CLOSE
Original image
nbc

30 Fun Facts About 30 Rock

Original image
nbc

Though it turned out to be one of the most critically acclaimed television comedies of all time, earning a record-breaking 22 Primetime Emmy Award nominations in 2009 alone, life behind the scenes of 30 Rock wasn’t always a laugh riot. From cast changes to cancellation concerns, there was always something to make Tina Fey go blurgh—though nothing that a good (or even mediocre) sandwich couldn’t fix. Here are 30 things you might not know about Fey's quirky comedy.

1. It was supposed to be a show about news, not sketch comedy.

Fey originally pitched a show about a Bill O'Reilly-like news program, in which she'd play the producer. “The first pitch was not unlike The Newsroom on HBO,” she later told Rolling Stone. NBC Vice President Kevin Reilly told her she should use her time at SNL as inspiration, and although she was initially not into the idea—“it seemed so lazy to just write about writing”—she came around when she thought about casting Tracy Morgan. It didn’t hurt that they had Lorne Michaels’ blessing, who had signed on to executive produce Fey’s show.

2. 30 Rock wasn’t the first choice for the title.

The show was originally going to be called Rock Center. Fey preferred the title The Peacock, but NBC didn’t want them to mock the company logo.

3. No one involved expected Alec Baldwin to accept a starring role.

NBC

Fey created the character of Jack Donaghy for Baldwin, but she never thought he'd actually do the show; she didn’t even reach out to him before holding auditions for the part. But Baldwin happened to be hosting SNL around that time, so Fey and Michaels mentioned the part to him. "I cannot believe we got him," she said at a Paley Center for Media panel. One of the main reasons that Baldwin accepted was the promise of a four-day weekend. As the actor told Salon:

It was about Lorne Michaels, after my divorce, saying, “Come do this and I will make this palatable for your schedule,” because I had an obligation to fly out to L.A. to see my daughter every other weekend. This was seven years ago. Back then my daughter was 9 ... [It] was primarily about Lorne saying, “I will protect your schedule and you will not lose any time with your daughter. Come do this show.” And I really needed a harbor at that time. The idea of flying around and making my visitation with my daughter dependent on the whims of a film producer was always excruciating ... I had an almost inconceivably advantageous schedule at '30 Rock.' I always shot Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and had a four-day weekend to see my daughter.

4. Baldwin based Jack Donaghy on Lorne Michaels.

Fey denies that the Liz-Jack relationship was based on her relationship with Michaels—but Baldwin took inspiration from him anyway. He told NPR that "Professionally, [Jack is] a prototype of several GE executives, but in his personal life, he's Lorne Michaels. As I always say, 'Lorne is someone who has a tuxedo in the glove compartment of his car.' And Lorne is a friend, and I adore Lorne. But we do stick it to Lorne a lot.”

5. The writers struggled to create the Jack-Liz relationship.

Fey said at a Paley Center event that the Liz and Jack relationship was a tough dynamic to define, but that the writers landed on “somewhere between Mary Tyler Moore and Lou Grant and Han Solo and Princess Leia.”

6. Romance between Jack and Liz was never an option.

Many wondered what would come of the relationship between Jack and Liz, but showrunner and writer Robert Carlock has stated that the writers never planned to explore any romance between the two characters.

7. Rachel Dratch was supposed to play Jenna.

Fey’s fellow SNL alum, Dratch, was originally cast in the part of Jenna DeCarlo (her last name was changed to Maroney when they hired Jane Krakowski). "I think the big thing was—at least what they told me—that at first they wanted to have more comedy sketches in the show," Dratch told New York Magazine. "Then they decided they weren’t going to focus on the sketches, so they needed more of a sitcom actress, as opposed to a character actress." Dratch did go on to play around 10 different characters throughout 30 Rock’s run.

8. Tracy Morgan was friends with his on-screen entourage.

Morgan and Grizz Chapman, who played Grizz, were friends in real life before being cast on the show, and Kevin Brown, who played Dot Com, was once Morgan’s manager. “The chemistry you see on camera—that's what it is," Chapman told CNN. "What you see on camera—that's just friends, so that's why it comes across so well on TV.”

9. Jon Hamm auditioned for the part of Jack.

Though he didn’t get the role, Hamm went on to play one of Liz’s love interests, Dr. Drew Baird. "A lot of times when we’re writing we’ll have an actor in mind and we’ll keep referring to them," Fey told Entertainment Weekly. "Like for this [role] we said, 'Then Hamm comes in, blah blah blah.' And I kept saying, 'You know, you guys, we probably aren’t going to get Jon Hamm.' But we were lucky with the timing because Mad Men was on hiatus and he was hosting SNL. So I called over there and asked them [whispering], 'Hey, is that guy funny? Tell me the truth.' And they were like, 'Yes, he’s really funny.' By Saturday I knew they were right."

10. Donald Glover was a writer for the show.

Before he starred on Community or made it big as a rapper, Glover was a very young writer for 30 Rock. "Donald started right out of college as a writer at 30 Rock," Fey told Entertainment Weekly. "He was actually still, I believe, living in an NYU dorm. He was an RA, and he would work and go home to a dorm." Glover made brief appearances in a few episodes, then returned to play young Tracy Jordan in a live episode. That Tracy Morgan impression also came in handy when the crew asked him to record the extended version of “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah.”

11. Judah Friedlander brought his personal style to the part of Frank.

NBC

When Friedlander was cast as TGS writer Frank, he insisted on bringing his own look to the part. According to Friedlander, “The character was not supposed to be wearing glasses or a hat. But you know, before doing 30 Rock I’d done lots of movies, and in a lot of those I completely changed my appearance as well as the way I talked ... So when I was doing this show, I told them, ‘I’ve gotta look like me.’ I’m still doing standup all the time, and my look is very particular to my standup act. It’s all interconnected.”

12. Morgan improvised a few of Tracy Jordan’s famous possessions.

In the second episode of season one, when Liz is surprised to learn that Tracy Jordan owns a yacht, Tracy responds, “I got a yacht. I got a solid gold jet ski, two Batmobiles, the AIDS monkey’s bones …” That part was scripted, but according to Fey, his line ended there, and they needed him to keep talking as his character rounded a corner. So he improvised a few additional items, like “the first moped,” “a pair of Rock Hudson's socks,” and “a pair of Bill Bixby’s glasses from when he used to be your best friend.”

13. Morgan was known for his improvising.

According to the other cast members, Morgan improvised quite frequently. Kevin Brown joked that it was because “he never looked at the script.” But, Morgan asserted, “I come from a standup background and the first three letters in the word funny are fun. So I always had fun with it and I guess I made it look easy. I made it look like I wasn't reading the script.”

14. Fey thought the show would get cancelled during season one.

In 2006, 30 Rock was often mentioned in the same sentence as Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. They both premiered on NBC at around the same time and even had similar premises—both were peeks behind the scenes of a sketch comedy show. Many people wondered which would last. Meanwhile, Fey was busy thinking about whether 30 Rock was just too out there. Krakowski later recalled, “Today I was remembering Paul Reubens being on the show in season one. It had a real title ['Black Tie'], but I remember Tina was calling the episode 'Goodbye America' because she thought we wouldn't stay on the air after that one. That was the first time that we knew the show was not going to be normal.”

15. The show contained almost 10 jokes per minute.

NBC

The show was known for its fast-paced writing. In 2010, one blogger actually calculated how many jokes there were per minute in the show. They determined that there was an average of 9.57 jokes each minute.

16. The second season almost ended with Liz adopting a 12-year-old boy.

The writers toyed around with the idea of Liz adopting a kid early on in the show. But the adoption wouldn’t last long: they planned to have the child steal from Liz, then vanish. According to Entertainment Weekly, "NBC promised to promote the plot line over the summer. But that never happened, and the story was dropped."

17. Jenna and Pete almost dated.

Another planned plotline that didn’t happen: some interoffice romance between Jenna and Pete. A script even made it to the table read, but the writers eventually nixed it because they found it too weird and didn’t like the idea of Pete being unfaithful to his wife.

18. Fey’s husband, Jeff Richmond, composed the music for the show.

Richmond and Fey married in 2001 after meeting each other at The Second City in Chicago. They’ve managed to continue working together for much of their careers. In addition to composing the music for 30 Rock, Richmond produced the show and even made a few cameos. More recently, Richmond did the music for Fey’s latest producing effort, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

19. The show actually leaned conservatively.

NBC

Though the show was often considered leftist, the writers actually made an effort to have the conservative Jack Donaghy be correct more than liberal Liz Lemon. As Carlock explained to Rolling Stone, “It’s a lot more fun to let the conservative guy be right more because it’s contrary to what most TV shows are flogging. It’s fun to let Liz be a little less well-informed, but maybe a little more morally right, and Jack to be a lot more sophisticated.”

20. There were a few Easter eggs in Liz Lemon’s office.

Some of the items on the wall of Lemon’s office were personal to Fey. They included a few pictures of her daughter, a picture of Fey with Don Pardo, and Amy Poehler’s cover of BUST Magazine.

21. Fey used the real Jack McBrayer as inspiration for his character, Kenneth the page.

McBrayer loves to eat chickpeas out of a can, and he told Conan O'Brien that Fey made his character a fan of that snack as well. She used his quirks as inspiration for other characters, too: like McBrayer, Nancy Donovan (played by Julianne Moore) wrapped a can of Sprite in tin foil to keep it cold.

22. When Oprah guest starred, she accused Fey of working too hard.

Oprah made an appearance in season three, which was filmed in 2008. That happened to be the same time that Fey agreed to reappear on SNL to impersonate Sarah Palin (despite the fact that she hadn’t been a cast member on the show for years). Fey told The New York Times that when Oprah learned that Fey was going right from an all-day Saturday shoot to her first appearance as Palin on SNL, she said Fey might be overextending herself.

23. Christopher Cross was a fan of the show.

NBC

In the season four episode “Floyd,” Liz cries and sings a made-up Christopher Cross song. After watching the episode, Cross actually finished the song, then recorded a version of it and sent it to the crew. To return the favor, the writers named Liz’s last boyfriend “Criss Chros” after him.

24. There was a live stage show before the live episode aired.

In the fifth season, 30 Rock tackled its first live episode. But the cast had actually already done a live show during the Writers Guild of America Strike of 2007-2008. To raise money for the writers, they performed an already-aired episode in front of a live audience. Since they had a great time, they decided to write one to broadcast live.

25. Fey enlisted SNL experts to help with the live episode.

The live episode was filmed on the SNL set in front of an audience. They also hired Beth McCarthy-Miller, who directed SNL for 11 years, to direct the episode and ensure all of the live aspects went off without a hitch.

26. Baldwin almost left the show after the fifth season.

He thought the writing and creativity had taken a downturn. "It was the low point," Baldwin told Rolling Stone. "Though even anemic 30 Rock writing is still better than everybody else's writing. I go, 'I'm going to get the f*** out of here, I'm done,' because I'm an employee, I don't have any say. So Season Five ends, and I'm saying 'Next year, I'm done,' then I come back, and Season Six is really good, we all had fun again." By the time the show ended, he was offering to take a pay cut for the show to continue.

27. Morgan had to take eight weeks off for an urgent kidney transplant in 2011.

Sherri Shepherd, who played Morgan's wife on the show, stepped in to star in a few episodes so that they could continue Tracy Jordan’s storyline while Morgan was on medical leave. And thus, the infamous “Queen of Jordan” episode was created in the style of The Real Housewives reality series.

28. To write the finale, the writers took inspiration from many sitcom finales.

They watched a handful of other television show finales on their lunch break, including the ones from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Frasier, Cheers—and iCarly. "I was moved to tears by the iCarly finale," Fey told Entertainment Weekly. "It didn’t hold up in the room because they didn’t know the characters like I did. But that was another one where they really let people say goodbye!" Said Carlock, "It was very well done."

29. The writers didn't want to end the show with a Liz Lemon wedding.

NBC

This is why she got married halfway through the final season. Fey wanted her to “find happiness,” she told Entertainment Weekly, but didn’t want marriage to “be the accumulation of her time.”

30. Baldwin bought all of Jack’s suits when the show ended.

According to Tom Broecker, the show’s costume designer, Baldwin really liked his wardrobe on the show—enough to take the suits home when the series wrapped. "He wrote a big check to NBC," Broecker told Zap2It. "He likes his clothes and wants to look good."

Original image
John Gooch/Keystone/Getty Images
arrow
entertainment
The Time Douglas Adams Met Jim Henson
Original image
John Gooch/Keystone/Getty Images

On September 13, 1983, Jim Henson and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams had dinner for the first time. Henson, who was born on this day in 1936, noted the event in his "Red Book" journal, in characteristic short-form style: "Dinner with Douglas Adams – 1st met." Over the next few years the men discussed how they might work together—they shared interests in technology, entertainment, and education, and ended up collaborating on several projects (including a Labyrinth video game). They also came up with the idea for a "Muppet Institute of Technology" project, a computer literacy TV special that was never produced. Henson historians described the project as follows:

Adams had been working with the Henson team that year on the Muppet Institute of Technology project. Collaborating with Digital Productions (the computer animation people), Chris Cerf, Jon Stone, Joe Bailey, Mark Salzman and Douglas Adams, Jim’s goal was to raise awareness about the potential for personal computer use and dispel fears about their complexity. In a one-hour television special, the familiar Muppets would (according to the pitch material), “spark the public’s interest in computing,” in an entertaining fashion, highlighting all sorts of hardware and software being used in special effects, digital animation, and robotics. Viewers would get a tour of the fictional institute – a series of computer-generated rooms manipulated by the dean, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and stumble on various characters taking advantage of computers’ capabilities. Fozzie, for example, would be hard at work in the “Department of Artificial Stupidity,” proving that computers are only as funny as the bears that program them. Hinting at what would come in The Jim Henson Hour, viewers, “…might even see Jim Henson himself using an input device called a ‘Waldo’ to manipulate a digitally-controlled puppet.”

While the show was never produced, the development process gave Jim and Douglas Adams a chance to get to know each other and explore a shared passion. It seems fitting that when production started on the 2005 film of Adams’s classic Hitchhiker’s Guide, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop would create animatronic creatures like the slovenly Vogons, the Babel Fish, and Marvin the robot, perhaps a relative of the robot designed by Michael Frith for the MIT project.

You can read a bit on the project more from Muppet Wiki, largely based on the same article.

Original image
CBS Entertainment
arrow
entertainment
13 Smart Facts About The Big Bang Theory
Original image
CBS Entertainment

The Big Bang Theory, which has held the title of television's most popular comedy for several years now, and will return for its 11th season on Monday, September 25th. In the meantime, geek out with these facts about the long-running cerebral comedy on the 10th anniversary of its premiere.

1. THE SHOW WASN’T PITCHED IN A TRADITIONAL WAY.

Instead of writing up a premise—which includes outlines of the characters and the long-term vision for the show—and pitching it to CBS, co-creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady revealed at PaleyFest in 2009 that for their pitch, they wrote a complete script, hired actors, and, as Lorre explained, “put on a show” for CBS president Les Moonves. Lorre found the experience to be “crazy,” but it obviously worked.

2. IT TOOK TWO PILOTS FOR THE SHOW TO GET PICKED UP TO SERIES.

The show filmed two different pilots, because CBS didn't like the first one but felt the show had potential. The first pilot began with a different theme song and featured Sheldon, Leonard, and two female characters, including a different actress playing what would become the Penny role. Chuck Lorre thought the initial pilot “sucked” but is open to having the unaired pilot included as part of a DVD.

3. JIM PARSONS THOUGHT HE WAS AUDITIONING FOR A GAME SHOW.

Amy and Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory.
CBS Entertainment

When Jim Parsons’s agent called and said Chuck Lorre wanted him to audition for a pilot, Parsons misunderstood. “I did not know Chuck Lorre at the time,” Parsons told David Letterman in 2014. “I thought he was talking about Chuck Woolery. I thought, why are they so excited about it? We should see what the man has to offer before we’re like, ‘It’s a new Chuck Woolery pilot!'"

4. ED ROBERTSON OF THE BARENAKED LADIES HESITATED TO WRITE THE THEME SONG.

As the story goes, Lorre and Prady went to a Barenaked Ladies concert and were impressed that lead singer Ed Robertson sang a song on cosmological theory, so they tapped him to write the series' theme song, called “The History of Everything." In 2013, Robertson told CBS News that he’d previously written some songs for TV and films only to have his work rejected, so he was initially reluctant to take on the project.

“I was like, look, how many other people have you asked to write this? I’m at my cottage, I got a couple of weeks off right now and if you’ve asked Counting Crows and Jack Johnson and all these other people to write it, then I kinda don’t want to waste my time on it,” Robertson told them. Lorre and Prady told Robertson he was their only choice, so Robertson agreed to come on board. The first version was 32 seconds long but Robertson had to trim it down to 15 seconds. The original version was also acoustic, which Lorre loved, but Robertson insisted that his bandmates be on the track, and Lorre loved that one even more.

5. SHELDON PROBABLY DOESN’T HAVE ASPERGER’S.

Because of Sheldon’s anti-social nature, viewers have often assumed that Sheldon has Asperger's syndrome. But Prady has stated that, "We write the character as the character. A lot of people see various things in him and make the connections. Our feeling is that Sheldon's mother never got a diagnosis, so we don't have one.”

Parsons himself isn’t totally sure, though. “Asperger’s came up as a question within the first few episodes. I got asked about it by a reporter, and I had heard of it, but I didn’t know what it was, specifically,” he told Adweek in 2014. “So I asked the writers—I said, ‘They’re asking me if Sheldon has Asperger’s’ and they were like, ‘No.’ And I said, ‘OK.’ And I went back and I said, ‘No.’ And then I read some about it and I went, OK, well, if the writers say he doesn’t, then he doesn’t, but he certainly shares some qualities with those who do. I like the way it’s handled ... This is who this person is; he’s just another human.”

6. KUNAL NAYYAR GOT HIRED BECAUSE HE WAS “CHARMING."

CBS Entertainment

In reminiscing about the early days, Prady explained to Buzzy Mag how Raj came to be: “When we were casting for that part, we were casting for an international member of the ensemble, [because] if you go into the science department at a university, it’s not [just] Americans,” Prady said. “It’s one of the most international kinds of communities. So we saw foreign-born people. And so we saw people who were Korean and Korean-American and Latino. And then Kunal came in and it was like Jim [Parsons]—it was just Person Number Eight on a day of Twenty-Seven people, and he was charming.”

7. AMY FARRAH FOWLER WAS MADE A NEUROSCIENTIST ON PURPOSE.

Mayim Bialik, who in real life has a PhD in neuroscience, told Variety how Amy Farrah Fowler’s profession came to be. “They didn’t have a profession for my character when I came on in the finale of season three,” she says. “In season four, Bill Prady said they’d make her what I am so I could fix things (in the script) if they were wrong. It’s neat to know what things mean. But most of the time, I don’t have to use it.”

8. ASTROPARTICLE PHYSICIST/SCIENCE CONSULTANT DAVID SALTZBERG ONCE GOT A JOKE ON THE AIR.

The Big Bang Theory has had David Saltzberg on retainer since the beginning of the series. Every week he attends the tapings and offers up corrections and ensures the white boards used in the scenes are accurate. During episode nine of the first season, Saltzberg wrote a joke for Sheldon, who has a fight with another scientist. Penny asks Sheldon about the misunderstanding and Sheldon replies, “A little misunderstanding? Galileo and the Pope had a little misunderstanding!”

Even though Saltzberg teaches at UCLA and publishes papers, he thinks his work on The Big Bang Theory is more impactful. “This has a lot more impact than anything I will ever do,” he told NPR. “It’s hard to fathom, when you think about 20 million viewers on the first showing—and that doesn't include other countries and reruns. I’m happy if a paper I write gets read by a dozen people.”

9. WIL WHEATON GOT THE “EVIL WIL WHEATON” GIG THROUGH TWITTER.

Wil Wheaton and Jim Parsons in a scene from The Big Bang Theory.
Sonja Flemming - © 2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc

Wil Wheaton, who plays a “delightfully evil version” of himself on the show, tweeted about The Big Bang Theory. Wheaton told Larry King, “I was talking on Twitter about how much I loved the show and how I thought it was really funny.” Executive producer Steven Molaro—who will be taking on the same role in the Young Sheldon prequel, which also premieres Monday night—saw the tweet and told Wheaton to let him know if he wanted to come to a taping. A few days later Wheaton received an email from Bill Prady’s assistant about appearing on the show. “I just thought the email was a joke from one of my friends, so I just ignored it,” Wheaton said.

When Wheaton realized that the email was legit he phoned up Prady, who explained they wanted a nemesis for Sheldon. “It’s always more fun to be the villain,” Wheaton said. Even though the character has evolved into Sheldon’s ally, Wheaton said, “I still call him Evil Wil Wheaton.”

10. CHUCK LORRE THOUGHT THE SHOW AIRING AT 8 P.M. WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE END.

The show aired a handful of episodes in the fall of 2007, but a Writers Guild strike halted production until the following year. When the show returned in March, it had an earlier time slot. During a 2009 Comic-Con panel with the show’s cast and producers, the moderator asked Lorre about how CBS once again changed the time slot, this time from Mondays at 8 p.m. to Mondays at 9:30 p.m. “You guys followed us when they put us on at 8 and that is what kept us alive,” Lorre replied. "We did eight shows before the strike took us out in our first season. When the strike was over, CBS put us on at 8 p.m. and we thought that might be the end of it. You followed us and kept us alive and that was when we got the two-year pickup when we did well at 8.” The show eventually returned to the Mondays at 8 p.m. slot.

11. PARSONS ATTRIBUTES THE SHOW'S SUCCESS TO ITS LACK OF CHARACTER ARCS.

In a 2014 interview with New York Magazine, Parsons gave his theory (if you will) on why The Big Bang Theory attracts more than 20 million viewers per week—a number unheard of since the Friends-era sitcom reign. “There’s not anything to keep up with,” he said. “You don’t go, ‘I didn’t see the first three seasons, and now they’re off with prostitutes, and they no longer work in the Mafia, and I don’t understand what happened.’ People have so many choices on TV now, so no one’s asking for you to marry us. You can enjoy our show without a weekly appointment.”

12. A NEW GENUS OF JELLYFISH IS NAMED BAZINGA.

CBS Entertainment

In 2011, a photographer spotted the unnamed grape-sized rhizostome in Australia’s Brunswick River, snapped a photo of it, and sent the photo to marine biologist Lisa-ann Gershwin. In 2013, she named the jellyfish and published a paper on it for the Queensland Museum. In her findings she called it “a new genus and species of the rhizostome jellyfish, which cannot be placed in any known family or suborder.” She told The Huffington Post that it’s the first time in more than 100 years that a new sub-order of jellyfish had been discovered. For now, it’s the only member of the genus Bazinga, the family Bazingidae, and the sub-order Ptychophorae. Sheldon’s catchphrase also inspired the naming of a new bee species in 2013.

13. THE CAST MEMBERS ARE SOME OF THE WORLD’S HIGHEST PAID TV ACTORS.

In August 2017, Variety released a list of television's highest paid actors, and the main cast members of The Big Bang Theory—Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Simon Helberg, and Kunal Nayyar—came out on top for comedy, earning an average of $900,000 per episode.

BONUS FACT: WE'RE ON THE COFFEE TABLE!

Image credit: Wil Wheaton

In 2010, Wil Wheaton shared this close-up of the coffee table in Sheldon and Leonard's apartment. "I saw a lot of things that could have been on my own coffee table," he wrote, "so I decided to grab a picture."

Here's one from 2014:

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios