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'30 Rock': The Boston Tea Party


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


Complete coverage of '30 Rock' on Show Tracker

'30 Rock': Liz gets luck with James Franco and his pillow

'30 Rock': The most wonderful time of the year?

'30 Rock': The Cosby Show was a lie!

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

Comments () | Archives (9)

I didn't think the portrayal of Boston was harsh. Considering what happened this week, they got what they deserved! How long until Scott Brown jokes start entering the 30 Rock lexicon?

The program stinks and no one watches it.. There is too much going on in our government right now to sit on your butt and watch mindless sitcoms, while our rights and freedoms are being eroded and our country is being handed over to the Marxists.

Sorry for commenting something completely different but... where is the 'Vampire Diaries' show tracker?

nobody watches it? really? i think you mixed the show up with some other show.... like Leno.. 30 rock is one sitcom worth watching- and really mindless is not an appropriate word- alot if it's humor you really need to have an actual mind for- maybe that's your problem gadsen- maybe you don't have a mind and you use our nation's problems as some excuse to make it look like you have one... its a valid and legitimate problem... i do agree... but don't use it to cover up thatyou have no brain

haven't seen the episode yet- but great writing, yet again Meredith!

@babypants: You do know that most people in Boston (and Cambridge and Somerville and Brookline) voted for Martha Coakley, right? So it's not Boston that we should be harshing on (or even western Mass), it's the weird swath of conservatives in the central portion of the state.

The Saints bandwagon was a great reference as well!

The- I went to school in Cambridge "type line" was a great reference to the countless harvard grads who pull that false modesty BS.

From Tracy's populist perspective, I'd have to say, King George was probably just a scapegoat.

The Salem witch trials had no partisan affiliation. The red scare was also bipartisan, Woodrow Wilson and Truman were both democrats. In the same vein of these horrid events, global warming is about misinformation, our collective myths, fear and crowd control on a national and now global level.

By not looking at history and human nature and learning from it, you are perpetuating the- "them versus us." You're cementing the myths of the masses. Or, as you have just demonstrated the myths of the 'lumpen bourgeois-intelligentsia.' The real irony is that 30 Rock is making fun of this phenomenon and you missed it. You fell into the trap of partisan name calling and finger pointing- more mass distraction. Essentially while watching a show making fun of divertissement you succumbed to societal/political divertissement. To paraphrase Orwell: our memories are short and getting shorter. That is what Jack D is actually saying!

Sure the Salem Witch Trials and McCarthy Show Trials have a lot in common and you could argue that they were both started by right wing conservatives. But global-warming-fear-mongering is being perpetrated by 'the so called liberal left' and now perpetuated by GE and others who have hedged there balance sheets on it and Jack D obviously knows it!

30 Rock is even deeper than you give it credit for! I too will watch it till the day it dies!!

LL and her writers rise above the rodeo-clown-name-calling of Beck, Hannity, Maddow and Olbermann by making fun of it all (a la John Stewart) instead of believing in the theatre of it all. I encourage you to do the same.


i live in nyc, but grew up outside of boston and didn't find the show that harsh. there were some pretty good inside jokes. the joke about chet and nat was pretty awesome - they were a married news anchor team and they got divorced after like 20 years of being on air together. it was a huge deal. god julianne moore's accent is tough on the ears.


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