode (except the first, where they avoided mentioning it at all.) On 30 Rock, they’re making the sketch comedy show a specifically girlie sketch comedy show by calling it The Girlie Show.

This new sitcom is striving for its own feel. Shot on film, it’s got a bunch of characters bringing their own spirit, with roles clearly built around the actors… for good and for bad, because the characters do not seem to quite integrate into the same reality. Alec Baldwin is bringing much the same performance that he brought to his Will & Grace appearances, playing the freight train of an exec who tries to dictate reality more than deal with it. Tina Fey, creator of the series, brings her attractive intelligence to the role of the show runner; she seems to have idolized herself my making he character smart, capable, and kindly. Tracy Morgan plays the overblown, not-quite-sane movie star joining The Girlie Show, and in many ways he presents the same challenge as the Baldwin character, stampeding in his own self-focused reality.

Which really gets to the heart of the problem with this show. It has these showy characters, and Tina’s character, who is supposed to be central here, is largely lost. They should be forces battering the central hero, more important in their effect than their existence. But despite the fact that some effort was put into trying to get us on her side, we don’t identify with her, and the effect is lost. (Contrast the handling here with Rob Petrie, the central character on the Dick Van Dyke Show. He was often driven by the egomanical efforts of Alan Brady (who, as producer/star of the show-within-a-show that Petrie was head writer for was a combination of the Baldwin and Morgan roles), and it all worked fine despite the fact that we didn’t see Brady’s face for years of the show.

There are pieces here that can work, but they’ll have to do some serious work on the show chemistry. I wanted to like this, I expected to like this, but the first episode at least was a well-intentioned mess.

And now to note something that did work, something which I didn’t see mentioned in the various (generally strongly positive) reviews I’ve seen of this show – Jane Krakowski. Yes, yes, I’ve had a wee bit of a thing for her since the first episode of Ally McBeal. But then, I’ve also had a bit of a thing for Tina Fey, and I’m not singling her out here. Krakowski plays the only one of The Girlie Show’s performers who we get to know, and her backstage moments feel real,

Published in: on October 15, 2006 at 1:39 am  Leave a Comment  

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