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7 Shows like 30 Rock: Zany Ensemble Comedies

Jessie McNiel itcherI’ll be up front: there is no show quite like ’30 Rock.’ Nothing quite reaches its surreal, fast­paced, joke­packed high, but if you’re looking for TV shows like ’30 Rock’ – even if they’re not quite the same ­ you just might enjoy some other zany comedies like ‘Arrested Development’ ‘Raising Hope’ and ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.’ ~ Jessie McNiel


’30 Rock’ was a weird little show in the very best way – a weird little show that garnered 103 Emmy nominations over seven seasons, attracted endless celebrity cameos (Conan O’Brien! Jon Hamm! Salma Hayek! Al Gore!) and introduced us to Tina Fey ­ not just as a writer, or player on Saturday Night Live, but as a creative force.

If you like Tina Fey’s distinctive brand of humor, you’ll love these series similar to ’30 Rock.’


Shows Similar to ’30 Rock’…

‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ (Netflix, 2015­)

Even if you haven’t heard of ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ you probably heard its insanely catchy theme song  or the breakaway hit “Pinot Noir.”  Kimmy Schmidt is the survivor of a one­man apocalypse cult. She was kidnapped as a child by Rev. Richard Wayne Gary Wayne and kept in a bunker, believing the world had ended, for fifteen years. When she and the other three women who had been kept captive are rescued by the police, Kimmy – who is full of childlike wonder at discovering the whole world still exists – decides to move from Illinois to New York City.

New York City is, of course, a weird enough place on the best days: add in an intensely naïve girl whose last brush with the outside world was when she was a kid in the 90s and it’ll only get stranger.

‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ is Tina Fey’s second outing as a showrunner and co-creator, and it bears a lot of similarities to her first­born, ’30 Rock.’ The humor is a similar mix of clever and slapstick, and there are a lot of familiar faces: Jane Krakowski (Jenna on 30 Rock) plays an almost identical out-­of-­touch trophy wife, Jon Hamm returns for a hilarious cameo role, and Tina Fey herself even makes an appearance or two.

It also stars Fey’s great love, New York City, in all its weird and slightly gross glory.

Similarity Match: 90%
‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ is like ’30 Rock’s younger sibling – a little more awkward, a bit less mature, but definitely cut of the same cloth.

‘Arrested Development’ (Fox, 2003-­2006, Netflix, 2013)

Arrested Development’ paved the way for shows like ’30 Rock.’ It’s irreverent, bizarre and highly quotable. ‘Arrested Development’s approach to humor and joke-­writing was revolutionary – a mix of visual gags, clever wordplay and self-­referential and meta humor that marked it apart from any other sort of sitcom.

Also, it’s damn funny. The dysfunctional Bluth family is continually embroiled in one madcap scheme after another, and runs the gamut from slapstick to wordplay so clever, it takes several viewings to even catch the joke.

You’ll find new things to laugh at every time you rewatch an episode, and rewatch you should. There’s no comedy as intricate and endlessly rewarding as ‘Arrested Development.’

Similarity Match: 85%
‘Arrested Development’ isn’t a workplace comedy like ’30 Rock’ but its comedic sensibilities are very similar: the weirder, the better.

‘Parks and Recreation’ (NBC, 2009-­2015)

Is there a more beloved comedy in recent years than ‘Parks and Recreation’? Powerhouse Amy Poehler’s first foray post­SNL is this ensemble comedy about Leslie Knope, the deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department in tiny, rural Pawnee, Indiana.

Like Liz Lemon, Leslie is partnered with a crotchety male opposite, libertarian anti-government government worker Ron Swanson. Just like Liz and Jack Donaghy, Leslie and Ron’s prickly mentor/mentee relationship yields over time to mutual support, love and respect. (Even if Ron – or Jack – will never quite admit it.)

Let’s not forget the greatest female friendship of contemporary television: Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins. Leslie’s fearsome love of her friends is one of the most charming parts of her character, along with her can­do attitude and her endless enthusiasm.

Similarity Match: 80%
Just like Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are comedy sisters, ’30 Rock’ and ‘Parks and Recreation’ are sister shows – not quite the same, but a good pair all the same.

‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’ (FX, 2005­)

‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ boasts some of the dumbest characters on television. The gang – Dennis, Sweet Dee, Charlie and Mac – co-­own (or in Dee’s case, tend) Paddy’s Irish Pub in Philadelphia.

They are constantly putting their feet in their mouths, each other’s mouths and, if possible, other people’s mouths. It’s cringe comedy at its finest – if you can make it through an episode of ‘Always Sunny’ without wincing, you’re made of sterner stuff than I am.

Even though they play dumb characters, the stars of the show, who are also its writers, are clearly anything but. ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s rapidfire pace, nonstop jokes and cleverly building storylines make it clear it’s crafted with care.

Similarity Match: 75%
‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ has just as many – if not more – improbable situations as ’30 Rock’ but it’s also definitely a meaner, sharper show.

‘Brooklyn Nine­-Nine’ (Fox, 2013­)

‘Brooklyn Nine­Nine’ is the newest foray from the writer/directors of ‘The Office’ (US) and ‘Parks and Recreation.’ ‘Brooklyn Nine­Nine’ is a workplace comedy set in a police precinct and is, in my humble opinion, one of the best comedies currently on the air.

It’s a show with tremendous heart, whose humor never punches down, whose characters make jokes about how thoroughly they support and respect each other.

‘Brooklyn Nine­Nine’ is built around Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) a childish but still lovable detective, but it’s the ensemble cast, the other members of the precinct, that make it such a success.

Jake is hilarious in his own right, but he needs his foils: the completely deadpan Captain Holt, his weird, food-­and-­musical­-theater­obsessed best friend Charles Boyle, the terrifying and badass Rosa Diaz, super-­organized teacher’s pet (and love interest) Amy Santiago, hyper-­muscular and sensible Terry (played by the always welcome Terry Crews) and Holt’s assistant and Jake’s childhood friend, Gina Linetti, who may or may not be human.

Similarity Match: 70%
‘Brooklyn Nine­Nine’ is a more formulaic show with a larger cast, but it’s silly-yet-­sweet mix is evocative of the best of ’30 Rock’s relationship-­based moments.

‘Raising Hope’ (Fox, 2010-­2014)

It’s a classic story: boy meets girl, boy sleeps with girl, girl is actually a serial killer. Girl gets pregnant, girl gets executed, boy ends up with baby. So, maybe not a romantic comedy standard, but the premise of ‘Raising Hope’ is exactly what it sounds like: weird, a little dark, but surprisingly ripe for laughs.

Where ’30 Rock’ skewers New York City ratpack dwellers, ‘Raising Hope’ is concentrated on the Midwest working­class. It stars teen parents and pool cleaners who make dumb mistakes, (Jimmy – the boy – accidentally signs away his family’s life rights in exchange for a beach ball) but still leave you rooting for them.

Premise­wise, ‘Raising Hope’ is a wacky family sitcom to ’30 Rock’s office comedy, with a few more morals thrown in for good measure, but it’s got a similarly zany style.


If You Like ’30 Rock’, You Will Like…

Tina Fey got her start in the iconic improv­sketch troupe Second City as both an actress and a writer. While not ensemble comedies, sketch shows like ‘Saturday Night Live’ and ‘Portlandia’ share a similar DNA to TV series like ’30 Rock.’

‘Saturday Night Live’ (NBC, 1975­)

What is there to say about ‘Saturday Night Live’ that hasn’t already been said? It’s been on the air for forty years. It’s shaped American elections, given countless comedians and actors their start.

The sketch variety show introduced us to Tina Fey, as well, who was a Weekend Update correspondent and head writer of the show for eight years. Fey’s experience on ‘SNL’ gave her the inspiration for ’30 Rock’ which produces a very similar fictionalized version of ‘SNL’ – ‘TGS.’

As a sketch variety show, ‘SNL’ changes every week, and many of the sketches depend on that week’s host. Tina Fey returned to host in 2013 with hilarious results.

‘Saturday Night Live’ is not just a show like ’30 Rock,’ without it there would be no ’30 Rock.’

‘Portlandia’ (IFC, 2011­)

‘Portlandia’ is the brainchild of Fred Armisen, another ‘SNL’ alum, and Carrie Brownstein. ‘Portlandia’ is a sketch show dedicated to the hipster­y weirdness of Portland, Oregon.

Armisen and Brownstein’s characters range all over – they accidentally join cults, run a women-only feminist bookshop, play out ‘I saw it first!’ hipsters who that take things way too far. ‘Portlandia’ often features other ‘SNL’ alums, such as Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis, and plenty of other famous cameos: Jeff Goldblum and Kyle MacLachlan, for starters.

‘Portlandia’ is an ironic, smart take on traditional sketch shows, and a fun counterpoint to ’30 Rock.’


Treat Yo’ Self!

’30 Rock’ is such a unique show that it was tough to be put together this list – but I definitely, wholeheartedly recommend everything on this list. It’s hard to go wrong with shows like ‘Parks and Recreation’ and ‘Brooklyn Nine­Nine’ – they, like ’30 Rock’ are some of my favourite shows.

What’s your favourite comedy – is it maybe on this list? Let us know in the comments!

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