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Not since the darkest days of ’90s rap has the tension between the east and west coasts been quite this high.
30 Rock tackled its second live show on Thursday night, offering two separate broadcasts for each time zone — just as the series did back in 2010. And just like then, there were several key differences that ultimately gave one outing a slight advantage.
Both episodes, it should be noted, were a huge success. 30 Rock improved on the last live show by adopting a story and format that better lent itself to actual live television. Under the fitting threat of turning TGS into a prerecorded show, Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) locked most of the cast into Tracy’s (Tracy Morgan) office where he told the story of famous (and fabricated) NBC live broadcasts. Flashbacks ensued, recalling skits similar to Studio 8’s own Saturday Night Live, making it easy for the obligatory cameos — Jon Hamm, Donald Glover, Paul McCartney, Kim Kardashian, Jimmy Fallon, Fred Armisen and Brian Williams among them.
But which episode did it best? Of the many variations between broadcasts, here are six major differences that determined which coast deserves to boast:
The Big Cameo
30 Rock ripped the band-aid in the opening scene when Liz (Tina Fey) acknowledged that anything could happen on live television. For the East Coast that meant Paul McCartney dropping by Jack’s (Alec Baldwin) office to use his private bathroom. For the west coast? Kim Kardashian. Advantage: East Coast.
Duplicating the previous live episode’s intro, the musical number was performed by Jane Krakowski, with returning guest Cheyenne Jackson singing in her place, three hours later. Jackson’s appearance was welcome after such a long absence from the series, but it’s nearly impossible to top Krakowski breaking out into earnest song. Advantage: East Coast.
Choosing between Chris Parnell and Chris Parnell is a real Sophie’s Choice, but the Nazi jokes from the first broadcast got a little old during the Chatterton Cigarettes commercials — especially when the West Coast enjoyed the revelation that Leo Spaceman’s father was gay. Advantage: West Coast.
Apollo 13 Newscast
Thankfully, both coasts got a dose of Jon Hamm during racist 1950s show Alfie and Abner — so he didn’t really need to reappear as a sexist newscaster, as he did in the first broadcast. The West Coast was treated to Brian Williams, uttering the same misogynist banter. Advantage: West Coast.
Yes, both coasts caught Jimmy Fallon and Amy Poehler as younger Jack and Liz, but Fred Armisen’s hilarious cameo as a nosy woman in the phone bank seemed to be cut short in the second outing. Advantage East Coast.
Though Kim Kardashian gets points for making a joke about breaking a toilet, the reappearance of Paul McCartney was still the tops. And only the East Coast was treated to the surreal sight of Jack and and Pete (Scott Adsit) making out as the curtain closed. Advantage: East Coast.
East Coast, hands down. Brian Williams was a huge boon to the latter broadcast, but there’s no arguing with the superiority of McCartney over Kardashian. And, chronologically speaking, you’ve always got to tip your hat to the original.
Well done, 30 Rock. Here’s to another next season.
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