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’30 Rock’ sign off takes inspirational Fey from small screen

30 Rock - Season 7

Tina Fey as Liz Lemon in the “Florida” episode of NBC's “30 Rock." (Photo by Ali Goldstein/NBC)

By
From page B1 | January 25, 2013 |

Open on Tina Fey, playing Liz Lemon, in a chair adjacent to acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.

Lemon: “Do I know you?”

Sorkin: “You know my work. Walk with me. I’m Aaron Sorkin. ‘West Wing.’ ‘A Few Good Men.’ ‘The Social Network.’ ”

Lemon: ” ‘Studio 60?’ ”

Sorkin: “Shut up.”

The self-referential joke was a nod to Fey’s show-behind-a-variety-show comedy series “30 Rock” trumping a Sorkin vehicle based on a similar premise, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” when they both debuted on NBC in 2006.

After seven seasons, “30 Rock” will roll the credits for the final time Thursday, completing what has thus far been a stellar final season.

The departure of “30 Rock” marks the first of several shows that I enjoy meeting their end in 2013, along with Showtime’s “Dexter,” AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and, it seems increasingly likely, NBC’s “Community.”

At the center of the madness of “30 Rock” is Fey, who has the Herculean tasks of being one of the shows executive producers, head writer and leading woman.

I will miss having Fey visit my TV screen on a weekly basis, in large part because it means for the first time in more than a decade, one of my favorite comedians may not be on TV on a regular basis. Last fall, she inked a four-year deal with Universal Television, the studio that produces “30 Rock,” with the possibility of starring in a new project.

Other recent efforts include hosting the Golden Globe awards and starring in an upcoming rom-com named “Admission” this spring. Nonetheless, TV won’t quite be the same without her.

For a long time, I appreciated Fey merely for her quick, topical jabs on “Weekend Update” and, yes, her sexy librarian thing. The New Yorker once called her a “sex symbol for every man who reads without moving his lips.”

It wasn’t until I found out more about her that I came to admire and respect her.

I don’t often use this space to say things like that because, for the most part, I make a conscious effort not to deify celebrities.

Perhaps it’s because we’re a capitalist society, but there’s the perception that having money equates to having all of one’s problems solved and that’s illogical. Celebrities go through the same trials and tribulations as anyone else.

Fey, for example, wasn’t always a foxy nerd. Before joining the “Saturday Night Live” cast, she was one of its writers, putting her sharp wit to use crafting quips for its stars.

Upon seeing herself as a plump extra in a 1998 “SNL” skit, she vowed to drop 30 pounds. With the transformation came the move from the writers’ room to the small screen and, later, thanks to “SNL” producer Lorne Michaels, a chance to create “30 Rock.”

She’s overcome other adversity, too. She bears a scar on her left cheek from an incident with a slasher when she was 5, an incident that greatly shaped her fears about living in New York after 9/11. In one “Weekend Update” moment, she said, “I can’t be any more alert than I already am, OK? I’m opening my mail with salad tongs.”

It’s not the same kind of scary, but I have a scar on my lower jaw from where the family dog bit me when I was 8, which I think also is part of why I relate to Fey.

For that and as a scribe who’s sensitive about his waistline, I admire Fey for her transformation and see her as a bit of a heroine. I find her story inspiring.

It informs Lemon, her “30 Rock” persona, a sweet, sometimes awkward woman in her 40s who struggles to rein in her staff on a weekly basis.

Fey lists Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore, Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman, Gilda Radner and others as inspiration as a writer and a comedian.

I like “30 Rock’s” brand of humor, which isn’t “cringe comedy,” laughing at other people’s misfortunes and social awkwardness, except sometimes Lemon’s, but she usually seems to get it right in the end.

In the scene with Sorkin, he describes the death of scripted television: “We make horse buggies and the first Model T just rolled into town.”

In the way that Fey admires and respects those who came before her, I hope she serves as an inspiration to those who follow her on the small screen.

I imagine them producing smart, savvy sitcoms in the vein of “30 Rock,” filling the airwaves with great, scripted comedy.

As Lemon would dreamily say, “I want to go to there.”

To read more of Nick DeCicco’s blogs, visit http://dailyrepublic.typepad.com/forthoseabouttorock. Follow him on Twitter @ndeciccodr.

Nick DeCicco

Nick DeCicco

Nick DeCicco is the editor of the Tailwind and writes the pop culture blog/column For Those About to Rock. Before joining the DR staff in July 2007, DeCicco (pronounced Deh-CEE-Coh) worked at The Union in Grass Valley, Calif., and the Greeley Tribune in Greeley, Colo. A 2004 graduate of the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, DeCicco spends his free time attending concerts, listening to music, going to movies, traveling and hiking.
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