TV with Tony: Why “30 Rock” Rocked

Following a binge-session which cost me a week of sleep, three tubs of ice cream, and my sanity, I can officially say that 30 Rock is by far the smartest and funniest sitcom of this era of television (this is purely subjective, of course, but that doesn’t make it less true.)

More or less, 30 Rock is a celebration and a satirical critique of television today, specifically sit-coms and Saturday Night Live (which the show within the show, The Girlie Show, is based on). Tina Fey, the creator and writer of 30 Rock and also the master of satire explores a wide variety of themes throughout the show such as racial identity, gender stereotypes, female identity in the workplace, product placement, and sexism. It’s a good thing that 30 Rock in all it’s hilarity is fully on Netflix because what good is a show if you can’t share it?


When we are introduced to Liz Lemon, the head writer of the sketch comedy show which “30 Rock” is centered around, we see her in line waiting to get a hot dog outside of 30 Rock, AKA the Rockefeller Center. Fed up with the snooty businessman cutting the line, she impulsively buys all the hot dogs at the stand to prove a point. No one is going to cross Liz Lemon.

Immediately, we see Liz Lemon as she really is, a take no sh*t woman. She’s not a weak submissive female character. She’s a strong progressive female in the workforce! Hurrah for breaking gender stereotypes!

Unfortunately, making a character in a television show a woman who is obsessed about her work comes with stereotypes that we have seen before in television. The working woman, according to these stereotypes, means that Liz Lemon:

  • hates fun.
  • is obsessed with her career
  • has a non-existent sex life
  • is a control freak
  • is shouting into her phone all the time.

And most of these stereotypes are true, however, it makes it clear that “30 Rock” is aware of these stereotypes which gives room for Liz Lemon to not be a two dimensional stereotype.

Tina Fey, a woman who has worked in high stress workplaces (SNL and Second City Improv) is fully aware of the working woman stereotype, however in creating Liz Lemon, she also has created a caricatured version of herself and the typical stereotype of the working woman. While usually the stereotype is negative, Tina Fey gives us a positive perception of a working woman in Liz Lemon, a female who works, but is also human, who is bossy, but for the benefit of everyone else.


Anyways, we are introduced to Jack Donaghy, a newly appointed NBC executive, (inspired after SNL showrunner Lorne Michaels) who comes in and wants to rework “The Girlie Show” and add a celebrity comedian to the cast, Tracey Jordan. The relationship between Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy is one that is initially conflicting and eventually develops into a friendship. In Liz Lemon’s first meeting with Jack, Jack nails this working woman stereotype explicitly saying that Liz Lemon is…

Sure. I got you. New York third-wave feminist, college educated, single and pretending to be happy about it, over scheduled, undersexed, you buy any magazine that says “healthy body image” on the cover, and every two years you take up knitting for… a week.

Ouch, spot on.


We are introduced to Liz Lemon’s best friend from Second City Improv, Jenna Marone, who is also the star of the sketch comedy show, The Girlie Show. Much like the divas Tina Fey has probably experienced on SNL, Jenna Marone is your stereotypical blonde diva, who probably thinks she’s more funny than she actually is.

She is emblematic of American T.V. culture’s obsession with the funny white blonde girl, a trend perpetrated by Lisa Kudrow during the “Friends” era. Much like Jenna Marone is a product of the blonde trend behind Lisa Kudrow, “30 Rock” is a product of such television superficiality.

30 Rock

Tracy Jordan, a comic mash-up of Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, with a hint of Eddie Murphy, comes in and takes over the show with his charisma and movie star appeal. After Tracey Jordan arrives “The Girlie Show” is promptly changed to “TGS with Tracey Jordan” to Jenna’s dismay. It’s something that Jenna cannot compete against, charisma is something that cannot be taught.

For me Tracy Jordan is the most complex of the characters, because we view him mostly as a black stereotype (or should I say African American stereotype), however his character explores this idea of black identity in the comedy world where it is easy to get shoe-horned in as “black” humor.

Cause I’m gonna drop truth bombs. You know how pissed of I was when US weekly said I was on crack? That’s racist. I’m not on crack. I’m straight up mentally ill!

Hilarious as he is, Tracy Jordan allows for the audience to explore the role of African-American comedians in television today. Especially, in light of SNL’s big racial diversity scandal, where they were accused of being racist because they had a mainly all-white male cast, Tracy Jordan becomes more important as a comedic character who embraces his racial identity and plays off of it.


What highlights this idea of racial identity even more is  his foil character, proud black Harvard graduate, James “Toofer” Spurlock, who finds Tracy a disgrace to the African-American community because he feels like Tracey instills this stereotype. The banter between Tracy and Toofer is hilarious as we can observe the variety of ways a person can be “black” so to say.

Tracy: “I’m trying to tell him he’s my brother. We’re the only two blacks on the show. We have to figure out a way to work together. Like Professor Martin Luther King said, “I have a feeling.”

Toofer: “It is Doctor Martin Luther King, and he did not have a feeling, he had a dream.”

Tracy: “You know what I think? I think you’re ashamed of being black, and you’re an embarrassment to your community.”

Toofer: “I embarrass you? You embarrass me, and do you know why? Because there are racist people in this world, and when they see you act like a fool, they assume we’re all fools.”

Tracy: “That’s it. That’s the sketch we should write!”

Tina Fey provides us with two examples of the black identity, and more importantly, the subjective nature of racial identity. The way we embrace our racial identity is personal and differs from person to person, which leaves no one room to judge in what ways someone can be “black.”

More importantly, Tracy Jordan is also emblematic of how comedians also battle their demons. Saturday Night Live, since its inception, has seen many of it’s star cast members struggle from addiction, alcoholism and other personal demons. Darrel Hammond, Chris Farley, and John Belushi all suffered from severe drug addictions and crippling mental illnesses, and only one came out of it alive (I’ll leave you to find out who it was).

“30 Rock” embraces these stereotypes and tropes we see in everyday television, which prevents it from slipping into parody and elevates it into smart satire. It’s self-awareness is what makes “30 Rock” a reflective look on comedy and the medium of television.


One of the likable characters of the ensemble, cheerful southern born NBC page, Kenneth Parcel is one of us as he is the only one, among the cynical TGS writers and Liz Lemon, who truly appreciates and understands the beauty of television.

Do you know why I put up with this pitiful job, Mr. Donaghy? Why I fetch these folks’ lunches and clean up their barfs? Because they make television. And more than jazz or musical theater or morbid obesity, television is the true American art form. Think of all the shared experiences television has provided for us, from the Moon landing to the Golden Girls finale; from Walter Cronkite denouncing Vietnam, to Oprah pulling the trash bag of fat out in the wagon; from the glory and the pageantry of the Summer Olympics, to the less fun Winter Olympics. So please, don’t tell me I don’t have a dream, sir. I am living my dream.”

Television is the true American art form, an experience that unites audiences across the United States together. More recently, we were made aware of this through the Oscars, the Winter Olympics, the Breaking Bad finale, and the 2012 election of how important television is as a medium to the fabric of our culture.

As a shared experience, Tina Fey acknowledges the power of television and through her satirical look at it from “30 Rock” she uses it as a mirror to reflect society.

“30 Rock” takes us through Liz Lemon’s and many of the people who work around her’s personal struggles and demons. However, as different and conflicted as the ensemble cast seems, they are all united with one goal, to make good television.

As Tracey puts it,

Our comedy got to do more than make people laugh. Got to make people think. I want to hold a mirror up to society and then win world record for biggest mirror.

People often criticize television as an art form, however what “30 Rock” proves is that whether we like it or not, television is more than just images on T.V. It’s an actual art form. By presenting this tired stereotypes of television and parodying them, “30 Rock” is basicall Tina Fey’s love letter to television. Her deviation from these stereotypes is what makes this show hilarious.

It’s a shame that while “30 Rock” was on air that it won a bunch of Emmys, yet it tracked very low attention from the public. Ironically enough, we can experience “30 Rock” on Netflix, which is kind of killing the art of television, however that rant is one for another time.


You can watch “30 Rock” on Netflix. Make sure to listen to 18 and Not Pregnant, Monday nights at 8PM on KCR!

T.V. with Tony: Please Like Me

“I think we should break up. I just think we’ve drifted. And also you’re gay.”

“Please Like Me” is the charming comedy you most likely aren’t watching but should definitely be watching. 

It’s surprising how many quality television shows are coming out of Australia. “Please Like Me” is the first television show I have watched which perfectly captures, not the struggle (as often portrayed) of coming out as gay, but the awkward comedy of the process. Mainstream media likes to portray “coming-out” as a traumatic, dramatic and angsty process for gay people everywhere, with intolerance, homophobia, and other evils lurking in every corner.

However, the revolutionary statement “Please Like Me” presents is the idea that coming out is hilarious, surprising, and downright awkward.


Within the first half of the first episode of “Please Like Me,” the main character Josh has to deal with a series of somewhat unfortunate events:

  1. His girlfriend breaks up with him.
  2. He might be gay (the might disappears at the end of the episode)
  3. His mother attempted suicide.

The series opens up with Josh eating a sundae with his “girlfriend,” mumbling about how he is at the height of his youth and he isn’t the slightest attractive. Like this is the most attractive he’s ever going to be. Before he goes on his tirade, his “girlfriend” Claire breaks up with him and tells him she thinks he’s gay. Naturally, Josh says, “No, I’m not…” however, his somber attitude tells us more, that even he thinks so too.

This sets off a chain of events which introduces us to the many charming characters of this ensemble show. This is an ensemble show with a cast that works extremely well with eachother.


We are immediately introduced to Josh’s nerdy best friend, Tom, who has a strange obsession with giraffes and is in a strained relationship with his over-sexed and under-educated girlfriend, Nieve. Tom’s back-and-forth banter with his girlfriend and his dilemma of whether or not breaking up with his girlfriend is Tom’s main arc.

“Didn’t she once light your passport on fire?”

“She didn’t want me to leave, it was romantic.”


Tom’s new co-worker Geoffrey, is Josh’s first love interest and also a great screen presence (as in wow he’s hot). However, that’s pretty much all he brings to the table. A hot face with a boring personality, and no comedy is derived from him at all. Most of the comedy is found in Josh figuring out what to do with a pretty boy like Geoffrey after him. Is he supposed to pet him? Is he supposed to feed him? Josh, fresh out the closet, is clueless.

Josh’s coming out process is a fascinating and hilarious event to observe. Josh is a joke-fest, lashing out joke after joke about his curiosity regarding gay sex or his mom’s depression. It’s not the lines that are hilarious though, it the “first-time” events that Josh puts himself through to get through coming out. From his first date to his first sexual experience, Josh has us groaning and crying (from laughter) and second hand embarrassment. It’s almost painfully awkward. The comedy we see in “Please Like Me” is much like the quirky sense of comedy we can observe in “New Girl,” “The Mindy Project” and “The Office”, where it’s more of a situational type of humor.


One of the more important plot arcs of the series deals with Josh’s mother, Rose’s, depression. Josh has to take her in and live with her to monitor her condition. It is in Josh and Roses’ moments together that the show becomes less about Josh coming out, but more about his relationship with his mother, who is in the midst of a mid-life crisis. Josh’s relationship with his depressed mother is comedic, however Josh delivers the scenes with such levity that as viewers we can definitely see the darker undertones of the comedy of the show.


Other familial relationships Josh maintains include that of his father, Alan, and his father’s new wife, Vietnamese woman Mae. Mae is a comedic force, I did not see coming. Delivering lines such as,

“Alan, I promise you, no one is attempting suicide because of fat man like you! Your face look like a scrotum!”

It definitely is an exploit into the Asian stereotype of having a heavy accent and a hard-headed attitude, however, “Please Like Me” has created three dimensional characters out of all of it’s side-characters. At first, I was mildly wary of how Mae’s character would play out the Asian stereotype which is steeped deep into the television world as a loud, obnoxious and stern. However, as the series progressed, we see Mae as more than an Asian stereotype, but a supporting mother figure to Josh, a smart woman whose wisdom is often over-looked, and an overall respectable woman. It isn’t a large step towards Asian representation in media, however it is a small step. It is very unlike the “Asian bimbo” stereotype I assumed she would be type-casted under.


The creator Josh Thomas is a well-known young gay comedian in Australian and much of the experiences Josh undergoes in the show is directly derived from Josh Thomas’ real life experience. What Thomas provides us through his comedy is the introduction of a new type of gay man in entertainment today.

For far too long, gay men have been portrayed in the media as either, a closeted hunky jock, the stereo-typically feminine drama kid, or as over-sexualized. Josh Thomas presents a new portrayal of the gay identity as something entirely more realistic.

Awkward. Timid. And sometimes doesn’t know what to do with hot boys.

Watch “Please Like Me” Season One (six episodes) on Pivot or by any other means. Listen to “18 and Not Pregnant” on Mon. 8PM

TV with Tony: Awkward. as a Feminist Study

“ I was convinced I didn’t know who I wanted to be and then I realized the answer was all around me. I want to be someone who’s willing to forgive.I want to be someone who cares more about other people than themselves. I want to be someone who can tell it like it is. I want to be someone who would give up everything for the right reasons. I want to be someone who sees the good in everyone. I want to be someone who is a true friend. I want to be someone who always tries to be a better person, and someone who learns from his mistakes. I guess I just want to be someone who encompasses all of those things so I can finally be that girl who doesn’t need a boy to be happy, because I’ll know how to dance all on my own”

“Awkward.” It’s a show that’s immensely underrated and doesn’t get enough credit where it’s due, because as the finale closed the curtains on the reign of the current creators, the last line of the season finale redefines how important “Awkward.” is as a teen dra-medy and as a feminist statement. We’ve discussed this over the show, however re-watching the series I realize how important “Awkward.” is for our generation.


Season 3 was a relentless crusade in demonizing Jenna Hamilton, turning her into an anti-hero who spiraled into drugs, a bad boyfriend, and a rebellious attitude which forces her mother to kick her out of the house. A risky creative choice, which left a lot of hardcore viewers thinking, “Why?”

Why did the creators want us to hate our once likable protagonist?

The last 10 minutes of the Season 3 finale of Awkward became a defining moment which redefined Season 3 and the whole series, as it gave new perspective on Jenna’s actions. In that final moment we see Jenna’s tremendous growth from that girl who needed to “define the relationship” or DTR for short, to the girl who aspired to be single and happy.

Misunderstandings of epic proportions.

When the audience is initially introduced to Jenna Hamilton, we have to witness her undergo a tragic chain reaction of events which involve her losing her virginity, reading a hateful letter, and an accident that is misconstrued as a suicide attempt.

Revisiting the pilot, one can’t help but notice the drastic difference between Season one pilot Jenna and Season three finale Jenna. Witnessing Jenna in retrospect, I realize upon seeing Jenna in a cast that there is something inherently broken with Jenna and that is her own perception of herself. The cast is emblematic of Jenna’s broken self-confidence,.

Her lack of self-esteem and confidence is evident throughout Season one and two as she awkwardly tries to define her relationship with Matty. What’s broken is not her and Matty’s relationship but it’s Jenna’s perception of herself.

In feminist terms, Jenna throughout Season one to the Season three finale is a “relative being,” a being who lacks in full personhood without a dominant male.


Much of Season one and Season two focuses on Jenna’s personal dilemma between deciding her instinctual true love, Matty Mckibben, and her logical love, Jake Rosatti. It is much of this focus on the love triangle during these two seasons which allows for much of Jenna’s insecurities to take front stage. Jenna, in no what way, can have confidence about her own being, without being with either boy. For her during this stage in her life, there is no choice to just simply be “single and happy.”

If Season 1 and 2 are an exploration in Jenna’s journey to define her relationship with boys, Season three is an exploration in Jenna’s relationship with herself.

Season three presented a dark exploration into Jenna’s insecurities as Jenna consistently questions her relationship with Matty by asking “Why me?” “What does he see in me?” The rift between what Matty sees in her and what she sees in herself is accentuated in “That Girl Strikes Again” when Jenna asks Matty what he likes about her. She can’t bring herself to believe that someone could love her personality because Matty and Jenna’s relationship started out as a physical affair.

As the season wore on to the mid-season finale, we see the demons of the past coming back to haunt Jenna and Matty. Matty admitting that he was humiliated of Jenna’s “suicide” It reveals a truth about Matty that we as viewers had not seen before. It is easy to often get lost in Jenna’s perspective, as we view her life through her eyes, however we realize that Matty is as broken as Jenna is. It is this exact truth that acts as a catalyst for Jenna’s descent into Collin.

The Season 3 finale wraps the series up in a clean bow, it doesn’t deliver a question of Jenna’s love life but rather a statement. A feminist statement which simply states that a girl, like Jenna, doesn’t need to DTR or feel insecure because she doesn’t have a man. Self-confidence doesn’t come from being with a person who tells you who you are, it can only be derived from the self.

Which is why Jenna’s statement in her last dance with Matty is so much more important where she states,

“I didn’t love myself enough to let you love me.”


It’s an important message to send to teenagers like myself and my peers, who feel we cannot be defined unless we are defined by others. Especially for those of us that make mistakes and have self-esteem issues.

Jenna’s redemption comes from beginning to love herself, and forgive herself for her mistakes. Awkward.’s strongest statement ever is when it makes it clear that it’s easy to fall in love with boys but its extremely hard to fall in love with yourself.

It defies all teen dra-medy stereotypes where redemption can only be derived from romance or be achieved by getting the guy. Jenna’s redemption derived from her dealing with the consequences of her actions and not in romantic context.

Unlike most fans, I feel like if Jenna did get back with Matty in the season finale, the series would lost its meaning. The series is not about romantic relationships, but about the experience of being a teenager and trying to discover self-identity in a world that tries to define you before you even have a say.

Awkward. is not about getting with the guy, but about getting with yourself. And maybe along the way, getting the guy. But it’s not the main goal.

Awkward. is about that awkward time that are your teenage years where you don’t know quite who you are and who you want to be. It’s about the things you do in this period where you do try to find yourself, whether it be running a blog, running for school president, going to parties, and getting into relationships. However, it isn’t all about one thing but it encompasses everything we try to define ourselves with.

It’s about willing to make mistakes like Jenna, and the willingness to learn from it and grow as a person.

We are not perfect, much like Jenna, we may cheat on our boyfriends, we may rebel against our parents, we may attempt suicide, we may drop all our friends and become total bitches. But it’s how we deal with our mistakes that define who we are.


TV with Tony: Bob’s Burgers

“Dear Diary, if guys had uteruses, they’d be called duderuses.”

Weird. Quirky. Hilarious. hORNY!?!?! Dry. Dark. Witty. Unique. Enough with the adjectives, because there wouldn’t be enough to describe what exactly Bob’s Burgers is.

Hilarious? Yes.

Inappropriate? Never.

It’s easy to mistake Bob’s Burgers for another Family Guy or Simpsons, because it essentially has the same premise. Animated television comedies have had so much critical success in the past two decades that some have lasted for over ten seasons. However, while critically successful, many animated comedies seem to feel a little bit familiar and formulaic…:

  • dysfunctional family
  • man-child dad
  • talking animal
  • geek son
  • boyfriend-repelling daughter
  • mother who tries to keep it all together
  • baby (who is actually a genius and can talk but no one seems to notice)

For Bob’s Burger’s, the similarities end with the dysfunctional family because what sets Bob’s Burgers apart from everyone else is it’s portrayal of a family that actually doesn’t hate each other and its portrayal of those dreaded “tween” years through it’s hit character, Tina.

Bob’s Burger’s is about the unconventional family, headed by the average father, frustrated Bob Belcher and eccentric mother Linda. Linda is the weirder one of the pair, with her obsession with animals and synchronized swimming, while Bob is the more irritated one, trying to find peace in the chaos. To put it simply, Linda is Homer Simpson, while Bob is Marge.



Mommy doesn’t get drunk. She has fun.

They run a burger joint (which is located next to a crematorium), with their three eccentric kids. The Belcher kids are what make Bob’s Burgers unique. Unlike other shows, like Family Guy or the Simpsons, these siblings don’t merely tolerate each other or harass each other, but as a viewer you get the sense that the siblings are united and they support each other (despite their quirks).

Tina, the eldest, is by far the most quotable and relate-able animated character to grace this earth. She’s thirteen, has raging hormones, is kind of horny, writes erotic “friend-fiction,” and is socially awkward in every way possible. Essentially, Tina was all of us in middle school. *war flashbacks*


She is the driving force of comedy in the show. What makes Tina hilarious is the execution of her lines. Voiced by male voice actor Dan Mintz, Tina’s deadpan delivery of lines makes everything sound angsty, horny, and passive aggressive all  at the same time.

I’m not a hero. I put my bra on one boob at a time like everyone else.

I think the reason Tina is appealing to viewers is because she epitomizes those tween years we are all ashamed of. Middle school for the most of us was a time of hormones, acne, and awkward growth spurts and Tina perfectly encapsulates that awkward time we’d rather forget. While much of our personal episodes from those tween years were horrific at the time, we have to admit, in retrospect, that middle school was pretty damn funny.


The middle child, Gene, is a clueless and filter-less (if that’s a word), boy who also finds something new to obsess over (i.e. a gorilla mask, playing keyboard, a toilet lying in the forest.) There’s not much to say about Gene because well, his character is self-explanatory. He’s weird. Often, at times, the middle child is the most overlooked, and it shows through Gene, who always is trying something new to catch his parents attention.

I can taste the all the flavors from the past 60 years. I can taste the Korean War.



The youngest, but probably the psychologically oldest, is Louise, who is a very comically dark, tough and witty tom-boy who wears bunny ears and bosses her siblings around. The opposite of the socially awkward Tina, Louise is outgoing and very demanding. Funnily enough, Louise is the only character voiced by a female in the show. Voiced by the talented and hilarious character actress, Kristen Schaal, Louise is probably the second funniest character on the show.


The charm behind the show lies in the quirky sense of humor displayed by the smart writers of the show. It’s a refreshing change from the borderline offensive and vulgar humor displayed by most animated shows today. Bob’s Burgers manages to get the laughs without shocking you with vulgarity, which is a mental relief. It’s the little “blink and you’ll miss it” moments of the show that are the funniest, mostly Tina’s side comments.

It’s mostly how the writers have crafted the family different from other show families which makes it unique. As I stated before, it’s easy to mix Bob’s Burgers with Family Guy or American Dad, however, the family in Bob’s Burger’s is unique in the fashion that no one is malicious. They don’t tolerate each other, but support each other. It’s heartwarming how the Belchers maneuver between their individual quirks to make each other happy. It’s the portrayal of family and what family means throughout the seasons which keeps this show from straying into the hated “we all tolerate each other” family mindset of Family Guy and other cartoons.

While the show is mildly funny at the start, it doesn’t really get genius until the second season on, where the writers churn out hilarious situation after situation. Often, for comedies, they start out good and the humor gets stale after on (ex. New Girl, Parks and Recreation, Family Guy etc.) However with Bob’s Burgers, with each episode, it gets funnier and funnier. The situations get odder and odder with each episode, leaving the viewer wondering what shenanigans the Belchers will get themselves into next.

A sleeper hit, that might become the next iconic animated series of our time, Bob’s Burgers should be definitely be watched by anyone who has an itchy crotch.



We feel you, Tina. We really do.

Catch Bob’s Burgers Season One and Two on Netflix, and on Fox Sunday nights at 7PM.

Also Listen to “18 and Not Pregnant” with Tony Monday Nights at 8PM.