A friend recently texted me to see if I wanted to go to a Shaun of the Dead quote-along with him. I told him I wasn’t able to, and added, “I know every line, without even seeing the movie.” This wasn’t a brag; merely a fact. (He said he could do the same thing with Ghostbusters and 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). There are certain films and shows, usually comedies, that I’ve seen so many times that I know them by heart: Blazing Saddles, Billy Madison (okay, every Adam Sandler movie from 1995 to 1998…), seasons 3 to 8 of The Simpsons, each episode of which I’ve probably seen at least two dozen times.
I’m not quite there with Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s 30 Rock, but it’s getting close. Yet I don’t have any single episode memorized the way I do “Last Exit to Springfield,” or “22 Short Films About Springfield.” That’s because every time I watch 30 Rock, I laugh so hard at one joke that I end up missing four more.
30 Rock premiered on NBC 10 years ago today, on Oct. 11, 2006, during the same season that brought us Heroes, Friday Night Lights, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. I hate admitting this now, but I was actually more excited for Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60, which was also a behind-the-scenes look at an SNL-like show, than 30 Rock, because, I mean, look at that cast: Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford, Amanda Peet, Sarah Paulson. I even thought it had the stronger pilot of the two. But when “Tracy Does Conan” aired, everything changed. It was 30 Rock‘s first truly great episode (“What else is on my mind-grapes?”), and an all-time show was born. (Studio 60, meanwhile, sputtered and was canceled after one season. I haven’t seen the finale.)