Over the next few months, we’ll see new series soar, old series sour, and so much Jersey Shore madness, we’ll want to shower. Let’s face it: The Fall TV season is intimidating. With dozens of new and returning shows hitting our small screens, we know we have some big choices to make. So, to help you determine what to watch, we’re digging deep into the most notable series premiering this season. Where did each show leave off? Where is it headed? And who should you watch it with? Today, we're checking out the return of 30 Rock. But can it pick up the pieces?
Series: 30 Rock
Premiere Date: Thursday, Oct. 4 at 8 PM ET
Number of Seasons: Entering its seventh — and final — season.
Cast: The thinking woman's superhero Tina Fey leads a large, wildly talented, and eclectic ensemble that includes Words with Friends aficionado Alec Baldwin, song-and-dance woman Jane Krakowski, everyman Scott Adsit, human Muppet Jack McBrayer, human sad trombone John Lutz, slacker extraordinaire Judah Friedlander, token hottie Katrina Bowden, and the man who got you pregnant while you were reading this, Tracy Morgan.
Synopsis: Liz Lemon (Fey) is the overworked, underappreciated head writer of a late night sketch comedy show called TGS on NBC (owned by the illustrious KableTown). She's surrounded by her merry (well, sometimes) band of misfits that includes her business tycoon boss Jack Donaghy (Baldwin), the self-absorbed cast members of the show, Tracy and Jenna (Morgan and Krakowski), and fellow loony coworkers like loyal page Kenneth (McBrayer) and intellectual hired goons Grizz and Dot Com (Grizz Chapman and Kevin Brown). Liz is trying to juggle her crazy work life in addition to her equally crazy love life, which has included dating the likes of a beeper salesman who appeared on To Catch a Predator, a handsome doctor with a hook for a hand, Wesley Snipes (not that Wesley Snipes), and a ficus plant that resembled Bon Jovi.
Where We Left Off Last Season: Liz seemed to be on the baby track with her adorable, sane, IKEA-hating, hot dog-selling live-in boyfriend Criss (James Marsden, at long last getting the girl); Jack and Avery (Elizabeth Banks) became happily divorced; Jenna was blissfully engaged to Paul (Will Forte); Kenneth and Hazel (Kristen Schaal) all made us wildly uncomfortable with their first kiss; finally, Tracy chose Tyler Perry as his new role model in life.
What Might Happen This Season: From the looks of that spectacular photo above, Jenna goes through with marrying Paul (who will presumably have the same dress as his bride). Whether or not Liz marries Criss is still up for debate, though pictures released from the set of 30 Rock this summer implied that they — or, at least, she — goes through with adopting a baby. Elsewhere, Jack might finally convince Nancy (Julianne Moore) to move out of Bah-stin and live with him in New York, where he's the CEO of KableTown, while Angie (Sherri Shepherd) and Tracy continue their television dominance. And Dr. Spaceman will, naturally, become the Surgeon General.
You'll Like It If: You like quick-witted comedy that's as smart as it is silly.
You Won't Like It If:You're a dummy, dummy.
Emmy Love: Thus far, 30 Rock has received 57 Primetime Emmy nominations and have gone home with 14. From 2007 to 2009 it won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, the same three years Alec Baldwin won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Tina Fey earned Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 2008 and Elaine Stritch won the 2007 Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her performance as Jack's unrelentingly judgmental mother Colleen.
Ratings: While 30 Rock has always been an awards show and critical darling, the series never went far beyond its cult status to become a major ratings player. In its first year, it averaged only 5.8 million viewers, while Season 6 had its lower viewership yet with 4.5 million. (It came in at a dismal #130 for the 2011-2012 season). 30 Rock had its biggest ratings year back in Season 3, averaging 7.5 million viewers. Still, despite low ratings, the popularity of Fey, the show's fervent fan base, and the fact that it's available on Watch Instantly on Netflix, kept the show alive.
Key Soundbites: "I want to go to there!", "Blergh!", "HAM!", "What the what?", "Lizzing!"
Key Facial Expression:
Wine/Food Pairing:Whatever wine Angie throws in your face during an episode of Queen of Jordan, paired with Night Cheese.
What to wear while watching it: A tux… it's on after six — what are you, a farmer?
What to yell at the TV: "Good God, Lemon!"
The Tao of Lemon: "I believe all anyone really wants in this life… is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich."
Inspired Halloween costume: If you're single, go as Liz Lemon as Princess Leia on jury duty. If you're in a couple, go as James Franco and his body pillow Kamiko.
Who to Watch it With: Your equally nerdy, comedy-loving friends.
Who Not to Watch It With: Someone who doesn't know how to shotgun a pizza if the moment calls for it and/or a Canadian.
If You Like This, You'll Love: DVD marathoning Arrested Development, The Larry Sanders Show, Parks and Recreation, and Community
[Photo credit: NBC]
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The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Top Story: Madonna's Label Tagged Unprofitable
As part of an ongoing feud between Madonna and Warner Music Group, unsealed court documents revealed that the singer's record label, Maverick Records--which handles not only the Material Girl but Alanis Morissette and Michelle Branch as well--has lost $66 million since 1999, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Last month, Maverick sued Warner Music for $200 million, claiming breach of contract and fraud, but Warner retaliated by filing a preemptive claim asking a judge to find that the company had fulfilled its commitment to Maverick. The latest documents show that in order for Maverick to get out of its joint venture with Warner Music, which is up at the end of the year, Maverick will have to pay $92.5 million, in addition to the value of Warner's interest in the label. The price tag includes the $66 million in losses, a $20 million loan and $6.5 million in unrecouped fees, the trade paper reports.
AIDS Scare Fuels Calif. Porn Film Probe
The recent HIV infection of two porn stars has prompted local health authorities to seek unprecedented inspections of California's multibillion-dollar adult film industry and press for mandatory condom use during sex scenes, officials told Reuters on Tuesday. A crackdown of this nature, however, will not necessarily lead to safer sex, industry representatives told Reuters. More than likely, it will drive away many of the adult film production houses that flourish in Southern California and employ some 6,000 people, including about 1,200 performers, and/or force them to go underground and away from mandatory HIV testing. "If there is a mandatory condom law put in place, these people will scatter and go underground and we will not be able to test them," Sharon Mitchell of the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare (AIM) Foundation told Reuters. "If you want to see an influx of disease that may affect the general population, then you put a mandatory condom law into effect…I've very concerned about government intervention in this respect."
Basinger Auctions Off Engagement Ring
Cha-ching! Actress Kim Basinger sold a 3.7-carat diamond engagement ring given to her by ex-husband Alec Baldwin to a Beverly Hills jewelry dealer for a hefty $59,750 at a benefit auction, Reuters reports. The Oscar-winning actress, a noted animal rights activist, auctioned the modern Tiffany & Co. ring and some other jewelry at Christie's to raise money for The Performing Animal Welfare Society.
Cannes Film Festival Announces Slate
The Coen brothers' comedy The Ladykillers will be among the 18 films competing for the Cannes Film Festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or, The Associated Press reports. Others on the list include the Thai film Tropical Malady, the animated Shrek 2 and The Motorcycle Diaries by Brazilian Walter Salles. Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 2 will be among films shown outside of competition, and Tarantino will preside over the jury at this year's festival, which runs May 12-23.
Ex-Pogues Singer Attacked in London Pub
Shane MacGowan, the former lead singer of Irish rockers the Pogues, suffered facial injuries Monday after being assaulted by two men at a London pub, Reuters reports. London's The Evening Standard reported that MacGowan suffered a fractured cheekbone after being kicked, punched and hit with a metal bar. Police told Reuters they were not aware of any motive for the attack.
Scandal Strikes USA Today
One of USA Today's senior editors, Karen Jurgensen, handed in her resignation Tuesday in the wake of an investigation in which a former star reporter allegedly fabricated portions of major international stories, Reuters reports. Foreign correspondent Jack Kelley, who resigned from the paper Jan. 6, was found to have made up substantial portions of eight major stories from around the world, lifted material from other publications, lied in speeches given for the paper and conspired to mislead the team of senior journalists investigating his work, USA Today said.
Disney Tries To Jump-Start Struggling Network
In an effort to boost ABC's dismal numbers, parent company Walt Disney Co. has replaced the network's primetime programming chiefs and reorganized the television operations, Reuters reports. ABC cable networks group president Anne Sweeney and ESPN sports cable network president George Bodenheimer were named to newly created positions as co-chairs of the media networks unit that includes ESPN, ABC and Disney's cable operations. Disney president Bob Iger hopes the promotions will help ABC rise in the ranks, since falling to No. 4 in 2000 when Who Wants to be a Millionaire failed.
Kwame Is Sitting Pretty
Even though he may not have been chosen by Donald Trump as his Apprentice, that hasn't stopped The Apprentice runner-up Kwame Jackson from getting a rush of offers, AP reports. In a phone interview with AP, Jackson said he is weighing offers from another famous billionaire, Mark Cuban, as well as the KFC fast-food chain. He's also starting his own company. "[The Apprentice] was basically a chance to have NBC pay for a 15-episode Kwame commercial in a business environment," Jackson said. The ambitious businessman is starting an entertainment company, Legacy Communications Group, to produce films, video games and live events with a focus on concert series.
Starship Song Tops Worst Songs List
Blender magazine has named Starship's '80s rock song "We Built This City" as the worst song ever, AP reports. The magazine's "50 Worst Songs Ever!" list were were selected for their melodies, others "are wretchedly performed" and "quite a few don't make sense whatsoever," the magazine said. The list, which appears in the May issue, includes songs by New Kids on the Block, Meat Loaf, The Doors, Lionel Richie, Hammer and The Beach Boys, among others.
Role Call: Sonnenfeld's Heartbreak
Director Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black) is in negotiations to direct a remake of the 1972 comedy The Heartbreak Kid, which starred Charles Grodin and Cybill Shepherd, written by Neil Simon and directed by Elaine May. The story follows a man who hastily weds a local girl whom he thinks is perfect--until he falls in love with another girl during the honeymoon.