“You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
~Harvey Dent. Wait these are supposed to be fake quotes…
Hi there! If you’ve recently discovered our site, you probably think of AFFotD as that place where we do too much research about COVID and say “fuck” a lot. If you’ve been following us for a long time, you know that we usually like to celebrate weird history, booze, and food while making fun of other nations’ cultures while saying “fuck” a lot.
This will not be any of those things.
This is goin to be a review of TV special. Which is a thing we literally never write about.
But our staff has been longtime fans of the shot 30 Rock, and 30 Rock released a quarantine reunion special. And…well…we normally don’t weigh in on such matters, but…
The 30 Rock Reunion Special Is Very Bad in a Way That Makes Us Very Sad
But before we dive into this episode, some background.
Since everyone is launching their own streaming service, from CBS All-Access to Oh Go Fuck Yourself Why Are You Killing HBOGo For This Bullshit, NBC/Universal/Comcast/Probably-Like-a-Few-Oil-Barons decided that they needed to get in on that sweet action. So they stepped into a time machine, went back to 2008, and saw this new service called “Hulu” that aired TV shows and movies for free, with ads, and let you buy a subscription to get rid of ads.
It never occurred to them that Hulu operated under that model for like, two years before realizing it wasn’t profitable, so they decided to exactly copy that business strategy, only this time they’d name it Peacock, because the NBC logo is of a peacock, and also because their marketing team clearly should be fired because they don’t know how innuendo or focus groups work.
So that service, which is free OR like $5 a month if ads are really a big deal to you, just launched. It has some of the shows you want to watch (Like 30 Rock) And is…taking its time on the rest (want your The Office fix? That’ll take a while. Friends? Haha, you’re cute, that’s way too valuable to give away for free).
Anyway, it was apparently decided that the best way to get people excited for this new service was to reunite the cast of 30 Rock for a VERY special night! Think of it like the Parks and Recreation reunion, only longer, slightly less funny, and much more cynical with a higher production value. Oh, while serving as a depressingly hollow, commercial endeavor.
It’s bad! If you want to save yourself an hour, and end up with better jokes, just watch this 90-second clip from Wayne’s World. Anyway, let’s dive into our review. We wonder if it’ll be positive or not!
What Actually Happens in the Special
Now, spoiler alert, at the end of this special they spend a good five minutes showing how they managed to film this while socially distancing and not putting anyone at risk, which we respect because, again, wear a fucking mask. It honestly might be the most impressive thing this special pulled off, because while there are a lot of FaceTimed or Zoomed scenes, a lot of segments feel like there’s a full crew.
The opening scene pulls that off more ambitiously than anything else. The special begins with Liz Lemon, walking on the streets of New York, getting into an altercation with an unmasked man, played by Eric Gurian, or the President of Tina Fey’s production company “Little Stranger.”
She yells at him for not wearing a mask, “Facebook said masks makes the virus worse,” the maskless man, sporting a “I Crushed Laser Tag at Rich’s Birthday” shirt responds), before Liz takes off her mask to reveal a second mask, (pictured above) while shouting, “Are you scared now?”
He runs off saying, “I already had the virus! I was on my way to donate plasma!” to which Liz Lemon cheers, “Boom! Another successful interaction with a man!”
This scene might be the only point in the entire special that actually felt like it belonged in an episode of 30 Rock.
The opening credits then play, to remind you how time will make fools of us all one day, and Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy have a phone conversation (Lemon in front of muffins, Donaghy in like, his Connecticut estate or whatever) that’s 1/8 “oh remember how fun it was to see these two interact” and 7/8 “dry exposition, slash, commercial.”
There’s a cheap Zoom joke (get it? People meet on Zoom now! The world is dying!) and then there’s lines such as, “[Kenneth] wants to reboot TGS for Peacock. It’s NBC’s amazing new streaming platform, where all of NBC’s hit comedies from the past 93 years will be available!”
They think that they can make this seem less like cheap shilling by adding a joke of Jack slapping Liz through his “iPhone 13” when she asks, “Even Friends,” but no, it’s as cringeworthy and awkward as it reads.
We then get a brief glimpse Jack McBrayer’s Kenneth Parcell, who ended the series as the head of NBC Universal, and is shown in a mansion, overlooking the Hollywood sign, eating beans.
And thus, the plot: Kenneth is selling all the new NBC content to advertisers, tomorrow. You are already groaning. We were groaning. When Alec Baldwin broke the fourth wall and said, “And thank God advertisers are some of the smartest and most physically attractive this industry has ever seen!” we wanted to fucking die.
The first scene after like, the longest commercial break in existence, sees Liz on a Zoom call with Toofer, Lutz, and Frank, followed by a Zoom with Jonathan (Jack’s former assistant, current Blumhouse horror film producer), one with Pete Hornberger.
And then she starts calling…ugh…other stars from the NBC Universal family! Kill us now!
Liz calls Sofia Vergara, Kandi Burruss and Khloe Kardashan before Jenna Maroney Zoom bombs the call (to stop her role on TGS from being re-cast for the reboot. Because she had been “cancelled” because she pooped in Mandy Moore’s thermos. Yeah we’re sad we had to tell you that joke too).
We’ll say this, at least. Jane Krakowski is definitely the MVP of this whole thing. Her bits are appropriately unhinged and self-centered in all the ways that Jenna Maroney is meant to be.
After a very long commercial break for some Telemundo shows that look like they have a very cheap production budget, Liz gets to call Tracy in his mansion in Canada (he moved to be on the majestic side of Niagara Falls).
We then come to a group Zoom call between the cast, writers and Kenneth, who lives in his mansion with his “assistant” Vivica. Vivica is Jack McBrayer in a wig. She’s in love with Kenneth, and Kenneth thinks she’s stunning, but he’s given his life to TV. It’s a sort of a “this is how we can film multiple people in a scene during social distancing, get it, it’s the same person” gag, but it’s not a good one.
Anyway, after Kenneth forces us to sit through three fucking minutes of ads for Peacock programming, The Rock and Al Roker show up, because contracts are contracts, and someone needs a new agent.
The “plot” driven by this scene is that Kenneth is mad that the TGS staff has ignored his invites to playing games by Zoom. We don’t want to parse this out any further. This section was super short.
After a million commercials (would you like to spend 40 goddamn seconds listening to the song “Thank You For Being a Friend” as a teaser to find out that apparently there’s going to be a Chucky TV series? Us neither) there was yet another painful “celebrities Zoom with Kenneth” segment to further drive home this plot point.
This one involves Andy Samberg, Mary Steenburgen, Laura Graham, Ted Danson, Mike Mizanin, Hoda Kotb, Andy Cohen, Mario Lopez, and honestly a few people we’re going to miss and that’s fucking fine all playing a game of charades. The joke is, they all hate having to play these games with Kenneth, but he’s the boss. It works, in the sense that, the “characters” are supposed to look like they’re being held hostage, and the “actors” very clearly are!
Once that’s (mercifully) finished, Kenneth stresses that he’s not picked the right TV shows to produce for the season. That allows us yet another forced scene of a “will-they-or-won’t-they” between Kenneth and Kenneth-in-a-wig
McBrayer, um, really commit to the bit.
Finally, mercifully, we get to Kenneth presenting NBC Universal’s programming (which is what the entire episode has been.) Jimmy Fallon’s there, because sure.
Finally, Liz and Jack agree to listen to Kenneth’s pitch for the new slate of shows, followed by over five goddamn minutes of show previews, followed by Liz and Jack gushing about how FUCKING AWESOME those shows look. Jam a bullet into our fucking skulls.
After Tracy full on records an un-ironic ad for Peacock, Jenna Maroney sings a “NBC anthem” featuring happy and excited Zoom reactions from everyone in the NBC Universal family (it’s so depressing!) Including appearances by Gwen Stefani and…Mandy Moore? Man how desperate was she when she signed up for This Is Us?
It’s a very bad bad song? Like, full on, drink-the-kool-aid shit?
And then the whole thing sort of…ends.
How Did Watching it Make Us Feel, Moment-by-Moment
The opening scene, we actually enjoyed. Double masking to scream at someone not wearing a mask is very Liz Lemon. It obviously went downhill from here.
By the way, here is the point where we post each character who appears in this (we’re not bothering to look up all the actors’ names, because this is a half-drunk, half-assed attempt at a review) and we’ll determine, in the seven years since the show’s run ended…how have they aged?
- Liz Lemon: Tina Fey as always looks roughly the same. Apparently she’s 50! You would have guessed younger!
- Jack Donaghy: Was Baldwin this gray toward the end of the series? He’s gone full silverback. Otherwise he looks exactly the same. It’s weird but welcome to see him with a yuppie sweater tied around his shoulders, instead of doing a meh Trump impression.
- Kenneth Parcell: This man hasn’t aged. It’s unsettling. Is he a vampire? How is he able to film scenes outside, in the sun? IS HE A DAYWALKER? JACK MCBRAYER IS 47 SOMEHOW!
- Toofer: Yo, our man is almost unrecognizable. Like, not entirely in a good way.
Here’s our Before…and here’s our after
- Frank: His hair is longer, with streaks of grey, his beard is longer, but Judah Friedlander has an agent that knew 20 years ago that no matter his age, he’d always look like he’s, like, 42, so he looks more or less the same (he’s 51 apparently, which surprised us, but also didn’t?)
- Lutz: So fun fact! This special taught our staff that Lutz (real name- John Lutz), in real life, is married to the female writer character from the show, Sue (real name, Sue Galloway) since like 2009. Anyway, he looks about the same? Like, if anything he’s aged better than most of the cast?
- Sue: Sue appeared in a total of 26 episodes of 30 Rock, most of which she was basically the “token female writer who doesn’t say much but is kind of crazy.” She appears on Lutz’s Zoom call because, since they’re married IRL, why not? She shows up to make out with Lutz, and surprise everyone else. She looks more or less the same too.
- Jonathan: He’s getting transfusions of whatever youthful blood Jack McBrayer is, because homeboy has not aged a day in seven years.
- Pete Hornberger: He has a goatee now, and looks like he’s cosplaying Johnny Depp on his off-days while shooting Pirates of the Caribbean. Though him looking this different is almost entirely a bit that they’re doing for the character. In real life, he looks about the same.
(This is him doing the bit, not him in real life.)
- Jenna Maroney: Looks like, exactly the same. Again, she must be sharing Jack McBrayer’s skin routine or something.
- Tracy Jordan: Compared to season 1, it’s startling. Compared to season 7, eh, pretty much exactly the same.
Anyway, the first time they mention Peacock by name, several angels lost their wings. It’s a fucking bummer. When Alec Baldwin did the “looking at the camera and complimenting advertisers” it felt like a joke that might have been a bit outdated in 2001.
And once it became clear that they were going to just try to shoehorn as many NBC Universal cameos in as possible, we started to get legitimately upset. There is no world where Liz Lemon needs to be talking to a Kardashian. It’s not funny, it’s just depressing.
Like 19 minutes into this thing, Kenneth goes on a super long rant about how great Peacock is, and it literally was over 200 words long. Goddam it. This sucks so hard.
We had long checked out by the time the celebrity charades bit started, but man, that was rough. Fucking ROUGH.
Our souls escaped screaming from our bodies after this point. The rest of the episode, we just felt numb.
How Much of it was Commercials?
About four minutes into the episode, commercials for NBC properties began. This montage of NBC, Bravo, and Telemundo programming lasted for almost two minutes, followed by a Universal Studios commercial for some Harry Potter roller coaster.
By this point, there had been 3:45 of 30 Rock and 2:58 of commercials.
Here’s the thing. Right before the “commercial break” you saw Alec Baldwin say, like there’s a gun to his head, “There really is something for EVERYONE at NBC Universal.” And when soft piano music played and we saw this—
We 1,000,000% assumed this was going to be a joke commercial. And we were deeply offended when it turned into like, something to showcase the HUMAN DRAMA of America’s Got Talent, The Voice, and WWE Raw. We assure you we’re not making any of this up, we’re being just as unfortunately sincere as 30 Rock was with this special.
We got another 5:28 of 30 Rock before commercials, this time a somber medley of NBC news programming consisting of a bunch of black-and-white still images, followed by several *checks notes like seventeen times* Telemundo commercial? Anyway, this time there were 3:02 of commercials.
After another 4:30 of 30 Rock content, Kenneth angrily makes the cast watch a commercial for several Peacock original series. This runs for 3:02. That’s followed with just 1:42 of show, and 3:03 of Bravo programming and wrestling commercials with more original series content.
The celebrity Zoom, plus Liz and the gang plan on how to get back in Kenneth’s good graces (we didn’t mention that plot point because this whole episode was a depressing bore) gave us our longest segment of actual show so far. 8:34 with like 45 seconds of funny material was followed by 3:45 of commercials telling you that people like sports and The Voice and shit.
We got a full 10:53 to start to wrap shit up before Don Johnson and Keenan Thompson started advertising their show via Zoom (we honestly thought it was part of the episode at first). We waited through another fucking 5:09 of ads. FIVE MINUTES!
We are granted a whole 43 seconds of show, before Tracy begins, in character, hawking Peacock programming to a point that, fuck it, we’ll say that it counts as commercials. 31 seconds worth.
The show wraps up with 3:24 of content, followed by five minutes showing “behind the scenes” of everyone filming safely at home, which we’ll count as neither the show, nor commercials
UNDERWHELMING 30 ROCK FOOTAGE
38 minutes and 59 seconds (don’t be that nerd that checks our math we know it’s probably off by a few seconds)
PAINFUL COMMERCIALS AND PROMOS
21 minutes and 31 seconds. Jesus.
POP QUIZ: Is the Following Screenshot a Fake Show 30 Rock Created to Make Fun of NBC, or an Actual NBC/Peacock Show Advertised During the 15 minutes of Commercials That Aired During This Special
So at the end of the day, this was a deeply bad, deeply upsetting hour of “television.” It made us angry. It cheapened the legacy of an all-time great comedy. And it’s not like it even was for anything. This wasn’t for charity, unless that charity is keeping NBC afloat, HEY-YO, that joke had more teeth than anything in this goddamn special.
But before we sign off, we’ll leave you with a game. This special showed dozens of both REAL and FAKE NBC programming. 30 Rock of course always famously was able to spoof on NBC’s programming, with joke programs such as MILF Island, so we wanted to leave you with a sampling of shows, asking which ones you think are real, and which are fake.
Scroll to the bottom for the answers!
Psych 2: Lassie Come Home
David Schwimmer in: Intelligence
Law & Order SVU 2: Just the Paperwork
Resident Alien (a Doctor Comedy!)
America Ninja Warrior…JUNIOR
Ellen’s Game of Games
Law & Order: Organized Crime
Young Rock (Like, About Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson)
Kenan Thompson and Don Johnson in: Keenan
THE ONLY FAKE ONE WAS THE LAW & ORDER PAPERWORK ONE BUT WE’RE STILL GETTING A NEW LAW & ORDER.
Jesus Christ! Creativity is dead.
Anyway, we just watched the 30 Rock special so you don’t have to. You are WELCOME.
Small niggle: “cheap shilling.” Whereas “cheap schilling” would be Rhode Island spending less than $50 million on a tech company run by a baseball player that actually makes sense.
Do I qualify as a script-writer for the next 30 Rock special?
Appreciate the heads up, aaanddd that’s edited. Let’s just say we put about as much effort into the editing process of this article as the 30 Rock writers put into the plot of the special.