Revealed in a startling pagan ritual where druids wrapped a sacred minotaur horn in the entrails of slave children and blew trumpets of their bones: the new Ben and Jerry’s flavor is “LIZ LEMON (&Blueberry) Fro Yo Greek Yogurt ™!!”…That sentence was mostly lies but the 30 Rock B&J flavor is the perfect metaphor for 30 Rock the Show which I will get into in a minute.
Actually the totally pagan-free revelation was at a bar down the street from Rockefeller Plaza (possibly by law since nobody from 30 Rock seemed to be there…does Lorne have a restraining order against product tie-ins at this point? I wouldn’t be surprised.) where a medium smattering of 30 Rock fans dressed as characters and a large smattering of rapacious bloggers who couldn’t get into the actual 30 Rock Finale party certainly happening in Rock Center itself gathered to listen to Mssr. Jerry make the flavor announcement, view the final Episode, and get their picture taken with Jim Gaffigan who has no 30 Rock connection whatsoever and seemed sort of befuddled by all extant concepts except that of Free Ice Cream. Mssr. Ben apparently was back in Vermont defacing currency for political reasons, because it was Thursday.
On to the metaphors! 30 Rock is a good show. The ice cream (the Greek Frozen Yogurt) was good. There’s not a lot of emotional depth to either one. It’s not decadently complex like Phish Food (or Arrested Development). It’s not boring like Strawberry (which has a notoriously fake laugh track). It’s not heartily realistic like Cookies & Cream (Parks and Rec). More than anything else it reminds you that that you are eating something that isn’t ice cream (it’s Frozen Greek Yogurt). It has great hair (like the Greeks). Jerry said “There’s a twist of lavender in there!” (He also said to a young couple next to me during the viewing “Have you eaten any Liz Lemon yet? Ha ha ha!” Jerry is a cool guy, for a billionaire.) I couldn’t taste the lavender any more than I can remember what most of the references in the second season of the Simpsons are referring to–additional metaphor: 30 Rock is a live action The Simpsons. I could taste blueberry, but what I felt in this yogurt was the performance of ice cream, just as in 30 Rock what you feel is the performace of being in show business. Boom.
Since this century began (as ostentatiously as this paragraph) discerning audiences have grown more and more comfortable relating to fictional characters who are employed as performers. Older sitcoms have starred actors essentially playing themselves (and 30 Rock is also very close to Lucy and Dick Van Dyke etc whatever, stop derailing shit) but now now now now when we sense, have sensed since birth, the close-up lens of lives lived in acting onstage, on reality shows, and especially online, we empathize strongly with those engaged in creating a performance as much as we do with more “realistic” shows like the Office. Why else would every comedy be an inexplicable documentary (even Modern Family which has not even a single nod as to why there’s a fucking camera following these assholes around)?
The Meta-ness of 30 Rock is often commented on, as a parody of a show that parodied things starring actors playing characters based on themselves (but who was Jenna a parody of, really? Rachel Dratch was supposed to play that role but Amy Poehler was the star during Tina Fey’s run on SNL and she is blonde, I rest my case, even though she is awesome and not horrible, never mind case dismissed). But the show’s greatest accomplishment was probably being able to stay on the air and make money despite low ratings by making fun of product placements. TGS is on a crazy parody of NBC, so of course they’re pumping real NBC shows and Snapple–its a joke!–Verizon–not Cabletown!–slipped probiotically into the very nature of the show. Metafiction = dollars. Meanwhile as average Americans’ daily lives more and more resemble Grace Under Fire–broke, addicted, unglamorous—we identify more and more with the performers on TV rather than the characters they portray.
The crowd of people dressed as various 30 Rock characters cheered at strange parts of the final Ep as it aired, mostly shit like Liz wearing PJs during the day. That was pretty Meta, a group of Lemons (and a male/female Miss Piggy/Jenna duo who obviously won the grand prize: free ice cream for a year) cheering for being too devoted to your high-paying career to take care of yourself. It’s only a matter of time before we’ll be identifying with a show about actors playing characters on a show starring characters named after themselves, nested like matryoshka dolls in a recursive set of networks and Hollywood signs. Anyone who managed to catch the insane Wanda Sykes show “the Wanda Sykes Show” already knows that particularly unheimlich valley.
Anyway isn’t it a little weird for Ben and Jerry’s to be celebrating a show with a new flavor as it goes off the air? What the upside for anyone aside from the affiliates running three old seasons of 30 Rock concurrently everyone on earth at all times? As the party wound down I asked the two Jennas if they really planned to eat all that Free Ice Cream or if they’d start strong, really enjoy it, eat it every week, then maybe forget about it for a few months, then pick it up and binge on it when they got depressed, then feel kind of negative about the experience, “yeah, great, you’ve got a million chucks fine I get it, barf” but still tell everyone how much they love it, as their friends go “Well I can eat it every now and then but it’s too over-the-top. I prefer cookies.” and then it’s over and you miss it a little bit but not that much, or what? They didn’t get the metaphor. Probably too much lavender.
30 Rock ended with a St. Elsewhere riff, as Future Kenneth, now president of NBC, greenlights the thing itself–a show called 30 Rock based on the performers in 30 Rock who performed TGS the parody of SNL. No one at the bar was dressed as Kenneth, Kenneth stopped being funny sometime in 2009. I went home and watched The Office episode after 30 Rock which alluded for the first time to the fact that there is a “crew” filming the Office for a fictional doc called “The Office,” as Pam seems to be forming a relationship with a boom mic operator. Maybe I was drunk on lactobacillus bulgaricus, but I found that a lot more moving than any wacky rabbit hole dive. Pam is nothing like Jenna Fischer, she’s a normal person thrust onto our screens, and she’s changed by being constantly observed, sometimes for better, usually not. I ate a bunch of cold Papa John’s breadsticks and passed out on the couch in my own filth, and the crowd went wild!