Meta to the End: Saying Goodbye to '30 Rock,' The Show That Got to Say Goodbye to Itself

30 Rock aired its finale last night in the fashion all television could only hope to do. The beloved show and its viewers knew it was coming, and both sides could anticipate and plan, in their own ways, for the end. The critical flurry surrounding 30 Rock this past week only goes to exemplify how much The End still means to us as television viewers – a formal farewell seemed only right to a story arc so formally conclusive as 30 Rock. Such closure was nearly Austenian (Pride and Prejudice was itself celebrated in classic form this month), and that there would be a release of tears no one could doubt. Viewers, of course we cried. … Read More

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The Feminism of Liz Lemon: A History in Screen-caps

[Ed. note: In celebration of the series finale of one of our all-time favorite TV comedies on Thursday night, we're going to be celebrating 30 Rock all week long on Flavorwire. Look for a new feature each day, and be sure to check out all of our previous coverage of the show here.] In the pilot of 30 Rock, Liz Lemon is sent by her new boss Jack Donaghy to find Tracy Jordan and convince him to join their NBC sketch comedy, The Girlie Show. While chasing the manic Tracy from diner to strip club, Liz learns that Jack has fired her primary writing partner – an alarming realization that sends her back to the office. “I want to tell Donaghy to his face that I quit,” she tells Tracy outside a strip joint, “and I want to do it in front of the whole crew so that they know he didn’t fired me.” Tracy Jordan’s response: “I wanna see that.” And so did I. … Read More

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Everything That's Wrong With Musicals on TV

Are you as tired of lazy generalizations about musical theater as I am? With Broadway’s move onto both the cinema and television screen, these generalizations have only gotten sloppier. For starters, we could at least separate the films from the television series. Critics speak as if Glee, Pitch Perfect, and Smash were all the same thing – and that thing they condense them into is deemed, ultimately, pretty awful. With the heavy anticipation for Tom Hooper’s film adaptation of Les Miserables, I’ve only been reminded of how very boring the Broadway backlash can be. Over at Grantland’s 2012 Oscar Roundtable, we were told that, “Gloriously, there doesn’t even seem to be anything ridiculous in the running for a nomination at this point, unless the Les Mis hype is coming from the same unfortunate place that leads people to watch Smash.” I mean, I guess Les Mis and Smash are the same thing, and I guess their viewers can’t tell a star-driven remake of a famous rock opera apart from a television series about an unknown musical performed by unknown stars. … Read More

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How ‘Homeland’ Glamorizes Torture

As the first half of the television season begins to wrap up, and some series with shorter seasons hurtle towards their finales, shows have started their usual ramp up in narrative pace. The stakes get increasingly a little higher, as audience adrenaline runs a little faster. This season of Homeland has filled my Sunday evening Twitter stream with variations on, “OMG HOMELAND!!!” — until two weeks ago, when it was all “WTF HOMELAND!?!” and then this past Sunday, where it was more: “Hmmm. Homeland?” This is not what we were expecting.

But the season isn’t over yet, and Homeland still has time to pull a fast one on us, then leave us hanging until next season. It’s been a shaky and oftentimes bizarre last few episodes, and viewers are starting to get nervous – spinning their own conspiracy theories about how the whole thing might play out. “The show has to be smarter than this,” is what they seem to say. As much as any TV fan is devoted to their shows of choice, the kind of devotion witnessed with Homeland viewers is its own special case. Since winning all the laurels of Best New Television Ever, the show has kept its cohort of intelligent viewers through its much lauded script, acting, and cleverly networked plotlines. Homeland can’t just end! It has to end with emotional and narrative realism, with political integrity. But when the pacing of Season 2 has been so sloppy, and even its use of technology so unrealistic, could that possibly be where it will end up? … Read More

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Why ‘Community’ and ‘Go On’ Look So Similar But Feel So Different

When Go On – NBC’s new sitcom about a community of misfits – aired its pilot this season, it brought comparisons with, well, Community. Todd VanDerWerff and Alyssa Rosenberg were two of many TV writers who noted the similarity from the start. Go On and Community involve ensemble casts, and both ensembles contain a mishmash of outsiders. Where Community had a community college study group, Go On featured a therapy group (that meets, it seems, at some sort of community center). These two comedies play on outsiders that never really fit in, until now. They’re not so odd when brought together, as we come to discover. Together, they even one another out. Go On and Community are predominantly character-driven sitcoms, asking viewers to care about the communities they portray, and prompting viewers, even, to join them.

Now ten episodes in, Go On has been doing relatively well this season (it’s certainly faring better than NBC’s Guys with Kids). It’s been picked up for a full 22-episode season, and while it hasn’t retained the 16-something million viewers that tuned in for its pilot, it still consistently bats a better average than NBC’s other Tuesday-night sitcom, The New Normal. Hovering just above six million viewers per episode, Go On is still reaching about two million more than its so-called predecessor Community. So, could Go On be the next Community? It doesn’t look like it. But it could be, in a sense, the more popular (populist?) Community. … Read More

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Victorian Novels That Would Make Great TV Dramas

Here’s a truth universally acknowledged: Television and the Victorian novel are two wholly different media. Make as many comparisons as you will, but the 19th-century English novel will never experience any kind of seamless transition into the world of serial television. The incentives of the two forms are so incongruous, not to mention the contrast in creative and productive conditions that goes into generating them. When Laura Miller emphatically told us that “The Wire is NOT like Dickens,” she made many good points — an obvious one being that if one wished to reference a canonical novelist in lofty conversation about The Wire, Dickens would be a safe bet. But as Miller went on to state: Dickens wrote prose narrative on paper, and The Wire is a visual drama. It’s a good place to start as any if we’re looking to tease out the distinctions between the two.

Still, it won’t stop television (or film, for that matter) from continuing to draw on written stories. Alfred Hitchcock, that undisputed master of cinema, took from novelists such as Patrick Hamilton, Patricia Highsmith, and Dorothy Sayers for his film and television work alike. Alfred Hitchcock Presents, however, focused on a different story per episode, while the idea behind The Wire-versus-Dickens comparison is that such serial storytelling has the power to hook the viewer time and time again. … Read More

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Is ‘Nashville’ the Most Radical Feminist Show on TV?

Earlier this week, ABC announced that Nashville had been picked up for the rest of its first season. Happy news for us, since the show remains one of the best new dramas of the year, winning hearts where Revolution and Last Resort had left us wanting. Now that we’ve had five episodes to settle into its rockabilly arms, let’s look at what makes what’s ostensibly just another story about country music and heartbreak so refreshing.

Despite its mileage on country clichés, Nashville feels like a sparkly newcomer to the television scene. Beyond the cheatin’, schemin’, and burning old flames, the drama is at heart about two women: the older established country star Rayna James and poppy newcomer (as well as potential rival) Juliette Barnes. Rayna’s and Juliette’s characters are inflected and mediated through their interaction with men — sexual, economic, and otherwise — but these alliances take second stage to the female networks that underwrite the world of Nashville. The show is, in a sense, as heterosexual as they come, but its portrayal of female relationships makes me wonder if it’s not one of the most distinct feminist dramas to appear on network television yet. … Read More

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