This is the story of a can-do, adorkable girl-in-the-city and her wacky entourage of colleagues who spoof the vagaries of a media conglomerate — and joust with their lovable anti-hero boss — to make comedy and some sense of the world.
Could be the tagline of 30 Rock.
Could also be a tagline for the '70s Mary Tyler Moore Show.
And so, as 30 Rock winds down its seven seasons with the show's finale Thursday on NBC, I've been thinking about these comedy classics' quirky parallels.
Tracy Jordan, after all, is really the Ted Knight anchorman character, Ted Baxter — all flash and personality, the showy centerpiece with just a dash of brain power.
The vain Jenna Maroney is the MTMS's Betty White character, Sue Ann Nivens. Pretty blonde, competitive, and sharp-tongued. A sexual carnivore with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Pete Hornberger is Murray Slaughter, the everyman who acts as Our Girl's sidekick and confidant. Stick-thin, slightly saner than the rest, and always middle-aged, they are both a bit behind the eight ball, luck-wise — and going for the eight-ball look, hair-wise.
Jack Donaghy is, of course, Mr. Grant, curmudgeonly and conservative, always challenging his young female protege to be more like him — tough, but not too tough for a woman. Jack and Lou root for their Girl Fridays to find love, yet never really want to let them go. There's even the awkward sexual tension that never quite pans out.
And lastly, there's Liz Lemon and Mary Richards, both single girls past their 20s, searching for love (without the schmaltz), while pursuing a high-octane career. Both women pratfall through their personal relationships and remain, nonetheless, the rock and the soul of this TV family — the daughter figure who, a la Arrested Development, has no choice but to keep them all together.
Thank God for reruns, Netflix, and Hulu, at least. Still, I pondered in the hours before the finale whether the 30 Rock players would pay tribute to the sobbing group-hug shuffle that was so hilarious on the Mary Tyler Moore Show's final episode. And I wonder, too, whether this sharp-witted docu-comedy will have the same staying power as its predecessor. I do know that those of us who love classic and instant-classic comedy — and who greet with glee the spectacle of a cast having so much fun together — will mourn too.
Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson, a lecturer in The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, who can be reached at her literary blog, litdeadline.wordpress.com.