12 years ago, when Tina Fey made 30 Rock for NBC, this show was compared to Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. He was the star creator who was still riding high on the enormous success of The West Wing and she had been the head writer of Saturday Night Live but what made the viewers compare these two shows was their concept. Both these shows were set in similar environments but the treatment of both was starkly different. While Sorkin’s show was a drama, 30 Rock was a comedy. The genres were different but since the concepts had something in common, everyone knew that only one could survive and in the end. It was 30 Rock that soared.
30 Rock starring Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin in the lead roles was a comedy like no other. It was smart, up-to-date and did not necessarily wait for the audience to have a laugh before it dropped another joke. It usually wasn’t ha-ha funny but relied more on its intelligent humour. It did not spoon feed its audience but made sure the audience got them. The show was quite aware of the politics of the world and gave a nod to its imperfections quite often. Jokes on subjects like feminism, sexism, casteism were all there but at no point were these subjects mocked. In fact, the jokes were constructed by keeping the reality of these issues in mind.
Tina Fey played the lead character of Liz Lemon, who in many ways, is the only voice of reason in this bunch of quirky and eccentric characters. She is supported by Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy who plays her boss and work-husband. Their relationship progresses from being colleagues to mentor-mentee and gradually develops into a strong friendship. The show also addressed fan theories which suggested that Liz and Jack would eventually end up together, by making fun of the possibility.
The characters of 30 Rock work as an ensemble as they all balance each other’s craziness perfectly. With a character like Kenneth Parcell, 30 Rock talks about innocence that does not see the darkness in people but it also speaks about the dark thoughts that Kenneth bottles up just so he can maintain a happy exterior. With Tracy Jordan, the show addresses that how the lowest common denominator of the TV viewing audience just wants to get entertained and how political correctness never plays a role in entertainment. Jenna Maroney represents the ‘blonde actress’ stereotype but also makes it a point to humanise her from time to time.
30 Rock also talks about the social pressure on a single woman of a certain age but does so without sounding preachy. At the heart of it, this show is a comedy but it takes its position very seriously and the humour here is done in the form of a social commentary.
There have been talks about a 30 Rock reboot, it can be safely said that the magic and the humour of this show can’t ever be replicated. And for the sake of all TGS fans, we hope that the large corporations don’t turn this into a money-minting machine.
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