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'30 Rock': The Boston Tea Party

January 22, 2010 |  8:56 am
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Is Tina Fey psychic? It certainly seems that way. "30 Rock" always has its finger on the pulse of what's going on in the country, sometimes to its own detriment. But Thursday night's episode of "30 Rock," with its references to ruthless NBC executives, populist rage and the fine people of Massachusetts, was perfectly -- you might even say eerily -- well-timed.

This week, all eyes were on the U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts, so the fact that the state -- or at least Boston -- was the butt of the joke in this episode felt, well, right. Julianne Moore was back with her strained version of the local accent, so there were of course the predictable jokes on that front (Jack: "I can't understand a word you're saying right now.") But "30 Rock" took the Beantown mocking a giant step further this week, portraying Bostonians as a bunch of provincial goons, most of whom are named Sean, and whose worldview is dictated by their professional sports allegiances (Sox, Bruins, Pats) and their limited palates (roast beef). While it's certainly the right week to make fun of Massachusetts, the ribbing seemed a tad harsh, even by "30 Rock" standards.

Tracy provides the unexpected voice of reason this week. After joining Liz for a walk on Boston's "Historic Freedom Trail," Tracy discovers that John Hancock -- and most of the other Founding Fathers -- were slave owners. I think he spoke for the disillusioned third-grader in all of us when he said, “For a dude that has the most hilarious last name I ever heard, you blow!"

Later on, he suggests that "the good King George" maybe wasn't such a bad guy after all. It's this kind of incisive historical commentary that will make me a "30 Rock" follower until its dying day. But seriously, with so-called Tea Partiers running amok, and idealizing the Founding Fathers, it was nice to see Tracy provide a little perspective, no matter how warped.

Elsewhere, the TGS staff was suffering from a virulent case of cabin fever, and Liz fears that they'll revolt against her (maybe by dumping some "sun tea" in the harbor?). In order to divert all their pent-up rage, she creates an "imaginary enemy," an evil NBC executive called Dale Snitterman. "Dale Snitterman is the guy at NBC who makes all the decisions that make us unhappy," says Liz. The way she was talking about Snitterman made him sound a whole lot like a certain other NBC exec who's been in the news recently. So is the fact that Dale was being unfairly blamed for all of NBC's wrongs some kind of coded message? Could "30 Rock" be cutting Jeff Zucker some slack? Chances are this episode was filmed before either debacle -- the one in Massachusetts or the one on late night -- began to grab headlines, so I'm probably reading too much into it. Still, it seemed like the right episode at the right time. 

What did you think? How did this episode stack up against last week's double-header? Was the harshing on Boston a little much? And, most importantly, was King George really just a scapegoat?

Best line(s): I thought the eight-word exchange at the end of the episode was strangely romantic. Jack: "I'll wait. Not forever." Nancy: "I'll try. Wicked hard."

Nerdiest reference: Tracy, quoting virtually every elementary school social studies textbook in the country, says, "Boston was just the match that lit the powder keg like the tragic events at Lexington and Concord."

Most meta moment: “What keeps people polite on airplanes? A shared hatred of the CBS sitcoms they’re forced to watch.” (That's Jack explaining the concept of the "imaginary enemy" to Liz.)

Quintessential Kenneth (pretending to be Silas Marymount Peppercorn): "This is first wife, Moronica. My wife and I have disparate levels of attractiveness because I am a successful inventor."

Jack’s Republican talking points: "The imaginary enemy. Classic move, Lemon: the Salem witch trials, the Red Scare, global warming." Not to split hairs, but wouldn't Jack, archconservative that he is, have thought the Red Scare was justified? I'm just saying ...

And just because: Nancy's caricature of New Yorkers: "People are like, 'Let’s get divorced, you marry the butler and I’ll be a gay Octomom.'"

-- Meredith Blake


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Jeff Zucker's rough ride

Republican Scott Brown's upset of Martha Coakley in Massachusetts' historic Senate election

Photo: Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) leans in a little closer to Nancy Donovan (Julianne Moore), mostly because he can't understand what she's saying. Credit: Ali Goldstein / NBC

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