Until last week, American fans of 30 Rock, the behind-the-scenes-of-a-TV-comedy-show sitcom, had to make do in 2009 with Tina Fey taking her creamy décolletage on David Letterman and announcing that she was a virgin until the age of 24; a short-lived, thrilling rumour that Alec Baldwin was going to try to steal Joe Lieberman’s Senate seat; and the antics of RealTracyMorgan, who set fire to his Trump Place apartment via a blown-out light in his fish tank and whose Twitter feed started out promisingly enough (‘My dick is so fat it looks like r2d2’) before devolving into work complaints and self-props like everyone else’s. Overseas fans will have to make do a little longer.
As Season 4 opens, even TGS (or its parent corporation, the Sheinhardt Wig Company) is suffering from the economic downturn. Network exec Jack Donaghy (Baldwin) tells his top players they’re elitist and out of touch with the heartland. Head writer, unrepentant urban career gal and probable old maid Liz Lemon (Fey) claims that Real America is a ‘nonsense term’, but Jenna and Tracy, TGS’s stars, don’t test well outside cities; worse, Tracy’s elitism is affecting his act: ‘You know how in St Bart’s people be eatin’ their lobster like…’
Jack’s plan to combat ‘Comrade Obama’s recession’ calls for Jenna to Go Country (it’s either that or a lesbian relationship). She’ll record a ‘rollicking new Southern-rock theme’ for NBC sports, which means off-season tennis played by Eastern Europeans. ‘We’ll trick those race-car-loving wide loads into watching your lefty homoerotic propaganda hour yet,’ purrs Donaghy. Meanwhile, Tracy attempts to bond with regular people: ‘Can I feel the rough skin on your hands?’ ‘Are you a pre-op trans-Centaur?’ Then Kenneth the page receives his boss’s paycheck by accident and confronts him with ‘all those zeroes – that’s downright un-American.’ What follows is a more succinct explanation of Wall Street v. Main Street than anything said, by anyone, during the entire 2008 presidential campaign:
‘That’s where you’re wrong, Kenneth. It’s extremely American. My talents are more valuable than yours so I’m paid accordingly therefore I’m entitled to my bonus.’
‘That’s a bonus check? You said there was no extra money. Bonus means extra. I know that from game shows. You lied to me.’
The pages go on strike; Kenneth calls in that hilarious relic from the commie 1930s, a union – Local 415, representing mall Santas, horse whisperers and bucket drummers. ‘I can’t have that apple-cheeked goon outside screaming about my bonus!’ frets Jack. He shows up at Kenneth’s apartment, pours himself a shot of Robitussin and sweet-talks the lad: ‘We’re not so different, you and I. We both grew up poor. We both put work above all else.’ As Tracy points out, if you can get sued for sexual harassment, it’s a real American job.