30 Rock is rolling. After the season premiere with Jerry Seinfeld, tonight's sweeps episode lures another key player from NBC's late great '90s Thursday night "must-see TV" block in David Schwimmer. As did Seinfeld, the Friends star manages to serve two masters - bald-faced hype and sly humor - by guest-starring as eco-mascot Greenzo, the latest greatest idea from Alec Baldwin's loopy GE/NBC execubot.
At least Schwimmer isn't promoting himself as a product. (Something about some flying insect movie, wasn't it?) Ex-Ross is doing the deed for NBC's Green Is Universal week, the real-life stunt that just happens to salute in its very name both green-ism (something about the environment, isn't it?) and the corporate conglomerate whose do-gooding the cast and crew must rally to support.
But not without tongue firmly in cheek. After the avarice of the sitcom's Seinfeld plot, where Jerry had been digitally inserted in all the network's shows, the "green" episode has Jack Donaghey (Baldwin) boasting of working not to save the Earth but "so we can drain the remainder of its resources."
It's no surprise that Schwimmer's emoter goes gonzo with ego while honing his "Greenzo voice" ("It's wry and wise but also very sexual") in appearances on the Today show. But it's slightly amazing how far star-creator Tina Fey & Co. get to go in savaging the profit-hungry hand that signs their paychecks. "Tell the kids how outsourcing means cheaper toys at Christmas," Donaghey pleads with cameo guest Al Gore. The Earth activist arrives to see GE's new "garbage car," then leaves to save the whales.
But he does it with feisty style and integrity, as does everyone who touches or is touched by 30 Rock, it seems. Fey's sharp show makes its guests look good, and vice versa, without being heavyhanded or manufactured. Maybe her years as headwriter showcasing each week's host on Saturday Night Live prepared her to provide for so many diverse talents and celebrity personalities. She knows how to instantly reach a comfort level most shows struggle awkwardly to achieve.
Diane Werts writes for Newsday.