30 Rock Season 5 Review: Slow Start, Then Back In The Groove

30 ROCK: Thursday 10th February, Comedy Central, 10.30pm

Tina Fey – the darling of liberal America’s comedy scene – hits British screens once again tonight with the new season of her wacky and witty comedy, 30 Rock. After the two-parter wedding finale last time out, series five plays chronologically, taking place a summer after the ceremony. Jack Donaghy is still with Avery (Elizabeth Banks) who is pregnant with his child and Liz Lemon is attempting to uphold her relationship with pilot, Carol (Matt Damon).

Tonight’s first episode begins with a phone conversation between Liz and a disturbingly floppy-haired Jack (Alec Baldwin). After a few funny one-liners and an odd welcome from Liz (“Okay. Season 5, here we go..â€?) one assumes that this opener will display the random hilarity that 30 Rock is famous for. Unfortunately it does not. The main problem with the episode is that the only thing to really make any sort of impact is the initial image – Baldwin and his floppy hair. By all accounts the season opener is fairly dull and despite new storylines involving Jenna being added as a producer and Kenneth working for a new television studio, nothing interesting or even giggle-inducing occurs. Even Matt Damon is wasted in a fairly boring role, his crying fit not really hitting the funny bone in quite the way it was probably intended.

Disappointing season openers seem to be something that 30 Rock is making a habit of (the beginning of season 4 also fell flat with the critics) but it is still surprising, especially when you consider that this episode was written by Fey herself.

As such it’s a relief that the second episode (which follows immediately) gives us nice kick in the comedy gonads and sasses proceedings up with a more entertainingly random script. With the announcement that Avery and Jack are having a boy, Banks makes a quick yet brilliant cameo once again, livening up her few seconds of screen-time with her usual perfect line delivery. Further plots involve Tracey attempting to make it to his third child’s birth and Liz deploying a hilarious Julia Roberts-esque laugh to flirt with a cameo from Paul Giamatti. With more going on, this second helping feels more like classic 30 Rock, with a layer of ridiculous plots, each riddled with wickedly dry slices of wit, the best of which goes to Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy: “The secret to a strong, healthy head of hair is Dove… blood.â€?