While we here at Water Cooler try to uphold the proper journalistic distance on the subjects we cover, we are only human after all. Which is why when we heard that "30 Rock" will finally enter syndication in 2011, we let out a little woo-hoo!
The goofiness, the guest stars, the gaggle of gags and one-liners packed into every scene of this show about a live sketch comedy show headed by a late 30-something single woman, Liz Lemon (Tina Fey), whose private life is a mess and who weekly gets a life-is-tough tutorial from her own personal corporate overlord, Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) deliver the giggles. And the wackiness is only helped along by Kenneth the Page (Jack McBrayer), Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) and Jenna (Jane Krakowski). Showbiz sitcoms are a well-worn genre, but Fey manages to make it fresh with an impressive lineup of celebrities willing to play themselves (like Oprah Winfrey and Jerry Seinfeld) or come on for a short stint (see Alan Alda, Salma Hayek, Elaine Stritch).
But as any fan of the show has discovered, catching up on past episodes is not so easy. You can buy a season of shows on DVD, or you can watch the selected five fan favorites on Hulu, along with selected clips, but you can't call up any one you want on-demand anywhere unless you've kept all the episodes logged on a digital video recorder.
From a business perspective, I completely understand NBC Universal's desire to maintain a balance between keeping existing revenue streams flowing and letting viewers have unlimited access to their catalog of shows. And it's worked, now that they've gotten Comedy Central to pay a licensing fee to air five seasons of repeats. The show has risen from a Season One rank of No. 102 among prime-time programs to No. 66 at the end of this year. So its audience is growing, but given the speed at which the media landscape is shifting, I wonder if I'll still be excited to watch reruns in 2011, or if I'll just be resentful of NBC for keeping "30 Rock" locked away. NBC Universal, Hulu and Comedy Central should figure out a way to sell sponsorship of the show, no matter where you are watching it, to the same group of marketers looking to reach the audience that is seeking "30 Rock."