Poking the Frog

Every once in a while, the hype surrounding 30 Rock overwhelms me, and I decide to give it another chance.

This is always a mistake. I can count on my hand the number of times I laughed at the show (“Did a Korean person die?”). I tend to turn it off after the teaser, when I go five minutes without laughing.

I didn’t even get that far with last night’s episode.

It started with Liz Lemon, a showrunner of a fictional TV series, not realizing that the crew of her show didn’t get the next week off. (Which is, granted, mildly amusing in a meta way, as the writers of the 30 Rock itself must obviously be aware of such occurrences, or they wouldn’t know to make a joke of it.)

Then the show establishes that “the only thing” Liz does for herself all year is go to St. Barts, and she refuses to let anything interfere with this trip.  From personal experience, I know this is not true of any television producer, ever.

Worse, setting this up as the character’s central problem for the episode strikes me as a bit of a “Let them eat cake” moment for the writers, squandering the good will of the self-mockery above.

Then Liz’s stupid assistant informs her that her hotel overbooked, and the trip is off. She meant to tell Liz earlier, but forgot to press ‘send’ on the text.

Annnnnnnnnd… I turned it off.

There’s really two kinds of jokes. Well, actually, there are many, many kinds of jokes, but for the purposes of oversimplifying to make a point, I’ll consider two.

First, there are jokes where you take the assumed reality, and do the opposite. This is why the pie-in-the-face gag only works when the sap’s got dignity.

The other joke is to take reality and exaggerate it. Cartoons, and cartoony shows like 30 Rock, do this.  Which is how I know the writers think their assistant is a moron.

So, now I have a personal beef with 30 Rock. Producers are helpless without us “over-qualified, over-educated assistants with the unjustified self esteem and the ludicrous salary day-dream.”

And the worst part is, there is an assistant character for the second joke. Why not have an assistant that’s mind-blowingly, unbelieveably awesome? I mean, most comedians seem to think the funniest thing about Obama is that he’s perfect.

Give us assistants some credit, 30 Rock.

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13 Responses

  1. I quite like the show. But I see your point. I thought Baldwin dating Condi Rice early on was still the funniest thing they’ve ever done.

    So, here’s where I have to earn some assistant points. I’ve been assigned the task of promoting this video contest of the city of LA on popular filmmaking blogs (consider this a compliment).

    It’s actually a great chance to win some money and vacation stuff ($1000/weekend package) for making a short about LA. Not many people have entered, so your odds of winning are quite good.

    Details below.

  2. I quite agree. Many times TV shows and movies interpret the Assistant as being some dope, and easily flustered. But the reality is the Assistants are keep everything going. Just because we’re in the background, doesn’t mean we’re insignificant.

  3. oh wait, alec baldwin’s impression of tracy jordan’s father sounding exactly like redd foxx… brilliant again.

  4. i think the title of tracy jordan’s revolutionary porno videogame, GOREGASM: THE LEGEND OF DONGSLAYER, (which he is “pretty sure” was completely scripted, designed, directed and programmed by himself… alone), pretty much solidifies the show as brilliant.

  5. As others have pointed out, not only is Ken the ONLY seriously nice person on the show and gets mad props in the “assistant” role, but the show takes digs at EVERY other profession, most often in gruesomely hilarious ways.

    Do they make jack look like he cares about his staff? Please…

  6. If nothing else, please go back and watch the episode until Kenneth asks if Jenna and Tracy can go get the soup themselves.

    Jenna: I don’t understand.


    Just watch that part.

  7. Jonathon is also a pretty damn good assistant for Jack. I personally love 30 Rock. Maybe it is a case of being too close to the process, that you can spot everything that isnt real.

    “Stop eating people’s old french fries, pigeon. Have some self-respect. Don’t you know you can fly?”

  8. I think you’re reading too much into Cerie because you’re an assistant, too. EVERY character on that show is deeply flawed. Network execs could easily think Jack is an insult to their profession, ditto for Jenna and actors, Dr. Spaceman and doctors, etc etc etc.

    But disregarding that, Kenneth the Page IS “mind-blowingly, unbelieveably awesome” at his page job, which is basically that of assistant to the entire staff.

    In conclusion: 30 Rock is great.

  9. I join you in the minority, apparently, with no particular dog in the fight. I watched the season premiere and it looked like a typical, unfunny sitcom–maybe even a little desperate trying to be something else. To be fair, there is not a hell of a lot you can do in 20 minutes, but I guess I just don’t get the love.

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