This Thursday marks the series finale of NBC's "30 Rock"
TV viewers who appreciate quality will bid farewell to NBC's "30 Rock" this Thursday night, with an hour-long series finale. The critically acclaimed series never ranked above #69 in its 7 seasons despite an impressive cavalcade of guest stars that included everyone from Matt Damon to Al Gore to Jennifer Anniston. "30 Rock" always looked different, not only because of it's always-excellent cinematography but because it was one of very few sitcoms filmed in New York City, a refreshing break from LA sound stages and predictable locations (the beach, The Grove, Disneyland, etc.). "30 Rock" was probably the most meta series out there that wasn't on the G4 network, dropping deep pop culture, technology, business, and political references left and right in frenetic walk-and-talk exchanges between any combination of the series' characters. The show heralded Alec Baldwin's arrival as a comedic actor (people are forgetting his turn in films like Beetlejuice, etc.), and cemented Tina Fey's status as the premiere comedy visionary who happened to be female, at least until Lena Dunham came along. Sometimes too frenetic, almost always over-scored (the series composer happens to be married to Fey), the show has been fearless, criticizing the various owners of NBC over the years as well as performing episodes live (repeatedly for both East and West coast time zones). It's been a fun ride, ridiculously underappreciated by an American public who chose to watch God-knows-what on Thursday nights - farewell!
"Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell" is part of FX's big night of comedy premieres.
Tonight is a big night for FX with the return of "Archer" (10pm), the series premiere of "Legit" (10:30pm), and the return of "Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell" (11pm). We spoke with Bell last December for an interview on here KPCC (for the full audio, listen to this podcast) where he revealed that more comedians will be participating in innovative segments on the show, so tune in.
It will be interesting to see how people will receive "Legit," another FX series originated, written-by, and starring a comedian, this time Jim Jeffries. "Legit" is no "Louie" and Jeffries level of involvement of the show doesn't extend to casting, directing, editing, and writing the music, a burden that Louis C.K. shoulders for his show, but Jeffries does a lot. While it could be pointed out that tonight's premiere episode is the adaptation, almost to the last detail, of a closing bit from his HBO special, "I Swear To God," what was most apparent to me was how Jeffries' raw and raunchy style has been toned-down and is verging on sweet - and it works! Another significant difference between "Louie" and "Legit" is that "Legit" has supporting characters who are given the chance to develop at least as much as Jeffries as the episodes go on. DJ Qualls and Dan Bakkedahl play brothers who have the misfortune/fortune of being friends with Jeffries who, while unscrupulous, does what he can to make his friends happy. Their relationship with Jeffries is what the show is all about (at least in the 3 episodes I have seen) and what gives the show its chance to win over an audience.
Tonight "Jimmy Kimmel Live" will move to 11:35pm tonight, going up against Jay Leno, David Letterman, and "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart"
It seems like the dust has only recently settled from the debacle of Conan O'Brien's "Tonight Show" implosion and move to TBS but a new skirmish begins this week as ABC moves "Jimmy Kimmel Live" from 12am to 11:35pm. Twenty-five minutes doesn't seem like a lot but the late night audience stratification has always seemed like a delicate arrangement and to put Kimmel in direct competition with Jay Leno and Kimmel's idol, David Letterman, is provocative. It will be interesting to see if Kimmel's format changes, including his announced-sponsor segment at the opening of the show, among other mechanics. Kimmel has lined up a number of A-listers for his premiere week, including Jennifer Aniston, No Doubt, Ryan Gosling, Dr. Oz, Sofia Vergara, and Bruno Mars with Letterman and Leno responding with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Ryan Seacrest, Michael J. Fox, Ben Affleck, and Kristin Bell.
Maria Bamford shot her "special special special" at her home in Eagle Rock, one of several DIY releases comedians put out in 2012.
This was a difficult list to distill from dozens of excellent audio and video shows that were sent to me for review. They are listed below via "publish date" and are not weighted in any way beyond that. Thank you to everyone who sent me their media, if you didn't make it on this list, you at least got a mention in an earlier column.
John Mulaney - New In Town (January 31) - Mulaney, primarily known for his writing on "Saturday Night Live," had his first major TV premiere this year with New In Town and it's a great opportunity to see him tell a story that's longer than a 4-8 minute sketch. Mulaney's stream of hilarious anecdotes culminates in a true story of a visit to the doctor that might be worth acquiring the DVD alone.
Patrice O'Neal - Mr. P (February 7) - This posthumous release (Patrice died in November of 2011) is of a comedian that so many comedians (Louis CK, Bill Burr, Chris Rock, Robert Kelly, Jim Norton, etc.) regarded as a friend and inspiration. What's remarkable about this recording is not that it is of a particularly outstanding performance, but, rather, that it is of what would be a typically boisterous bought of comedy with Patrice. What you hear O'Neal do on Mr. P is what you'd see him if you caught him at the Comedy Cellar in New York City on virtually any night of the week: informed, original, brilliantly funny conversations with a man whose absence is sorely felt.
Socially-charged comedian and TV showrunner W. Kamau Bell performs at The Largo on Friday, December 7.
W. Kamau Bell, the creator and host of FX's weekly half-hour comedy show "Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell," is coming to Los Angeles this Friday night to make his debut at The Largo (doors at 7pm, show at 8:30pm). FX announced last week that the 3rd cycle of "Totally Biased," this time with 13 episodes to begin on Thursday, January 17, in the 11pm time slot.
Bell made a name for himself in the San Francisco comedy scene, releasing his first album of stand up comedy, One Night Only, in 2007, the same year he developed and unveiled his one-man show, The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About An Hour, which toured across the country to much acclaim, garnering the attention of one Chris Rock, who cultivated a relationship with Bell that resulted in "Totally Biased," with Rock credited as executive producer.