30 Rock: too far is just about right

In the last week, with 30 Rock ending, I’ve been trying to come up with a viable theory of what made it special. My starting point was one bit that has echoed in my brain whenever I thought of 30 Rock in the past few years, a short exchange between protagonist Liz Lemon and the inimitable Jack Donaghy (played by Alec Baldwin and Alec Baldwin’s glorious hair):

It’s a 30 Rock classic and I came across it in two prominent best-of lists (on salon.com and avclub.com). This isn’t the only kind of joke on 30 Rock, but it feels like the most distinctive kind. If I have to explain it (and, yes, explaining it takes half the fun out of a joke), I’d say the laugh lies in the wild exaggeration of a stereotypical trait, in this case, Jack’s smug pretension.

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