Liz Lemon = Caroline Duffy?

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I was trying to figure out who the character of Liz Lemon on 30 Rock reminded me of, and it finally occurred to me after I was sent a link to this collection of half-hour TV scripts in PDF form, and saw this on the second page of the pilot for Caroline in the City:

Caroline Brody – Mid-’30s, very real and much more attractive than she believes herself to be. She’s a successful cartoonist, and her Cartoon Caroline will serve as her alter ego throughout the series.

A neurotic single woman in her mid-’30s who is a successful [cartoonist/comedy writer] in New York City and is “much more attractive than she believes herself to be” — dear Lord, Liz Lemon reminds me of Caroline (whose last name was changed in the series).

Actually, 30 Rock does resemble a late ’90s NBC comedy in some ways; the premise, lead character and some of the story ideas do feel like throwbacks to the era of Suddenly Susan. The difference is in the execution, not just the single-camera format and cutaways, but the fact that the lead character’s neurosis and pathetic qualities, instead of being played down or made to seem lovable, are played up. Liz is the craziest, most malajusted person on her own show. It’s like the writers have taken the old NBC comedy format and drained all the cuteness out of it, until all that’s left are a bunch of weird people doing weird — but funny — things.

Speaking of Caroline in the City, there’s a season 2 DVD coming out sometime (but from CBS/Paramount, so music cuts galore!). It was not actually as bad as the second wave of post-Friends NBC comedies, like The Single Guy; but it was pretty weak, mostly because of the casting. The decision to cast the show from top to bottom with young, good-looking people, instead of having at least one person who was older, weirder-looking or funnier, was a sign of how corrosive the influence of Friends had become. (There was no room for an Alec Baldwin or a Jack McBrayer on the NBC of 1996.) But while the cast was bland, it wasn’t that bad, just mediocre — but as this MAD TV sketch reminds us, it was probably one of the most-mocked shows of the decade:




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Liz Lemon = Caroline Duffy?

  1. Huh.

    I would never have noticed, but now I can’t ignore it.

  2. The MadTV clip points to something that was found on a few sitcoms in the 90s: the fey, blonde male who was “straight”.

    There was this guy from Caroline in the City, the butler from The Nanny and of course the genius that was Niles Crane.

    I can’t think of any others right now but it did seem to be a trend for a while. Any particular reason for it?

  3. Matthew from NewsRadio is another example. They even went to far as to give him some generically attractive girlfriend and do an entire episode about him losing his virginity in season three. It was weird.

    I get the impression that the network pushed for that, but I’m not sure why. More recently, Andy Dick has referred to the characters as “the gay office retard” and similar things.

  4. The only thing I know about this show was this exchange from the great kid’s WB sitcom, “Smart Guy”

    Dad: What are you watching?
    Daughter: Caroline in the City
    Dad: What city is Caroline in?
    Daughter: New York.
    Dad: How come there ain’t no black people on Caroline in the City?
    Daughter (referencing something the dad said to the daughter earlier in the episode during the superbowl): Daaaaad, pleeeease, this is the one show I get to watch during the week! (
    Dad: Oh! Oh-hohohohohoho! This is goood!
    Daughter: I know! It’s an underrated show!

  5. For what it’s worth, in at least one episode, “30 Rock” made the direct comparison between Liz Lemon and Cathy of the comic strip, um, “Cathy.” And “Caroline in the City” often seemed like a television version of that comic strip, going so far as to reference the strip in several episodes (and, yes, I’m using Wikipedia to help jog my memory, as I literally haven’t thought about “Caroline” for several years). So, anyway, I don’t think Fey would take any issue with the comparison. It seems exactly right.

    Shows like “Caroline” and “Suddenly Susan” are just watered-down, post-”Friends” versions of “Mary Tyler Moore.” “30 Rock” is pretty much what “Caroline” and “Susan” would have been if they had taken their cues from “Seinfeld” instead of “Friends.”

    Well, “30 Rock” has a far superior cast and better writers and is single-camera, but never mind all that. I stand by my basic point. “30 Rock” is “MTM” by way of “Seinfeld” and “Arrested Development.”

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