Drink up, Nerds!
Around this time last year it ended forever. Since then, I have consistently watched re-runs. I have constantly quoted snippets from my favorite episodes both in real life and while I'm watching other shows (only Arrested Development beats this show in terms of quote appropriation). The cast had godlike chemistry, it survived eight seasons despite never being a hit ratings-wise, and more than anything, it raised the standard for what a television comedy could do. It reminded me and thousands of people why we love television in the first place; in the right hands, it can do things films can't. It can create characters that develop long-term and jokes that can ferment for years at a time.
Tina Fey has two new pilots that have been picked up, and I couldn't be happier. But I doubt they'll surpass 30 Rock, a show that stretched boundaries and started trends. However, like any successful TV sitcom, it does have a formula, and therefore makes a great drinking game.
"40 Rock" (Get it, because...40s...yeah...): The Rules
1. Drink for Title Drops: that's whenever someone says "30 Rock" or mentions "30 Rockefeller Plaza"
2. Drink when they drink. Remember that Alec Baldwin plays an alcoholic with a great voice.
3. Drink for Daddy Issues. That encompasses 90% of the characters on this show.
4. Drink for impressions or funny voices
5. Drink for product placement or tongue-in-cheek advertisement
6. Drink when someone mentions a television show, real or fake. The exception to this rule is TGS: drink whenever you see a sketch instead.
7. Drink when a character takes a stand or takes up a cause
8. Drink when someone mentions "having it all".
All the above rules apply. Also...
1. Drink for episode title drops
2. Drink for references to NBC or one of their parent companies.
3. Drink when someone tells a lie, or it's revealed someone's been lying.
4. Drink when someone bursts into song
5. Drink for startling revelations or epiphanies
All the above rules apply. Also...
1. Drink for misleading sentences. Basically, when you can hear the ellipses written in the script, take a sip.
2. Drink when a joke revolves around someone's race, ethnicity or nationality.
3. Drink for nicknames.
4. Drink for homoerotic tension. It's mostly one-sided.
5. Drink when Jack and Liz's relationship is pointed at.
6. Drink when reference is made to Kenneth being immortal.
Krissy Pappau: Wants to go to there (Easy)
Pooh Daddy: Working on getting his EGOT (Easy)
Velma Jinkies: Once ran for Mayor of Stone Mountain and lost to the horse (Medium)
Some Guy: Dumped Liz Lemon because of her weird foot thing. He regrets it. (Medium)
Big Moose: Is Cam-Eh-Ra shy (Medium)
The Fuzzy Masked Man: Knows what art is. It's pictures of horses (Hard)
30 Rock's Evolution: The TraJennaPro
Fans of the show might have hazy memories of the first season, but it is really worth going back and watching the pilot episodes. 30 Rock had a hard time figuring out what it wanted to be. It was written with the quickness of a sketch-comedy show, but presented in a shaky, realistic style, akin to "The Office" without the documentary-style interviews. There was less music and more of an emphasis on presenting the "reality" of a highly theatrical situation.
That all changed as the show continued, and by season three it had cemented its cartoonish style and high-paced, almost absurdist brand of comedy. The characters knew who they were and how they related to each other, and the jokes came faster and faster, reaching close to 12 jokes per minute by the end of the series.
The best part of this is that the show didn't have to compromise all that much to continue its run. The concept was the same, the writing was the same, the characters weren't given drastically new personalities, and none of the main characters were replaced (save Rachel Dratch as the recurring ensemble member). The creators of the show managed to find that line between appealing to the general public and sticking to their vision, a line they danced a tango with for eight years.
What exactly did they change then, besides fixing the pacing issues? You can find the answer to this question by examining two characters: Tracy and Jenna.
Let's start with Tracy. His character is introduced into the show with a clip showing him running naked down the highway. He's like Eddie Murphy at the height of his stand-up comedy career: young, crazy, and just dangerous enough to be shocking. He is a true threat to the world that Liz has built at TGS, and a real wild card.
By season six...Tracy's more like Eddie Murphy present day. He's gained weight. His antics have gone from boat-stealing to keeping exotic animals and writing an autobiography in a day. "In the early seasons," Big Moose added, "Tracey was keenly aware of racial politics, and that goes away almost entirely." Not only did the writers make Tracy less dangerous, they made him a little less intelligent. Season One Tracy freaks out on people because he enjoys keeping them on their toes, and knows he'll get attention in the process. Tracy stills wants attention in the later seasons, but goes about getting it like a spoiled child instead of a borderline psycho someone handed a microphone to.
Let's make this clear: the tweaks to Jenna and Tracy's character are negligible, and NOT a bad thing at all. If anything, nailing down what makes these two tick saved the show. The situations in this show are very stressful, and if they mirror real life too closely, all it does is stress the audience out. That may account for negative feedback for the first couple seasons; people found it hard to watch. By making things strange (oh my God, this show is Brechtian, pinch me), 30 Rock allows us to look at the events objectively while still identifying with the characters and more importantly with what the characters represent. At heart, this show is about subverting and appealing to stereotype. It's difficult to do, and 30 Rock pulls it off with aplomb.
Rules are Fun
First, I realized that because of my "nickname" rule on Hard Mode, everyone needs to drink every time someone says "Toofer."
We realized joyfully that the title of the fourth episode we watched was "Floyd". So we had to drink every time someone said "Floyd" in an episode about Floyd.
"No, you're not," scoffed Some Guy. We looked over at our three bottles of wine. We'd only made our way through one and a bit, FAR below the "Godfather" standard of wine drinking.
I'm willing to blame the episodes we watched for our poor showing during this game, because I think my rules are fantastic. They work much better for the latter half of the show, though, so I DO suppose they could use some tweaking...
Drink for Connecting Jokes
Borrowed from the Arrested Development game, this rule means you should drink every time a reference is made in one episode that is ALSO made in another one you watch, or if events in another episode are referenced. For example, Jenna's obsession with Mickey Rorke, or basically anything having to do with Devin Banks' storyline.
Drink when a character embarks on a new project.
They might all work for TGS, but these characters all have their own lives. And they gotta pay bills somehow. Whether it's Jenna starring in yet ANOTHER student film, or Jack funneling his energy into coaching a youth baseball team, the cast of 30 Rock knows how to fill their days.
Take a BIG drink whenever someone uses the phrase "Shut it down".
It doesn't happen quite often enough to make it a regular rule. But it's still one of the most well-remembered quotes from the series.
For Your Inebriation is written by Krissy Pappau (Hollis Beck). Video footage is taken by Pooh Daddy (Vincent Graham) and edited by Seb (Amy Yourd). All "30 Rock" images are owned by NBC.