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GUEST BLOG #74: Tom Brinkmoeller Wonders If "30 Rock" Is An Endangered Species on NBC
February 4, 2010  | By Tom Brinkmoeller  | 2 comments

[Bianculli here: Tonight at 9:30 p.m. ET, NBC presents a fresh episode of 30 Rock -- a delightful episode guest starring the equally delightful Jan Hooks. One week from tonight, NBC presents the final installment of the prime-time Jay Leno Show. Contributing writer Tom Brinkmoeller connects the dots, and suggests that as Leno leaves for later pastures, 30 Rock should watch its back...]

Thrill of the Chase? Not When It's Chevy

Is Tina Fey the next to go?

Like Conan, she and her 30 Rock are Lorne Michaels proteges. That seems about as healthy, in today's NBC environment, as a three-pack-a-day habit.

But there's more reason to worry she'll be canned. Hers is the only intentionally funny series left on NBC. The same NBC that for many decades gave shelter and encouragement to classic comedy series.


(It's also the same network that grew wonderful drama series, from St. Elsewhere and Hill Street Blues to The West Wing and ER. But since it has so badly botched Friday Night Lights, Heroes and Southland, and just abandoned high-end series like Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, drama is deader than comedy there, and talking about its health is just moot.)

Community and Parks and Recreation are uselessly void of humor, and The Office ran out of gas a season or two ago.

ABC, which once produced as many laughs as a clown car full of Republican senators, now kicks butt with the season's best new comedies. CBS promotes and protects its reliably funny carryover comedies. But NBC only produces laughs when David Letterman talks about it in his monologue.

Which brings us back to Tina Fey and 30 Rock. Now that it's been shown, courtesy of Jay Leno, that a never-that-funny old guy can engineer a coup and retake the once-glorious nighttime palace, what's to keep the same from happening in prime time?


The threat, of course, is Chevy Chase, the gooey prototype for the later Leno model of the much ado about nothing product NBC now produces.

Chase, too, is out of place in prime time. He, too, once was anointed by NBC's executive wing of 30-watt bulbs as a cornerstone of its late night. Except for falling down a lot and coining the phrase "and you're not" (and I always was glad to hear that), he has no trophies to show for more than three decades in entertainment.

Chase, no doubt, has watched and drooled as Leno unseated O'Brien. And his attack, perhaps, is imminent. With Dick Wolf's many Law and Order offspring as his model, Chase just may use his leverage at NBC to spread even more Communities around the network.

After all, if a town has a fire engine and its own garbage trucks, it probably also is big enough to support a community college. Community: Altoona. Community: Toledo. Community: Cherry Hill. They all could be coming soon to TV listings near you.

And they'd be every bit as wonderful as the rest of the slop NBC now nurtures. And just think what they would do to improve unemployment prospects for third-tier actors.

And what about Tina Fey and 30 Rock? They'd not only be occupying a space which Community: Biloxi could use -- they'd be a too-painful reminder of the high quality NBC has flushed away. And who wants people remembering originality when the generic brand is so much cheaper?

Say goodbye to Liz and Jack and Tracy and the rest. The only long-term hope they have at NBC is to gain a whole lot of weight and try out for The Biggest Loser -- which, of course, is us.



Disclaimer: Tom Brinkmoeller holds no financial interest in NBC-Universal (he's done some dumb things in his life, but nothing that stupid), and he has no interests in nor prejudices against this country's many fine community colleges. Nor does he find them inherently funny.



Mark said:

You had me going there for a second. I thought this article was going to be, if not serious, then at least earnest. But although this is undeniably snarkodelic, it's mostly barb-laced contrarianism with little grounding in reality.

It's useless to argue about what is or isn't funny -- as Roger Ebert points out, you either laughed or you didn't -- but when you claim that both Community and Parks & Rec are devoid of humor, you've pretty much closed the door to further reasonable discussion.

Comment posted on February 4, 2010 9:53 AM

Eileen said:

Hilarious. But, sadly, so true. It's hard to believe that not that long ago you had "Must See TV" with Seinfeld, Friends, etc.

The aftershocks from the whole Leno debacle have yet to be felt. But they will be long term. And not in a good way for NBC. If not for L&O SVU, I wouldn't even bother with NBC. They have made fools of themselves, but not the viewer, so often these last few years that I don't think they will ever recover and be the proud Peacock Network again.

CBS, on the other hand, has nurtured its many comedies, and actually invested in drama. Hats off to them for actually caring about their viewership.

Somewhere in that TV Land in the Sky, Newton Minow is saying "I told you so...."

Comment posted on February 4, 2010 10:19 AM

Patrick said:

Tom, Have you seen Community? I can say without reservation that I look forward to it more than any comedy since the 2nd year of 30 Rock and all of Arrested Development. Also, Chevy Chase is in a very supporting role and is as funny as he has been since the Vacation movies.

Donald Glover, may also be the biggest funny surprise TV has had in a long time.

So although I may agree that 30 Rock is not on safe ground (nor is Community for that matter) -- to compare Community both to Jay Leno and CSI in the same paragraph sets off a massive attack of cognitive dissonance.

Comment posted on February 4, 2010 11:15 AM

Jim said:

The best thing going for 30 Rock is that NBC has to fill 5 hours of programming immediately, so they can't afford to be jettisoning any programming that has anything approaching a decent audience now. (Not to say they won't, but it would be a dumb move at this point.)

Instead, NBC should expand 30 Rock to an hour, so they could actually produce TGS, the show-within-a-show.

Comment posted on February 4, 2010 1:29 PM

Tom Brinkmoeller said:

Mark: The word "humor" is similar to the word "quality." Each is present, in quotas from low to high, in all forms of entertainment. I should have used a quantifying word such as "inventive," "original," "unpredictable" or even "high quality" before "humor." to better describe the void. The implied use, though, is pretty evident, I thought.
Patrick: Yes, I have seen the program. Several times, pilot to present. It's nice you enjoy it. In my opinion, it fell into the "Three's Company" pit of predictability in the pilot and hasn't climbed out yet. And that Chase "is as funny as he has been since the Vacation movies" is an indictment, as far as I'm concerned.
Eileen: Thanks for getting the point of the story: Today's NBC is worse than Fox programming in the '80s

Comment posted on February 4, 2010 3:30 PM

mastertmg said:

as someone who laughs their ass off watching ALL the thursday night NBC shows I think I wonder how often you actually watch these shows. Parks and Rec. has gotten much funnier since its debut, as has Community. Seriously, go watch last weeks rerun of Parks and Rec. where they go hunting. Leslie's conversation with the officer is one of the funniest minutes of TV in years.

Comment posted on February 4, 2010 3:51 PM

ottoMann said:

Dude, you are uselessly devoid of a clue when it comes to comedy. I've loved 30 Rock and The Office, but this season Community and Parks have been consistently funnier -- both have strong ensemble casts that are used well.

Comment posted on February 4, 2010 7:26 PM

Rich said:

What can I say except AWE Inspiring Tom! I want to photoshop your head on to Gandalf's body from "Lord of the Rings" and place you in front of NBC in NYC with your staff (computer) raised in defiance shouting "YOU Shall NOT Pass!!"...the ratings game.

Your words should splash the face like the freezing cold water of truth it is. NBC is way past the intervention stage and a simple 'slapping'. They seem to be on a destructive bender even rockers Courtney Love and Amy Winehouse would laugh at.

"Parks & Rec" exist to keep Amy Poehler from escaping. I don't know anyone who watches "Community"- I don't see any of the Maxim, Gen-X, or CollegeHumor style sites & blogs talking about this show. "The Office"? I'd say it's getting "lazy" but it did earn it fans- yet Steve Carell is No Ricky Gervais.

SNL is another Lorne Michaels 'Sacred Cow' that needs to be sacrificed- I'm sorry, but something at NBC is like a skin-eating bacteria virus that just infects, corrodes, and destroys. By summer I might start calling it: "NBC, the Ooze that eats itself". Even the WB & UPN in their worst days weren't making these kind of choices.

Comment posted on February 5, 2010 12:45 AM

Esther Garcia said:

Ditto Parks and Rec being consistently funnier. I find that 30 Rock has been painful to watch, awkward, and really un-funny.

I regret to write that when last season and the one before were really, really funny.

I lament that Ugly Betty won't be renewed. That is a, mostly, consistently entertaining show.

Comment posted on February 16, 2010 5:49 PM

Aaron said:

People, people -

You don't expect YOUR grandfather to get or appreciate Community, so don't be too upset when the one who wrote this article doesn't either.

Comment posted on December 25, 2011 9:29 PM
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Some readers defended the humor and quality of shows like "Community" and "Parks and Recreation."
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Your work is very good and I appreciate you and hopping for some more informative posts. Thank you for sharing great information to us.
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