30 Rock (season 5)
The fifth season of 30 Rock, an American television comedy series on the NBC network in the United States, began airing on September 23, 2010. NBC announced on March 5, 2010 that 30 Rock would be returning for a fifth season in the 2010–2011 television season. Beginning with episode 11, 30 Rock was moved to the 10:00 PM timeslot, but, as a consolation, was renewed earlier than the other NBC sitcoms. During this time, Tracy Morgan underwent an emergency operation, causing his character to be written out for several episodes.
On July 31, 2010, NBC announced that an episode of 30 Rock's fifth season would be filmed and broadcast live, twice, on the evening of October 14, 2010. The two separate recordings resulted in a live telecast of the episode to American viewers in both the West and East Coast. The episode was a ratings success and was met with very positive reviews. The season also featured the show's 100th episode, which aired as a one-hour episode.
Season 5 continues with Liz in a relationship with Carol (Matt Damon), a man she met in the episode "I Do Do", and Jack practicing to be and then being a father. Jack finally marries the woman he chose in "I Do Do", but an error in the wedding certificate leads to shocking results. Jack meets with Kabletown's boss, Hank Hooper (Ken Howard), who acts rather like Kenneth, and meets his competition in his granddaughter, Kaylee Hooper (Chloë Grace Moretz). Meanwhile, Tracy also becomes a father and finally gets an EGOT ("E" standing for "Emmy", "G" for "Grammy", "O" Oscar", and "T" for "Tony" ). However, the pressure of being an award-winning celebrity leads Tracy to nearly bring TGS to cancellation. With the help of Jenna, Kenneth tries to get back into the NBC Page Program. Tracy's wife, Angie, is given a reality show of her own, "Queen of Jordan", which was aired as an episode of 30 Rock. In the middle of the season, Jack and Avery's daughter is born, but a few episodes later, something happens in their relationship that separates them, possibly forever. Jenna continues her relationship with Paul. The Girlie Show with Tracy Jordan (TGS) celebrates its 100th episode.
Tina Fey portrays Liz Lemon, the head writer of a fictitious live sketch-comedy television series TGS. The TGS cast consists of two main actors. The lead actor is the loose cannon movie star Tracy Jordan, portrayed by Tracy Morgan. His co-star is the extremely narcissistic Jenna Maroney, portrayed by Jane Krakowski. Jack "Danny" Baker (Cheyenne Jackson) is the newest TGS cast member. Jack McBrayer plays the naïve NBC page Kenneth Parcell. Scott Adsit acts as the witty and wise TGS producer, Pete Hornberger. Judah Friedlander portrays trucker hat-wearing staff writer Frank Rossitano. Alec Baldwin plays the NBC network executive Jack Donaghy. Donaghy's full corporate title for the majority of the season is "Head of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming". Keith Powell plays the Harvard University alumnus and TGS staff writer James "Toofer" Spurlock. Katrina Bowden acts as writers' assistant Cerie Xerox. Other cast members include, Maulik Pancholy as Jonathan, Grizz Chapman as Grizz Griswold, Kevin Brown as "Dot Com" Slattery, and John Lutz as J.D. Lutz. The cast also features recurring guest stars Elizabeth Banks, who stars as Avery Jessup, Jack's wife, and Matt Damon as Carol, Liz's pilot boyfriend. Banks was prominently featured throughout the season. Condoleezza Rice appeared as a fictional version of herself, an old girlfriend of Jack Donaghy.
- Tina Fey as Liz Lemon, the head writer of TGS, a live sketch comedy television show. (23 episodes)
- Tracy Morgan as Tracy Jordan, a loose cannon movie star and cast member of TGS. (21 episodes)
- Jane Krakowski as Jenna Maroney, a vain, fame-obsessed TGS cast member and Liz's best friend. (23 episodes)
- Jack McBrayer as Kenneth Parcell, a naïve, television-loving NBC page from Georgia. (23 episodes)
- Scott Adsit as Pete Hornberger, the witty and wise producer of TGS. (20 episodes)
- Judah Friedlander as Frank Rossitano, an immature staff writer for TGS. (18 episodes)
- Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy, a high-flying NBC network executive and Liz's mentor. (23 episodes)
- Katrina Bowden as Cerie Xerox, the young, attractive TGS general assistant. (9 episodes)
- Keith Powell as James "Toofer" Spurlock, a proud African-American staff writer for TGS. (14 episodes)
- Kevin Brown as Walter "Dot Com" Slattery, a member of Tracy's entourage. (13 episodes)
- Grizz Chapman as Warren "Grizz" Griswold, a member of Tracy's entourage. (13 episodes)
- Maulik Pancholy as Jonathan, Jack's assistant who is obsessed with him. (11 episodes)
- John Lutz as J.D. Lutz, a lazy, overweight TGS writer who is often ridiculed by his co-workers. (14 episodes)
- Elizabeth Banks as Avery Jessup, Jack's fiancé and later wife. (6 episodes)
- Hannibal Buress as Hannibal, a homeless man. (6 episodes)
- Sue Galloway as Sue LaRoche-Van der Hout, a TGS writer from the Netherlands. (6 episodes)
- Chris Parnell as Dr. Leo Spaceman, a physician who practices questionable medical techniques. (6 episodes)
- Will Forte as Paul L'astnamé, Jenna's boyfriend who is also a Jenna Maroney impersonator. (5 episodes)
- Subhas Ramsaywack as Subhas, a janitor at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. (5 episodes)
- Ken Howard as Hank Hooper, the owner of Kabletown, the company that purchases NBC. (4 episodes)
- Cheyenne Jackson as Danny Baker, a TGS cast member. (4 episodes)
- Sherri Shepherd as Angie Jordan, Tracy's no-nonsense wife and reality television star. (4 episodes)
- Brian Williams as himself (4 episodes)
- Matt Damon as Carol Burnett, a pilot and Liz's boyfriend. (3 episodes)
- Rachel Dratch as various characters (3 episodes)
- Dean Winters as Dennis Duffy, Liz's immature ex-boyfriend. (3 episodes)
- Todd Buonopane as Jeffrey Weinerslaw, an employee in GE's human resources department. (2 episodes)
- Tituss Burgess as D'Fwan, Angie's hair stylist and cast member in her reality show. (2 episodes)
- Tom Hanks as himself (2 episodes)
- Lester Holt as himself (2 episodes)
- Michael Keaton as Tom, a maintenance man working at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. (2 episodes)
- Matt Lauer as himself (2 episodes)
- Adriane Lenox as Sherry, a nanny hired by Jack to look after his daughter. (2 episodes)
- Regis Philbin as himself (2 episodes)
- Rachael Ray as herself (2 episodes)
- Kelly Ripa as herself (2 episodes)
- Alan Alda as Milton Greene, Jack's biological father. (Episode: "Christmas Attack Zone")
- John Amos as the protagonist of the television show Let's Stay Together. (Episode: "Let's Stay Together")
- Will Arnett as Devon Banks, Jack's nemesis. (Episode: "Plan B")
- Ben Bailey as himself (Episode: "When It Rains, It Pours")
- Eion Bailey as Anders, a Swiss prostitute hired by Liz's friends to seduce her. (Episode: "It's Never Too Late For Now")
- Richard Belzer as Sergeant John Munch, a character from Law and Order: SVU. (Episode: "¡Qué Sorpresa!")
- Reg E. Cathey as Rutherford Rice, the host of the fictional talk show Right On. (Episode: "Let's Stay Together")
- John Cho as Lorne, a Canadian meth smuggler. (Episode: "Double-Edged Sword")
- Margaret Cho as Kim Jong-Il, the North Korean dictator. (Episode: "Everything Sunny All the Time Always")
- Ann Curry as herself (Episode: "Gentleman's Intermission")
- Robert De Niro as himself (Episode: "Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning")
- Victor Garber as Eugene Gremby, the chairman of the Wool Council. (Episode: "Respawn")
- Ina Garten as herself (Episode: "Respawn")
- Paul Giamatti as Ritchie, a television editor. (Episode: "When It Rains, It Pours")
- Kelsey Grammer as himself (Episode: "Reaganing")
- David Gregory as himself (Episode: "Brooklyn Without Limits")
- Bill Hader as Kevin, Carol's co-pilot. (Episode: "Live Show")
- Jon Hamm as Dr. Andrew "Drew" Baird, a pediatrician and Liz's former boyfriend. (Episode: "Live Show")
- Buck Henry as Dick Lemon, Liz's father. (Episode: "Gentleman's Intermission")
- Ice-T as Detective Odafin Tutuola, a character from Law and Order: SVU. (Episode: "¡Qué Sorpresa!")
- Queen Latifah as Regina Bookman, a congresswoman who comes into conflict with Jack. (Episode: "Let's Stay Together")
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus as flashback Liz Lemon. (Episode: "Live Show")
- Cristin Milioti as Abby Flynn, a seductive female comedian. (Episode: "TGS Hates Women")
- Vanessa Minnillo as Carmen Chao, a journalist and Avery's rival. (Episode: "¡Qué Sorpresa!")
- Chloë Grace Moretz as Kaylie Hooper, Hank Hooper's cunning young granddaughter. (Episode: "TGS Hates Women")
- Paula Pell as Paula Hornberger, Pete's wife. (Episode: "The Fabian Strategy")
- Rob Reiner as a fictional version of himself in which he is a congressman. (Episode: "Let's Stay Together")
- Condoleezza Rice as herself (Episode: "Everything Sunny All the Time Always")
- Rob Riggle as Reggie, a TGS crew member who bullies Pete. (Episode: "I Heart Connecticut")
- Thomas Roberts as himself (Episode: "Everything Sunny All the Time Always")
- Philip Rosenthal as himself (Episode: "I Heart Connecticut")
- Susan Sarandon as Lynn Onkman, Frank's former teacher and lover. (Episode: "Queen of Jordan")
- John Slattery as Steve Austin, a congressional candidate from Rhode Island that Jack backs. (Episode: "Brooklyn Without Limits")
- Aaron Sorkin as himself (Episode: "Plan B")
- Elaine Stritch as Colleen Donaghy, Jack's cold and overbearing mother. (Episode: "Christmas Attack Zone")
- Daniel Sunjata as Chris, a member of the TGS crew. (Episode: "College")
- Meredith Viera as herself (Episode: "Gentleman's Intermission")
The fifth season earned positive reviews from critics, a number of whom noted that it had staged a "comeback" after what they had considered a disappointing fourth season. Writing for HitFix, reviewer Alan Sepinwall noted his disappointment in the fourth season and opined that the fifth had "rebounded", commenting "there have been weeks [...] where 30 Rock made me laugh longer, louder and more frequently than not only every other NBC sitcom, but every comedy on TV". Sepinwall cited a tighter focus on its main characters, a happier Liz Lemon, smarter use of guest stars and a general improvement in quality as the reasons why the series had demonstrated such a turnaround. Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club expressed similar sentiments in regard to the fourth season, noting "the growing pains hit hard [...] the show devolved into self-parody". However he considered that "30 Rock found its footing in its fifth season [...] it has at least aged into a show that no longer feels such a desperate need to impress. For all its busyness, it feels a little more comfortable in its own skin". He also described the series as having "experienced a hell of a comeback" during its fifth season.
Francis Rizzo of DVD Talk was also positive about the season, commenting that "the joy of 30 Rock is the way it manages to keep surprising after years of following the same, relatively unchanging characters, thanks to writing that's frequently ridiculous and hilarious, and a cast that makes even the most over-the-top situation feel real, and thus even funnier".
Alec Baldwin, however, has said on several occasions that both he and the 30 Rock team in general felt that the writing in the fifth season was not up to the high standards of the previous four seasons. (Baldwin attributes this to inevitable burnout) For this reason, Alec Baldwin felt that the show should finish its run after the next - and last contracted - season. However, the sixth season ended up being so enjoyable - and the quality of the writing so spectacular - that Baldwin had a change of heart, and was prepared to commit for three more seasons (which would have brought the total to nine seasons). Instead, Tina Fey ended the show after the seventh season; according to Baldwin, she made the decision after having her second child.
The fifth-season premiere, "The Fabian Strategy", drew 5.9 million viewers, an increase from the previous episode, "I Do Do" (5.5 million), but a decrease on the fourth season premiere, "Season 4", which had drawn an audience of 6.4 million. The fourth episode of the season, "Live Show", aired live and demonstrated a turnaround, attracting a season high of 6.7 million viewers. This figure was the highest overall for NBC in the 8:30 p.m. Thursday timeslot for non-sports events since December 2009. Following NBC's decision to move 30 Rock to the later time of 10:00 p.m. for the second half of the season, ratings declined to beneath five million viewers per week, starting with the episode "Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning". The penultimate episode of the season, "Everything Sunny All the Time Always" became the new lowest-rated episode of the series, with less than four million viewers tuned in. Previously, the fourth-season episode "Lee Marvin vs. Derek Jeter" had been the lowest-rated, with four million. The season finale, "Respawn", attracted 4.2 million viewers, and overall, the season averaged 5.3 million viewers, ranking one hundred and sixth for the year, according to Nielsen Media Research.
30 Rock season five was found to have added an average of 30 percent more viewers in the 18–49 demographic, when DVR plus seven day viewers were factored in. This is a measurement of the viewers who recorded the series and viewed it within seven days of broadcast. In all, the season added 1.4 million (28 percent) more total viewers when seven day results were factored in.
Awards and nominations
30 Rock season five received nine nominations at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Fey, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Baldwin, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Krakowski, Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for Elizabeth Banks, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for both Matt Damon and Will Arnett, Writing, Directing, and the series' fifth consecutive nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series, although it did not win in any of these categories.
During the fall of 2010, the show aired at 8:30 p.m., after Community and before The Office on Thursdays. On November 15, 2010, it was announced 30 Rock would move to 10:00 p.m., following Parks and Recreation starting January 20, 2011 (the show's sixth season renewal was also announced along with this information). Episode 22 - "Everything Sunny All the Time Always" aired at the special time of Thursday at 10:30-11:00 (ET/PT), due to extended episodes of The Office and Parks and Recreation.