Let me first say that for your weekly television news, Tony Wagner is your man. I apologize to him and his family for stepping into his realm, but I want to so I will.
“TGS Hates Women” is the title of a season five episode of 30 Rock. In it, main character Liz Lemon, played by 30 Rock creator Tina Fey, comes under fire for perpetuating negative female stereotypes on the fictional sketch show within the show.
Life is now imitating art. Fey’s actual show is receiving similar criticism from Linda Holmes on the NPR website. Holmes writes of what the show has become: “Over the course of six seasons, Jack has been fully transformed into a condescending, all-knowing daddy, and Liz has been fully transformed into a needy little girl who is eternally terrified of displeasing him.” This comes after, over the course of two recent episodes, Liz broke up with her boyfriend Criss (played by James Marsden) after realizing that Jack, her boss played by Alec Baldwin, did not approve of him.
It is an interesting and well written argument but even still, I don’t like this at all. There is a morsel of truth in what Holmes has to say, but it mostly rings false to me.
It is important to remember that Jack and Liz have moved way past a boss/employee relationship. At this point, the show has made clear many times that they are best friends, which is why Liz is desperate for his approval of her boyfriend. Most people want their friends to like the person they date. Where the disapproval of a parent can often make a potential date more intriguing, disapproval of close friends always just bums people out. That’s what Liz struggles with, just as Jack did when Liz told him she hated his former fiancé, Phoebe.
Also his disapproval reminds her of issues she knew she had with Criss (his questionable career, occasional pretension, misspelled name) but was putting aside. That’s why his approval was important, it was a reflection of her own approval too.
You could probably refute me by saying that this episode is just the basis for an argument that exemplifies a larger trend. That defending this specific instance is simple minded and fails to see what is really being said. Okay, fine. But I’m certain other examples that Holmes could cite could be defended in the same way.
I am a huge 30 Rock fan, so forgive me if I sound biased, though actually I don’t think it much matters in this discussion. Holmes gives the impression that she was, at one point, a fan of the show as well. But she falls under an ever-increasing umbrella of people calling for the show’s cancellation, actually using poor ratings as proof that its time has come. (When have poor ratings been a testament to anything other than a television program’s greatness?)
People calling for 30 Rock and the Office to be cancelled because they are not as good as they used to be (and they are not) should realize that when these shows do go, they will be replaced by more crap like Whitney and Are You There, Chelsea? NBC has obviously noticed by now that shows like this dominate their critically acclaimed Thursday night lineup in the ratings week after week, and won’t put up with it much longer for the sake of show quality.
It is clear that we’re not dealing with the same Liz Lemon that appeared in the first episodes, before the show spun out of control (I mean that completely as a compliment). But that’s just it: the show has changed. It has become a bizarre, distorted, fun-house mirror reflection of what it was in the beginning. It makes sense that Liz Lemon would change with it, and that’s not a bad thing.