By Paula Hendrickson
About 18 months ago, 30 Rock went live, doing two separate broadcasts — one for the East Coast and Central time zones, the other for the West Coast. Being gluttons for punishment, this week they’re doing it again, with director Beth McCarthy-Miller at the helm, just as she was the first time.
When I profiled McCarthy-Miller last year for Emmy, she told me about her experiences with 30 Rock and how she and 30 Rock creator Tina Fey have known one another since they worked together on Saturday Night Live.
“I was really lucky that when I left SNL, Tina started 30 Rock. I started directing episodes of 30 Rock, which was the best calling card I could possibly have,” she says.
Given her experience at directing SNL, McCarthy-Miller was the ideal candidate to direct 30 Rock’s live episodes.
“Live directing is not for the faint of heart. It’s an incredible rush. There’s nothing more exciting than when you’re going on the air live,” McCarthy-Miller says. “It’s crazy, but when you got off the air after doing a show like that, you feel like you can conquer anything.”
Prior to the first live episode, McCarthy-Miller set some ground rules for Fey and co-executive producer Robert Carlock. “I told them they needed to come in short on the script because we couldn’t cut pieces of a storyline during a commercial break to get off the air in time,” she says. “I think that was everybody’s fear, that we weren’t going to be able to get off the air in time, but we did.”
As director, McCarthy-Miller had fears of her own. “I was scared the whole time because, literally, one camera misses one shot, and it’s a house of cards collapsing,” she says.
To give you an idea what’s going on this week as the cast and crew of 30 Rock once again invade SNL’s Studio 8H — located in Rockefeller Center, the real 30 Rock — let’s let McCarthy-Miller recount what happened with their live show from October 2010.
“Because there was an SNL the weekend before, we didn’t get the stage until that Sunday afternoon, so we built our sets Sunday and Monday, rehearsed without cameras Tuesday and did a dry blocking on Tuesday night,” she says. “We rehearsed all day Wednesday with cameras, then Thursday we did a rehearsal, a dress rehearsal and two shows.”
Although that Thursday was a long, hectic day, she says it was a fun, wild ride.
“We were all flying by the seats of our pants for pretty much the entire half hour, but it was exhilarating,” McCarthy-Miller says. “It was so much fun to watch the cast shine in front of an audience and to watch it all come together. “
Thursday, April 26, 30 Rock goes live again — on NBC at 7:30 p.m. — as Jack (Alec Baldwin) attempts to pull the plug on a live broadcast of TGS, the show-within-the-show that is 30 Rock. Later, you can check out the West Coast broadcast on NBC.com.
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the April 25-May 1, 2012, issue