For the second time in its run, "30 Rock" went with a live episode on Thursday, April 26. Given the strong "Saturday Night Live" background of the series, it shouldn't be too surprising that Tina Fey and company would experiment with the idea of a live TV show. It was a hilarious episode and a lot of fun to watch. It might make a lot of viewers wonder why more TV shows are don't live, but the reasons for that are obvious within the "30 Rock" episode. It is fun once in a while, but sitcoms shouldn't go the live route on a regular basis.
Most of the episode dealt with a forged history of live TV. The "30 Rock" gang flashed back to fake NBC series that clearly illustrated how disastrous live show can be. In the end, the episode praised the concept of live TV and all of the funny things it can create. However, the overall message was clear. Live TV still has a place, but that place isn't with sitcoms. While sketch shows like "SNL" are far better when they are done live, sitcoms come across as much worse. Even "30 Rock" realizes that, which is why they don't do every episode like this.
Not long ago, a sitcom called "Roc" embraced the live formula. After doing a successful live episode, "Roc" attempted to do an entire season live. It worked okay for that show, but the trend never took off. No other show has attempted to go live on a regular basis. There are several reasons for this. First of all, the live aspect is a gimmick. "30 Rock" knows that because they really poke fun at it. They make smart use of guest stars and sight gags to generate laughs with the audience. It works once in a while, but it would be a train wreck if they did it full time. The two live episodes of the show bear little resemblance to the regular episodes. If it was always live, it wouldn't be the same show.
Sure, sitcoms were live way back in time, however, sitcoms need consistency and production value to be successful now. You can't get consistency if a show is live every week. A variety show like "SNL" doesn't have to be consistent. Everything changes week to week. If a sketch is botched because of a cast member breaking character and laughing, it's no big deal. For the most part, you won't see that character again in future episodes. That isn't the same on a sitcom. Viewers need to believe the characters are real to a certain degree. That can't happen if the actors are constantly breaking or making mistakes. It's fun on a sketch show, but sloppy on a sitcom.
The live episode of "30 Rock" was definitely fun. The show has an excellent sense of TV history, and this was a nice homage to it. The ratings were higher than usual for the show, and that might make some people think that going live is the way to go. However, that wouldn't be wise. It would cheapen the fun of the gimmick while simultaneously changing the feel of the show. Sitcoms should just stick with what works and continue to evolve.