Tonight, 30 Rock airs its much-anticipated live episode. And the question is: Should it be so anticipated? Ostensibly, the show is injecting an element of high-risk danger: It's live! Anything can happen! But anyone who remembers ER's flawless live episode — or is familiar with the improv capabilities, live-show experience, and general competence of the cast and crew of 30 Rock — knows that, most likely, nothing will go wrong. So is it time to up the stakes on television gimmicks? Absolutely. Here are five ideas to get the conversation rolling.
• Other than SNL and the occasional fund-raiser telecast, music on TV is almost always pretaped. Now that Glee's finally shoved musical theater into network television, however, we should be moving forward into regular live musical episodes. Can those Glee kids really sing? Or do each and every one of those fresh-faced, fake high schoolers in their late 20s have a voice double, like that chick from the C+C Music Factory video? Lets find out!
• Remember crossover episodes, when one established show would team up with another? Nobody does those anymore, and that's because they got boring. Let's spice it up by having Show A crossover with Show B without any advanced notice for Show A on what Show B is. So, on the week of production, the cast of Show B shows up to the set of Show A, and Show A's writers and producers scramble to make sense of it all. It'll be like the secret ingredient on Iron Chef! For added pizazz, the cast of Show B can emerge from a giant fancy-restaurant-style plate-top while Mark Dacascos screams their name.
• Okay, say we keep the regular live-episode format, but ratchet up the degree of difficulty. How about not giving the cast the scripts until the morning of the live show, meaning the actors will have to walk around all day saying the lines to themselves over and over again and not talking to anyone so that they won't forget them? Your potential-high-jinks-rating would be off the charts.
• America's love affair with procedurals runs long and deep, meaning it may be time to take it to the next level: have those fictional genius detectives actually try to solve crimes. As in, team up the fake law-enforcement officials with their real-life counterparts on real cases, have a TV crew follow them around while they stay in character, and see what happens. Imagine how adorable it'd be to have Bones' David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel lovingly bicker while a real man's life is on the line, or how satisfying it'd be to see CSI: Miami's David Caruso dramatically place his sunglasses back on his face after assisting in the capture of an actual sexual deviant? With the right parameters and enough training, the tactic could be expanded to medical dramas.
• This one's definitely our favorite: You know how the increasingly progressive television landscape now houses an abundance of shows where the cast regularly takes part in such illicit activities as binge drinking, chain smoking, and marijuana and crystal meth usage? Only logical: A “very special episode” in which the stars of those shows skip the TV props in favor of the real thing. Curious to see Jon Hamm subtly expressing pangs of guilt after a half a fifth of scotch, or Mary-Louise Parker attempting to connect emotionally with her fictional son while blunted out of her mind? Us too.