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In praise of Tina Fey!

I need to get this out the way and I hope you’ll understand.Tina Fey picture

I am one in an underground army of Tina Fey fanciers. Her baskets of Emmys for her gently subversive and approachably zany 30 Rock stand for themselves but her sublime approach to humor, topical and otherwise, has endeared her to a generation of over educated, largely nearsighted and quiet followers who love a well written phrase as much as a medium rare steak, who crave double entendre and torn from the headlines bon mots as most others need Wheel of Fortune. Tina’s Stradivarius, aside from her pen of course, is Alec Baldwin.

His turn as the lovably Machiavellian Jack Donaghy makes the world of 30 Rock possible. He is the hub for so many mismatched spokes, the wings which let the bumble bee fly despite every appearance to the contrary, the post modern murmur against broadly drawn egotists like Jenna Maroney and Tracy Jordan. This swaying, multi tiered cake doesn’t always hold together but when it does, you would happily live on an island and take only that, assuming that cloning Ms. Fey was not possible.

Fey’s story is like the chorus girl who gets out front and takes over the world. Once a writer on Saturday Night Live, covered in a formless sweater, Fey expressed interest in appearing on camera and was told she needed to lose weight to find the spotlight. After doing so, she unveiled a sexy librarian vibe that helped launch her career. Those glasses! Those cheekbones and her brooding writer’s eyes were just the start. Her famously devastating Sarah Palin impersonation helped expose Palin for the brainless fame seeker she was and did you see Fey’s Vanity Fair cover? If I have to elaborate on that score, then you’re just not paying attention.

I’ll say only that with a frame that begs to be objectified, Tina gets respect. She respects herself, her fellow actors, the written word and her craft and the 30 Rock cast seemed to have a great time.  Her husband, Jeff Richmond, wrote the 30 Rock theme and it perfectly represents the id of this show. The theme alone wrenches me into a state of joyful anticipation and my altered mood is generally sustained after the final credits roll.

Celebrities scrambled to appear on the show if they could. Julianne Moore approached 30 Rock about appearing and her hilarious Nancy Donovan, complete with an over the top Boston accent, was so watchable, the repeats never grow stale. Matt Damon was seen as Liz Lemon’s pilot boyfriend. Their nose to nose scraps when Liz was held hostage on Carrol’s flight were classics. Of Liz’s boyfriends, Dennis, the last beeper salesman in New York is my favorite. Crude outdated and self obsessed, Dennis reminds women that every last one of them has to settle to have a mate. Liz always did.  30 Rock’s second live show ran on April 26th. They clearly had a fantastic time and so did the audience.

I was happy to see that Paul McCartney appeared on the East Coast live show but Kim Kardashian on the West Coast version seemed like an extremely out of character choice. At the end of the West Coast episode, Liz commented that TGS ratings came in at two million viewers. Displaying her IPhone, the incredibly life like Kardashian said, “Fourteen million viewers. You’re welcome.”

That sly nod to the real world from the cozy confines of the show’s inner life, that self awareness, let the audience in on the joke and I loved it. Alec Baldwin’s “summing up” scenes with Liz grew to be so iconic, Jack only needed to say “Well, Lemon…”, sometimes with a mimed drink in hand, to get a big laugh. To the delight of hard core Rock fans everywhere, the show’s final year went out strong. My favorite season seven episode was Jenna writing a Jimmy Buffett style song and winning so much devotion among ersatz Parrot Heads in Florida, she could swing the election, depending on the debating skills of Liz and Jack. It’s an instant classic.

With Liz married off and the walls closing in on TGS, Tina Fey’s fictitious Every woman adopted twins and reached out for the normal life that her work life has always denied her. The one hour finale brought back some great guest stars as 30 Rock’s small but rabid fan base said goodbye. As an over educated, nearsighted and quiet fan, I salute a unique show in the hope that true originality can still find a place on network airwaves in the future. Below, Tina thanks the 30 Rock cast and crew.

Having read Tina’s book, “Bossypants”, I respect the fact that she was honest and did not treat the project as only a vehicle for self promotion. Fey is hilarious, tough, principled and her critics were not spared from her acid tipped pen. Tina  is not the thinking man’s sex object but the thinking man’s thinking woman, so much so that I dream that there is a Fey like woman not far from here who is happy with finely turned phrases, flashes of inspired wit and who secretly works on her night cheese. Talent is the tip of Fey’s spear and she will not be going away when her beauty does. Where does a woman like that drink anyway?

Well, Lemon…


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