NBC Is Not a Real Network, Take 4

According to Multiple Sources™, the cast of Glee was supposed to be featured in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, until NBC (which is broadcasting the parade) asked the organizers to have that float canceled, not wanting to broadcast a free promotion for another network’s scripted show. Creator Ryan Murphy’s comment — “I completely understand NBC’s position, and look forward to seeing a Jay Leno float” — says most of what needs to be said.

It’s been pointed out by Myles and others that the show that benefits the most from the NBC debacle is 30 Rock. For one thing, the reason it’s lasted this long despite its lack of popularity is that the network doesn’t have much else, and certainly doesn’t have anything to put in its place that would do better. For another thing, the show is about NBC, and in fact the NBC connection is really the only thing that survives from the original concept. The original idea was to do a show about behind-the-scenes life at an NBC sketch comedy show. The sketch comedy show is now almost irrelevant — nothing new in workplace comedies, where character rarely do any actual work after the first 13 episodes — but the jokes about NBC have remained and flourished. The season opener, airing this week, will have a lot of satire of the Leno strategy and NBC’s floundering; as the network continues to flounder, it provides lots of story opportunities for the show.

In fact, 30 Rock may be the only show where in-jokes about the network actually serve the story, rather than being arch throwaway bits. One of the two main characters is a representative of the network, and the main emphasis of the show is the craziness of working for a network (or any business) that’s one little piece of a giant corporation. So jokes about NBC’s suckiness actually fit right into Jack’s character and the relationship between him and Liz. The show can be a bit arch and smug sometimes, but the in-joke bits, which should be the arch-est and smug-est of all, don’t usually have that problem — and I think that’s because they’re genuinely built into the show and its characters. It’s the story of people trying to keep their sanity at a collapsing network, written by people trying to keep their sanity at a collapsing network.

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