My apology to the first person on Twitter pointed out that “Quibi is a 30 Rock joke come to life” but it been said so many times, over so many months, by so many people, that I can’t find the original post.
As Quibi continues to take hits (on its ad front, on its subscriber numbers and on its general brand), the 30 Rock jokes continue. Like this:
Losing my fucking MIND at this Quibi show where actual Emmy winner Rachel Brosnahan plays a woman obsessed with her golden arm pic.twitter.com/rSfqCv75SG— Zach Raffio (@zachraffio) April 15, 2020
30 Rock was absurd and it’s something of a pop culture miracle that it lasted so long on network TV. It was subversive and silly and mixed inside-baseball TV jokes with broad comedy and sketch and cutaways; it was a sitcom, but it defied most conventional half-hour shows. And it’s wild to think that it premiered the same year as Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, a high-brow Aaron Sorkin dramedy that was supposed to be the next The West Wing. Studio 60 was ridiculously self-important, so classically Sorkin in tone that it might almost be worth a re-(hate) watch. NBC debuting two fictional shows that take place around a sketch comedy show was wild in 2006, let me tell you. It was big news.
30 Rock had a very shaky first season and the show was retooled not in concept, but with the cast; major characters were dropped (sorry to Rachel Dratch) and the show took a few seasons to find its footing and central relationship (Liz and Jack) while shifting minor characters to bigger parts and incorporating many celebrity guest stars.
One thing that really sticks out to me is how Liz Lemon accepted the grind of writing for a network owned by a multinational conglomerate that prized microwaves as much as it did a writers' room. She knew when to hold onto her principles and when to give into Jack Donaghy’s power hungry and capitalistic ambition. Reuniting the 30 Rock cast for the NBC upfronts is an ideal (and pretty meta) situation because this is exactly the kind of gig Lemon and the gang would have to take on. 30 Rock was never a juggernaut in the ratings and that mirrored the fictional TGS with Tracy Jordan; storylines often revolved around all the humiliating things Liz had to do to keep her show. In real life, 30 Rock never won ratings but it won several Golden Globes, Emmys, and a Peabody award; the collective cast has a lot of star power and the network must be thrilled to have them all back.
Pairing a show about television with upfronts is pretty clever. Upfronts are usually in New York (obviously not possible right now) and it’s targeted to advertisers and media. Typically, it’s not an audience-facing event, but rather one for industry people (usually, during that week, I will follow trade journalist to see what is happening at upfronts). But with production schedules out of whack and everything so shaky, NBC has nothing to lose. Even if the televised upfronts concept doesn’t quite work, the worst-case scenario is that the cast of a beloved cult comedy reunited for one night. In the wise words of Jenna Maroney, “Okay I'll do it, but only for the attention.”