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"30 Rock" Review

October 23, 2009

Published by Ozarks Unbound.

“30 Rock” political humor not as smart as it thinks this season | Cultural Critique


By Bethany Larson
Ozarks Unbound
 30 Rock,” NBC’s Emmy award winning comedy written by Tina Fey, has a reputation for derisively making fun of its network and (for now) parent company GE. Due to its well-placed pop culture references, intelligent satire, and the great delivery of the show’s cast, every episode of “30 Rock” is usually make-you-snort hilarious.
That is, until now.
The first two episodes of “30 Rock” are crammed with jokes that are more scatter shot than smart satire.
In the fourth season’s premiere episode, aptly titled “Season Four,” Fey makes it clear this season’s dialogue will be politically driven.
The episode’s major premise is that Kenneth (Jack McBrayer), the moralistic Page, goes head-to-head with the high-powered Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) when Donaghy, under pressure to cut spending, nixes overtime for the NBC pages, but keeps his bonus that includes more than a few zeroes.
Kenneth organizes all members of the Page Program to strike until Donaghy concedes to Kenneth’s one demand–which, by the way, isn’t to reinstate overtime; it’s for Donaghy to sign a piece of paper declaring himself a liar.
The “jokes” in the first episode are supposed to make light of the current economic situation. We see Jack firing people so he can slim down the budget, while making sure that the budget for straws stays intact.
He also refers to the President as “Comrade Obama.” Although the latter did make me laugh, I can’t seem to find anything funny in firing people from their jobs, even in the realm of satire.
The second episode “Into the Crevasse” continues with the political jokes.
The staunchly Republican and capitalism-loving Donaghy tells Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) “Your President is a Kenyan and smokes cigarettes.” Later in the episode, Donaghy’s arch-nemesis Devon Banks (Will Arnett) returns to the show as a government official who weaseled his way into the Obama Administration by befriending the Obama daughters.
There are also many references to the failing American auto industry (Donaghy calls them the “buffoons from Detroit”) and ruminations on why taking a corporate bail-out is un-American.
Beyond the political humor, there are four other story arcs within this 30-minute episode. Pop culture references are made to Michael Jackson (Tracy Morgan declares that it is too soon to reference him), George Orwell’s paranoid novel 1984, FOX’s “American Idol,” the 1984 film Amadeus, and to the current vampire craze. (I assume that the repetition of the year 1984 isn’t a coincidence)
This episode was cramped. And, more than that, it felt clunky.
Fey seems to be channeling  MTM Enterprise’s theory of “if you reference a lot of different things really quickly and somehow tie them in together, the show will be deemed sophisticated,” (à la Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere) [Editor’s Note: and Fox’s Family Guy].
She hasn’t quite mastered the finesse of such a technique.
We can only hope that Fey either masters it soon or returns to her old Emmy winning tricks.
2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2014 9:13 PM

    PhDDepartment(s): Mathematics Lynn LevinDepartment(s): English & Philosophy Huilan Li,L and Lev, “On step fixed-charge transportation problem” OMEGA 36. may be eligible for VAT exemption.“There are so many troops returning with serious injuries and this exhibit tells their stories.

  2. July 2, 2014 9:12 PM

    Now the government is threatening to pull the license of the network that airs his show. Bassem Youssef is now out on bail. After his arrest, he was undaunted; on the latest episode of “El Bernameg” it was funny business as usual.

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