With six Golden Globes and 16 Primetime Emmy Awards, “30 Rock” is an unquestionably well-crafted show. It’s so smart that it sometimes even predicted the future.
“30 Rock” is my favorite comedy series. The dialogue is full of clever wordplay, bizarre satire, and because the show is about putting on a show, plenty of meta-jokes about show business. It’s become my most quoted series, and also the one I’ve re-watched the most. And though the show constantly supplies commentary on the current events of the time (2006-2013), some things they said are more relevant today than they were then.
After watching “30 Rock” again, I couldn’t believe it, I spotted yet another example of fortune-telling in the brilliant series. Here are four examples that prove that the power of observation can lead to predicting the future.
TV For Your Phone
Season 1 Episode 18 is when we are first introduced to Devon Banks, played by Will Arnett. He’s a young GE executive gunning to jump ahead of Jack Donaghy, played by Alec Baldwin, on the corporate ladder. The episode, “Fireworks”, features Banks and Donaghy going head-to-head in a pitch meeting. Banks, whose previous success came from pioneering the “10-second sitcom”, pitches TV for your phone.
“I’d like to talk to you about the future of entertainment… Celebrity snuff reality content made exclusively for your mobile phone.”Devon Banks “Fireworks” (2007)
Lately, I’ve been shocked by the marketability of the latest streaming platform, Quibi. With a platform of series’ constructed from shorter episodes, I knew Quibi would have to rely on entirely original content. Naturally, I had doubts. But the company has seemingly produced several series with high production value and immense star power.
Banks obviously had his finger on the pulse. Combine his ideas of shorter sitcoms, and content exclusively for your phone, and you got Quibi—which was founded 11 years after this episode aired. Banks calls it the future of entertainment, and he might be right. I can’t deny that I’ve been giving serious thought to trying out the new streamer.
In the Season 2 episode, “Cooter,” which aired in May of 2008, Jack Donaghy briefly takes a job at the White House. The situation he finds is dire. White House staff don’t have pens to write with. Jack interrupts the meeting to demand, “We need pens.” Now that was never a presidential slogan, but Jack does give a motivating speech to drive his point home that incorporated the last two presidents’ winning catchphrases. He says:
“We have a chance to make this country great again. We need hope. We need change. We need experience. We need pens.”Jack Donaghy “Cooter” 2008
This episode aired during Obama’s campaign, so it could be a case of spontaneous invention. Or maybe they intentionally mimicked his famous slogan. But if they knew they were using presidential rhetoric, how did they also include the slogan of the future president? The remark about making the country great again mimics the favorite catchphrase of current president Trump. He wouldn’t start saying “Make America Great Again” for another 6 years.
This is one of those times where being observant makes it seem like you can predict the future. This rhetoric is cyclical. It was a favorite phrase of Ronald Reagan.
This is less an example of predicting the future, and more about knowing the truth before the majority of the population. During a Season 3 episode, “The Bubble” (2009), Jack has Rick from Accounting impersonate Bill Cosby over the phone to ask Tracy to return to the show. It does not go well. The dialogue is:
Rick/Cosby: “I want you to come back to the TGS for the people who like the jokes and the things.”
Tracy: “Bill Cosby?! You’ve got a lot of nerve getting on the phone with me after what you did to my Aunt Paulette!”
Rick/Cosby: “I think you’re confusing me with someone else.”
Tracy: “1971! Cincinnati! She was the cocktail waitress with the droopy eye!”
Rick/Cosby: “I’m the guy with the pudding–”
Tracy: “Jack, why would you make me talk to this man?”
It wasn’t until 2014 that the public really became aware of the accusations made against Cosby, as many women came forward in October and November of that year. Part of this happened after a clip went viral of Hannibal Buress’ stand up criticizing Cosby for rape. Buress was a writer on “30 Rock,” so as you can see, this bit from “The Bubble” was not a coincidence.
“30 Rock” showrunner Robert Carlock confirmed in a 2016 Uproxx interview that the joke was intentional. He noted that Tina Fey had been criticizing Cosby ever since her days at “Saturday Night Live,” stating: “If you go back to ‘Weekend Update,’ Tina [Fey] has been grinding that ax for a long time,” Carlock said. “That was not an accident.” He even remarked that they were originally harsher, but had to soften the blow because he had not been convicted.
However, in 2018 Cosby was finally convicted on 3 counts of aggravated indecent assault. In total, 60 women came forward with allegations toward Bill Cosby. He received three to ten years in prison.
Jenna Maroney, played by Jane Krakowski, will commonly make remarks on the show indicating a horrifying sexual experience, usually with Mickey Rourke. However, the two mentions of Harvey Weinstein are a lot more awkward now. In a Season 6 episode, Jenna says:
“I’m not afraid of anyone in show business. I turned down sex with Harvey Weinstein on no less than three occasions–out of five.”
Then again, in Season 7 she says:
“I know how former lovers can have a hold of you long after they’re gone. In some ways, I’m still pinned under a passed-out Harvey Weinstein and it’s Thanksgiving.”Jenna Maroney
30 Rock started over a decade before the #MeToo movement. And unfortunately, Harvey Weinstein had a reputation in Hollywood for years that went overlooked with little more than the occasional joke. I use the word “occasional” loosely. The jokes were too regular not to have merit, which makes it even worse that it took so long to stop him. Weinstein’s behavior, it seems, was the worst kept secret in Hollywood.
It’s another case of observation of the present making “30 Rock” writers look like fortune tellers. These jokes weren’t as targeted as the Cosby bit. They only wrote the jokes because the whispers were common. Krakowski stated, “We weren’t trying to hint at any secrets we knew about him. I think we were just making a joke based on his reputation.”
In 2020 a jury found Weinstein guilty on two counts, criminal sexual assault in the first degree and rape in the third degree. He was given the max sentence, 23 years in prison.
I’ve been fighting for the memory of “30 Rock” for years now. Everyone gets so into reruns of “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” or even “Community.” And believe me, I love these shows too, I really do. But I am confident that “30 Rock” is the best of them.
“30 Rock” is now available on Peacock so you have no excuse not to watch it. It has the wittiest dialogue. The writing is so smart, they predicted the future.