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The ‘30 Rock’ Reunion Was One Long Lame, Sorta Funny, Occasionally Brilliant Peacock Ad

The ‘30 Rock’ Reunion Was One Long Lame, Sorta Funny, Occasionally Brilliant Peacock Ad

Even before it aired, the news surrounding Thursday night’s 30 Rock reunion read like a 30 Rock parody or plot line, in ways that, like the actual episode, were both thrilling and depressing. 

30 Rock: A One Time Special wasn’t a Zoom reunion or retrospective interview, but an actual scripted and filmed episode of 30 Rock with the actors all reprising their characters, seven years after the Emmy-winning comedy went off-air. Yay! Delightful! 

Those scenes, however, would be in the service of NBCUniversal’s Upfronts, the annual event in which the company unveils its slate of programming to potential advertisers, everything from series airing on networks like NBC, USA, and Bravo to its news offerings and Olympics coverage plans. Boo! Depressing!

And yet it’s a very meta, real-life example of something that Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin’s characters, Liz and Jack, would be asked to do in support of Cabletown, the fictional stand-in for NBCUniversal (then Comcast) in the world of the show. So the whole operation becomes kind of weirdly hilarious and very much in the 30 Rock spirit, even if it meant the special would be interspersed with insufferable commercials touting the company’s fall line-up as if it is the second coming of God and also the coronavirus vaccine. 

Ordinarily NBCUniversal’s Upfronts (every major media company has one) happen at Radio City Music Hall, and there’s a live show in which the biggest talent come out to shill for checks.

There’s something, again, very 30 Rock about the circumstances behind NBCU pivoting in this way: a global pandemic forcing a splashy reunion to happen, but with the indignities of filming it entirely remotely and as, essentially, a branded commercial.

Adding another That’s So Liz Lemon layer to the proceedings: after all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the special, it was reported that many NBC stations around the country wouldn’t be airing it

Regardless of the pleasures of seeing Jane Krakowski back in character as Jenna Maroney (she was spectacular and the funniest part of the night), in the end the reunion was basically a long commercial for NBCU and its new streaming service, Peacock. If they aired it, the affiliates would be advertising for a service designed to take eyeballs away from their broadcasts. It’s the kind of escalating disaster that would routinely frame an episode of the show. 

Then again, there’s also something very 30 Rock about the circumstances of the world, in general. That’s whether you look at pop culture—a $2 billion streaming service in which Reese Witherspoon talks about hyena penises and you can only watch it on your phone, also it’s called Quibi—or the culture wars. 

Liz Lemon yelling at a buncha dummies for refusing to wear masks that will literally save lives because they think it’s an affront to civil liberties and/or emasculating and/or will give them mascne could have been ripped from a farcical plot on the original series. (No mention of the recent blackface controversy, however.)

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