A Modest Proposal: It’s Not HBO, It’s Television.

30 Rock is in it’s 5th season and is expected to return for a 6th season. It airs on Thursday on NBC at 10/9c. It’s apart of NBC’s Thursday comedy lineup. Currently NBC airs “Parks and Recreation” before “30 Rock” and the new series “Outsourced” after it.

30 Rock is, in many ways, not the typical sitcom, but it is indicative of a shift in comedies on network television. In the past few years sitcoms have begun to change and adapt to audiences’ changing interests. More and more, people are looking for comedy television shows that are willing to take their audiences a bit more seriously while taking themselves (or their industry) a bit less seriously.

30 Rock relies on it’s quirky characters and relatively quick fire jokes to drive the series forward. Although no one looks at characters like Liz Lemon (played by Tina Fey) in complete admiration, we should (and some people do). She’s weird and honest. She’s real. Although 30 Rock has not been a ratings magnet for NBC, the few and proud fans of 30 Rock stand by it. So have many critics and industry colleagues as 30 Rock has many awards, including the Emmy’s for Outstanding Comedy Series.

As a comedy series NBC’s “30 Rock” is successful. It delivers pretty well on what it promises: comedy. They really pack it in. As is product, it is not as successful. It doesn’t quite bring in the audience NBC would surely like. They have creatively turned product placement into a running gag and maybe even an art form.  30 Rock has the potential to be the perfect show (for both network executives and comedy lovers). The show’s writers, creator, actors, and guest actors all have the potential to create great television.

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A “Confused Creation”

The average television viewer in America would probably think themselves pretty savvy. They know what’s good and they certainly know an advertisement when they see it. Good, advertisers are counting on it. That’s why they’ve been changing their tactics for some time.

Although you may not notice, advertisers are flooding your television screen, just hoping to get your attention, subtly of course. In her 1991 article Doreen Carvajal reports on a local Philadelphia news station who replaced and episode of their local news a “special” health report shot at and sponsored by a local hospital. This raises some ethical concerns. Of all the people on Television, don’t the news shows have a sort of civil duty to bring you the truth? I guess it depends on their sponsors. In that same article the news station even talks about replacing their local news with a show entirely dedicated to shopping at local businesses. Thirty solid minutes of advertising sounds pretty good to the station. It assures them more money than some local news show that gets low ratings. But what about the viewer at home? What if this happened in a smaller city without only a couple of local news shows? It could severely affect what information was readily available to the public. Important stories could go un-aired. But at least you’d know where to get the best produce. At least you wouldn’t miss a single sale. At least you’d be a well trained consumer.
That was in 1991.

Today it might go something like this:

700 Club Screen Shots

That’s called the 700 club. It airs on ABC Family.The 700 club’s “show” is an infomercial. That is to say it’s a really long commercial.  In his article, “Advertising: The Magic System”, Raymond Williams states that in advertising an object “must be validated, if only in fantasy, by association with social and personal meanings.” The 700 Club associates admission to their club with spiritual gain. They’re mostly promoting their club for about an hour. The show sort of claims to be part news and part charitable organization doing it’s job. What’s their job? Letting Americans buy their salvation. Of course, why wouldn’t I buy my spirituality the same place I watch “Whose Line is it anyway?” reruns. It’s perfect. Get your worldly fix at 8 and call in at 9 to buy back your soul. You’ll be saved by bed time.

I’ll end with a quote from Raymond Williams article: “Most advertising is not the cool creation of skilled professionals, but the confused creation of bad thinkers and artists.”

700 Club Website
ABC Family Contractually obligated to air 700 Club
Carvajal, Doreen “Is It News, Ad, Or Infomercial”
Williams, Raymond “Advertising: The Magic System”

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