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Sunday, 7 of March of 2021

30 Rock – “The Fabian Strategy”

No, wait, actually that’s a half-burned-down McDonald’s.”

If you’ve been reading along with us since we’ve started, you know I had a turbulent relationship with 30 Rock last season, and kind of came around to the show again by the end of the last season. I was prepared to start this season, season 5 as the show kept reminding me, anew with fresh (if a bit lowered) expectations and also prepared for Carol and Avery to just be off-screen characters (I was correct on at least one count).

“The Fabian Strategy” has moments of hilarity (most of them centering around The Barefoot Contessa), but much like Jack’s prized relationship strategy, I feel like 30 Rock kept running away from me so much last season that now I’m just tired and happy to have it back and will accept most anything at this point, so long as it makes me smile for most of the 22 minutes.

In one way, pairing 30 Rock with Community is a good idea, thematically speaking. Both shows use meta humor throughout their episodes and thus make a nice couple for the hour. But where Community‘s meta humor is genre-related, 30 Rock is more meta about the discourse surrounding itself. Constant references to TGIS should’ve been cancelled already lest Jenna’s weird contract clauses kick in (Having Alec Baldwin’s producer credit come up should’ve happened as Jack explained that it was just a vanity credit) to letting us know when Matt Damon would be back (October 14th) makes 30 Rock a self-aware show, but it isn’t as overt about it as Community is.

And, yes, 30 Rock has always been this way, with its 4th-wall breaking bits to deal with product placement (“Can we have our money now please?”), but unlike the meta humor in Community, the humor deployed isn’t as sharply developed. It’s still funny, sure, but there’s not a bite to it any longer. It’s a little creaky.

But this could be me, as a long time viewer. Timothy Yenter over at Inessentials has an excellent post about critical fatigue, especially as it deals with late season sitcoms. He argues that the kind of close analysis that has become the trademark of television criticism in recent years is potentially┬ádetrimental to sitcoms since we tend to treat it like an on-going story arc found in the “quality TV” dramas as opposed to the episodic shows that these sitcoms often are.

Certainly I’ve been dealing with some form of this with 30 Rock and HIMYM (though I think I’m right in my approach to HIMYM for reasons I’ll talk about next week when I review that show). Yenter’s solution is “to watch (if we can) with the fresh eyes of a new viewer, or at least the blurry vision of a future viewer watching out-of-order syndication…”. And to that idea I say, in the word of Barney Stinson, “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.”

I’ve decided to take on Yenter’s experiment, and you all will have to deal with it. I’m going to let episodes of 30 Rock build up on Hulu or through OnDemand and then watch an episode out of order when I have some free time and then post a review afterwards. It’ll be like an oddly scrambled version of syndication. Yes, this experiment isn’t perfect, I agree. But we’ll see if it helps my enjoyment of the series.


  • “She Hannibaled my Fabian” is very dirty sounding.
  • Happy to see that the Kable Town story is carrying through.
  • I was hoping Jenna would remain a producer longer, make it an on-going thing, see if she eventually took over the company (with Kenneth at her side).
  • “You sound weird. Do you have a beard?”

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