Is 30 Rock a rip-off of The Muppet Show, as a blog post from writer Brian Lynch jokingly (mostly) claims? It’s a cute comparison, and some of it’s spot-on — Jenna = Miss Piggy? Truth! — but Liz as Kermit isn’t quite as good a fit. And Jack is just every Muppet? And Tracy’s Gonzo? Au contraire.
I get Lynch’s premise, and I actually found his reasoning quite charming. But he loses me at Scooter/Kenneth. Yeah, they’re both naive gofers, but that hardly speaks to their personalities: Kenneth is as loopy as the day is long, while Scooter is a lucid, by-the-book kind of dude. Kenneth thinks hot liquids are “the Devil’s temperature.” Come on.
What Lynch’s comparison does speak to, though, is that however imaginative and wonderful 30 Rock is — very, on both counts — it’s ridiculously easy to draw parallels to other shows, particularly shows-within-shows. Por ejemplo: Murphy Brown. Liz is Murphy, a stressed-out, socially disjointed boss who, while highly talented, sometimes struggles to keep it together and is prone to embarrassing meltdowns. She’s flanked by a platonic dude sidekick, her balding buddy who happily plays second fiddle (Pete on 30 Rock, Frank on Murphy). There’s a stuffy older fellow whose old-fashioned values and pomposity often seem out of sync with the rest of the people, but there’s actually an abiding affection between him and everyone else (Jack Donaghy and Jim Dial even have the same initials!). How about the needy, spacey blonde who relies on her looks and is often the squeakiest hinge? And then there’s Kenneth or Miles, the younger, easily thrown upstart who’s perfect for his job — well, perfect for the on-paper description of it; he actually spends most of his time herding cats and dealing with the petty inanity that seems to consume everyone but him.
That just leaves Tracy, who I’ll say is a collage of all of Murphy’s secretaries — the crazy, the unpredictable, and so on. The Museum of TV describes her secretaries like this: “a young African-American man who speaks only in rap, a crash-test dummy, a bickering married couple, and a mental patient.” Sound familiar? I see your crash-test dummy and I raise you a Japanese sex doll, btw.
Now I’m sort of attached to this “30 Rock is actually this other show” idea. Is Liz Mary Richards? Dana Whitaker? Larry Sanders? Hit me with your best shot, PopWatchers!