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'30 Rock' Roasts TV Chef
September 29, 2010  | By Tom Brinkmoeller
 
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It was easy to wonder whether something of a gastronomic nor'easter was brewing last week in the exclusive East Hampton community in which Ina Garten lives, after 30 Rock trained its parody rifle on The Barefoot Contessa herself and her husband, Jeffrey, a Yale professor who spends most of the week at the school.

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In the NBC comedy's season premiere, Tina Fey's Liz Lemon and guest star Matt Damon, playing an airline pilot named Carol, picked up their strange relationship about where last season ended: wandering cluelessly among several equally amusing subplots. When Alec Baldwin's Jack Donaghy character called her on the undefined nature of the Liz-Carol situation, Liz defended their "separate but intersecting lifestyles" by saying, "I'm like that woman on the Food Network whose husband only comes home on the weekends, and she spends the rest of her time eating and drinking with her gay friends."

Ina Garten may not appear to be a person who would laugh at comedy built around her quirks. She worked as a White House policy adviser in the '70s, moved to Long Island after buying a specialty food store in the Hamptons, and can sound genuinely condescending when pronouncing the right and wrong ways to cook as she hosts The Barefoot Contessa. She hangs out on that show with neighboring Hamptonians whose wardrobes probably are worth more than most viewers' homes. Listening to her dictate the use of only the best ingredients when making her recipes (or why make them at all?), one is reminded of the retail axiom: If you have to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it.

The magic spell the Gartens cast on Liz and Carol is revealed in a subsequent 30 Rock scene in which Carol cries heavily while watching Jeffrey because "I'm not as strong as that guy." It's pretty funny.

But any prospective storm over the parody never blew up, and sunshine prevailed. Though no one at NBC would respond to questions about the episode, a Food Network representative said, "We were thrilled by it." It was not a sneak attack, the rep said: "We provided them the footage that was used. It was sanctioned by us."

Though no one at the network knew what would be said ("We weren't approving dialogue"), the script appeared to be very tasty. She said that, as far as she knew, no one had heard anything -- favorable or not -- from Ms. Garten.

Messages I left for Garten finally resulted in an email from publicist Amelia Durand: "Ina loved the episode and thought it was wonderful. She and Jeffrey love Tina!"

On this Thursday's 30 Rock, there's even more about relationships -- Tracy gets deeply involved with his wife's childbirth.

Sounds like it might be TLC's turn in the comic crosshairs.

 
 
 
 
 
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