Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"30 Rock": The First Great NYC Show of the 21st Century

Every decade or so there's a show that, more than the others, actually "gets" New York. By "get" I mean it perfectly encapsulates the New York City attitude and vibe, captures and expresses the city's l'essence and joie de vivre, its id, ego, and superego -- that actually makes you feel it has the city in its bloodstream.

In the 1950s, it was The Honeymooners.

In the 1960s ... well, okay, I can't think of one.

In the 1970s, it was Saturday Night Live.

In the 1980s, it was Late Night with David Letterman (Late Night was a show for New Yorkers; The Late Show is a show for tourists).

In the 1990s, it was Mad About You (no, not Seinfeld; I will explain in a moment).

And now, in the '00s, it's 30 Rock.

Lots of shows have tried to be great New York shows and some have come close. Sex and the City and Seinfeld are obviously the closest and, while they're great shows, I wouldn't say they are necessarily great New York shows. While I loved them, I didn't get that same palpable New York City vibe that I got from the aforementioned.

Others have tried to be great New York City shows, of course, and failed miserably. Don't get me started on Friends or some of that dreck that used to be on the NBC Thursday night line-up in the late 1990s. Fortunately 30 Rock is one show on the current NBC Thursday line-up and it, in my opinion, qualifies as the next great New York show.

What makes 30 Rock so awesome? What do I love this show about a show? Maybe it's the neurotic and self-deprecating head writer Liz Lemon (a hilarious Tina Fey) or the absolutely brilliant Alec Baldwin as Jack, the big network honcho (his character may seem outrageously over the top but I've worked for guys like that and they do, believe me, exist). And of course there's Tracy Morgan, the ridiculous star of the fictional "Tracy Jordan" who may seem like a pampered celebrity but is actually a buddy to everyone. The cast is so funny, the writing so sharp, you can't have a pulse and not love it.

But what makes it a great New York show is that it has that same irreverent, devil-may-care, caffeine-fueled, Type A attitude that almost all New Yorkers feel and identify with. It gets how people live in this town (i.e. working a lot, eating take-out, negotiating the Darwinian worlds of dating and office politics). It feels like it's "on the level" with the majority of New Yorkers. And, as a New Yorker watching it, I feel it's giving me a wink and smile, saying "We get you buddy. We feel your pain. It's ours too."

What else can a great New York show do? Let's hope "30 Rock" continues to thrive and thrive. Our city will be the better for it.

Postscript: there actually was a show in the early 1990s called Flying Blind and it had the potential to be a really great New York show. Sadly a lousy time slot and ratings made the Fox network give it a short lifespan. One abbreviated season does not a great New York show make but Mr NYC remembers it fondly.


  1. Never watched 30 Rock before, but now I'll have to check it out!


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