In an upcoming issue of the New Yorker, Nancy Franklin has a review of 30 Rock that is clearly geared towards people who not only haven’t watched 30 Rock yet, but most likely haven’t even heard of it. For a show entering it’s third season, and cluttering a number of mantles with Emmys, the review is disconcertingly general and introductory. It’s also disconcertingly anti-everyone except Alec Baldwin. Here is what Franklin has to say about Tina Fey:
Fey has surrounded herself with a cast that has one spectacular member and a couple of really good ones, but that averages out to only fair. Her own performance falls into the not-so-great category.
Fair enough. I disagree, but I recognize that we live in a world built on differences of opinion, and that seems like a completely reasonable take on things. Although, she goes on:
Fey’s Liz has become a bit looser over the show’s forty episodes, and it may be that winning two Emmys in a row for Best Actress in a Comedy has freed Fey up as a performer; in which case, I’m all for giving out awards before people fully deserve them. (Yoo-hoo, Pulitzer Prize committee, over here!)
Yuck, Nancy Franklin. Just yuck. Yoo-hoo, Pulitzer-Prize committee, do you ever award an Anti-Pulitzer that has the inverse effect of winning the standard award? Besides, is that any way to talk about a woman with a facial scar the source of which only just became known?
But the true crime of this review comes in her description of Tracy Morgan:
I find him irritating and hard to watch, and I guess I’m meant to, in order to know what it would feel like to have my show, my baby, messed with by the corporate types.
In criticism, there is no such thing as a right or wrong answer. UNTIL NOW. Tracy Morgan is not irritating or hard to watch, Nancy Franklin, and you are not meant to find him that way. I wouldn’t say this if I didn’t care, but you’re making yourself look really stupid right now. It’s like you don’t even live your life as if every week was Shark Week.
But then look at how Nancy Franklin goes on and on about Alec Baldwin:
The show’s true claim to fame, and a reason never to miss an episode, is Alec Baldwin, whose comic magnetism is so strong I’m surprised it hasn’t caused weather disturbances. He doesn’t steal scenes; he makes them rise and shine. Baldwin has to know how good he is, but he wears it lightly, and you actually take pleasure from how much pleasure you’re taking from his performance–just as you do, say, when Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby sing that put-‘er-there-pal number “Well, Did You Evah?,” in “High Society.” They know that we know who they are, and Baldwin knows that we know who he is.
OK! We get it! You wrote Nancy Baldwin all over your Trapper-Keeper! Relax! Alec Baldwin is obviously great, but surely his greatness should stand on its own merit and not come at the expense of throwing everyone else under the bus. And it’s specifically because of the way his character plays off of the absurdity of Tracy Jordan and the manic insecurity of Liz Lemon that he even comes off as pitch perfect as he does.
Criticism of a Show I Like in a High Brow Magazine FAIL.