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The live '30 Rock': magic, laughs and lots of Dratch

October 15, 2010

Tina Fey actually turned 40 back in May, but Thursday night she finally got her wish: her very own live episode of "30 Rock." It was a reminder that despite her wild success, endless awards and questionable gown choices, Fey is a comedy geek at heart.

On the version seen in Chicago (later re-enacted for the West Coast), no one said any bad words -- unless you count "penis." By that measure, at least, it was a success. And Tracy Morgan kept his shirt on partially, which is more than he can do in real life. There were some awkward pauses, and Alec Baldwin brushed over jumbled lines with typical Baldwin bravado.

Bottom line: It was fun to watch, and probably a lot more fun to do.

Fey took the opportunity to right one wrong, at least: Comedy partner Rachel Dratch, who was cut from "30 Rock" early on, got a nice showcase as a cleaning lady with a Fonzie complex. Her replacement, Jane Krakowski, has awfully perky breasts, we learned, but she's no Dratch. They should have never let her go. Note to NBC: It's not too late!

It doesn't really matter if there's never another live episode of "30 Rock," because Fey threw in all the jokes she could, with an emphasis on the corny. Among the highlights:

• Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Flashback Liz, but with Snooki Hair.

• Matt Damon as boyfriend Carol, using the very funny word "frittata."

• Chris Parnell as beloved family doctor "Dr." Spaceman, making like Barry White.

• Jon Hamm with a hook for a hand.

• The throwaway line "This is what the inside of a child's face looks like."

• Temporary words for the opening theme.

• Dutiful product placement.

• A joke about the rescued Chilean miners (too soon).

• A cockney accent.

• And much, much more!

The sight gags were my favorite. I would have enjoyed Baldwin putting his nose in Krakowski's mouth at least one more time. And I laughed hardest at the magic trick, when Baldwin pulled a very long, colorful sash out of Fey's mouth. That's commitment.

The live episode was so successful that it was impossible to watch the real Calvin Klein commercial without cracking up. Zoe Saldana writhed around in black lingerie, murmuring things like "I can be deadly with a bow and arrow" and "I like the mornings, too." It could have been a parody of ... well, a Calvin Klein ad, circa 1982.

It's too bad, but I don't think Saldana was in on the joke.