The autobiographical aspects of the series emerge in the first few minutes of the pilot, when we're introduced to Liz Lemon (Fey), head writer of NBC's hit sketch program The Girlie Show. Thanks to a solid partnership with her producer Pete Hornberger (Scott Adsit) and best friend Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski), who's also the star of TGS, and with valuable help coming from her writing team (porn-obsessed Frank, Harvard graduate Toofer and others), no one's ever had any reason to complain. Now, however, there's a new network executive, Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), who insists Liz should hire up-and-coming movie star Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) to boost the program's ratings, despite objections about the comedian's alleged insanity (he once ran half-naked in the middle of a highway screaming: "I am a Jedi!").
This opening episode is a very traditional pilot, in the sense that it introduces the various main characters, the environment where they work and the overall madness that surrounds them. Thanks to Fey's extraordinary writing, that madness doesn't need another couple of shows to emerge, and so these first 22 minutes of the series are already a pitch-perfect sample of classic 30 Rock moments: remarkably witty dialogue exchanges (Pete: "Oh, we own K-Mart now?" ; Jack: "No. So why are you dressed like we do?"), great physical gags (Liz getting drunk and dancing with strippers) and adorably larger-than-life individuals (Tracy: "I'm not on crack! I'm straight-up mentally ill!").
Most of the roles were reportedly written specifically for the actors playing them, a fact that shows throughout the episode: every cast-member has a deep understanding of his or her part from the moment he or she starts speaking or moving. From the goofy Krakowski, previously seen doing similar things on Ally McBeal, to the dim Judah Friedlander through the downright psychotic Morgan, everyone has a spot-on comic timing reminiscent of the likes of Seinfeld, Friends or Frasier at their very best (although, given the lack of canned laughter, the best comparison would probably be the superb Arrested Development). Still, the supporting wouldn't be able to cover any missing chemistry between the leads. No need to worry in that department: Baldwin has the time of his life doing his first regular comedy, and any time he interacts with Fey (the 2006-2007 TV season's comedic revelation alongside Ugly Betty's America Ferrera) there's a spark that reminds of Mulder and Scully from The X-Files minus the will they/won't they tension, of course.
In short: as a comedy about the making of a comedy, 30 Rock has no rivals. Along with The Office and Arrested Development, the essential mainstream sitcom of the 2000s.