Even as “30 Rock” hit its comedic stride, it never garnered the commercial success of previous NBC sitcoms like “Seinfeld” or “Friends.” That’s not surprising given the show’s penchant for obscure political and cultural references that included Basquiat, Nixon, and Selena. Fey’s co-star Jack McBrayer, who played the gleeful Kenneth “the page” Parcell, told Rolling Stone that the show wasn’t popular in his native Georgia.
“It’s a very specific taste. My family doesn’t get it. They don’t watch SNL. There are no references for them to grab on to. There’s not a lot I can do to be like, ‘OK, here are these crazy references we’re making,’ because some of them I don’t get!”
The niche humor of “30 Rock” birthed other New York-based successors like “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Girls5Eva,” the latter making specific, East Coast references to the Strand bookstore and “The Daily” podcast host Michael Barbaro in a Simon & Garfunkel-infused ballad, “New York Lonely Boy.” Both “Kimmy Schmidt” and “Girls5Eva,” produced by Fey and her frequent collaborator Robert Carlock, have aired on streaming platforms, where they don’t have to compete with the broader humor of other network comedies that might be more likely to lean into laugh tracks than Kim Jong-Il jokes. They’re also helmed by Fey protégé Meredith Scardino, who has somehow cranked the show’s angsty feminist and absurdist humor up several notches. If there’s anything formulaic about those shows, it’s that audiences can depend on rapid-fire dialogue, bizarre gags, and the presence of a narcissistic Broadway diva, whether they’re played by Jane Krakowski, Tituss Burgess, or Renée Elise Goldsberry.