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Show Within a Show: 20 Fake TV Series From "30 Rock"

As Liz Lemon gets ready to utter her final "Blerg!" on the series finale, here’s a look back at 20 fake shows from the world of 30 Rock that are so close to being real it’s almost not funny (but is).

  • <p>Aired: Season 1 Episode 11</p>

<p>The very first fake show within the world of <em>30 Rock</em> was the brainchild of Jack McBrayer’s sweet Southern page, Kenneth. <em>Gold Case</em> is a game show in the spirit of <em>Deal or No Deal,</em> wherein one of a series of models holding briefcases is actually holding one filled with gold. Unfortunately, it turns out the weight of the gold makes for a dead giveaway. Host John McEnroe is not happy about this outcome.</p>
  • <p>Aired: Season 2 Episode 11</p>

<p>Perhaps the best-remembered of all the <em>30 Rock</em> pretend shows, <em>MILF Island</em> is exactly the <em>Survivor</em> parody it sounds like: 25 super-hot moms, 50 eighth grade boys, no rules.</p>
  • <p>Aired: Season 3 Episode 10</p>

<p>Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy finds himself not currying favor with paramour Salma Hayek’s mother, who is hooked on this Puerto Rican soap opera (the title translates to "The Secret Lovers"). The show’s villainous Generalissimo bares an uncanny resemblance to Donaghy.</p>
  • <p>Aired: Season 3 Episode 22</p>

<p>Liz Lemon and Jane Krakowski’s Jenna Maroney go on this daytime talk show to talk about the runaway popularity of their new catchphrase: "That’s a dealbreaker, ladies."</p>
  • <p>Aired: Season 4 Episode 7</p>

<p>Liz Lemon’s catchphrase eventually turned into a <em>He’s Just Not That Into You</em>-level phenomenon, spawning a book and eventually this TV show, which we were to correctly assume was not long for this (pretend) world.</p>
  • <p>Aired: Season 4 Episode 17</p>

<p>This show, in which Will Ferrell plays the titular Bitch Hunter, supposedly got the executives at fictional NBC in hot water. It is unclear what exactly Ferrell’s Bitch Hunter is hunting.</p>
  • <p>Name: Right On <br />
Aired: Season 5 Episode 3</p>

<p>Keith Powell’s character "Toofer" has always struggled with accusations of not being "black enough." On this episode, however, he is promoted to co-head writer in order to fulfill a new diversity quotient. The afrocentric show <em>Right On</em> has little love for Liz Lemon when she comes on with Toofer to talk about his role on TGS.</p>
  • <p>Aired: Season 5 Episode 12</p>

<p>Jack Donaghy’s most significant love interest in all of <em>30 Rock</em> is Elizabeth Banks’s journalist, Avery Jessup. Here we see her <em>Squawk Box</em>-like financial show.</p>
  • <p>Aired: Season 5 Episode 14</p>

<p>Real actresses Lindsay Price, Teri Polo, and Aisha Tyler play themselves as leads of a failed NBC show. Although we only see the opening credits, it’s well worth it for the on-the-nose theme song, which describes its generic-sitcom lead characters ("One of them has to be Asian," etc.).</p>
  • <p>Aired: Season 5 Episode 17 (and also Season 6 Episode 19)</p>

<p>Tracy Jordan’s wife gets her own reality show. Angie Jordan (played by the formidable Sherri Shepherd) says things like "My single 'My Single Is Dropping’ is dropping." Her show is a perfect amalgam of every single show on Bravo. <em>Queen of Jordan</em> is the deepest that <em>30 Rock</em> ever delved into parody of TV shows; two whole episodes are devoted to it, with typical Lemon-Donaghy plot lines bleeding over into the Angie action.</p>
  • <p>Aired: Season 6 Episode 1</p>

<p>John McEnroe returns, this time as co-host alongside Jenna Maroney of a parody of every singing competition show on TV. The show would remain an ongoing plot thread throughout the sixth season, with Jenna embracing her villainous turn to a Simon Cowell-ish degree and way beyond. The writers were careful as ever to fully nail the lingo that the judges use in their assessments of the contestants. ("I think you’re a star," etc.)</p>
  • <p>Aired: Season 6 Episode 4</p>

<p>A short-lived game show on NBC in which homeless people would win money for confessing to crimes they didn’t commit.</p>
  • <p>Aired: Season 6 Episode 18</p>

<p>This take on <em>The Honeymooners</em> surfaced during one of the show’s famed live episodes. It was supposedly part of <em>The Kraft Product Placement Comedy Hour</em>.</p>
  • <p>Aired: Season 6 Episode 18</p>

<p>From the same live episode, this show presented Alec Baldwin as a swingin’ Dean Martin type bringing some over-the-top misogyny to the small screen.</p>
  • <p>Aired: Season 6 Episode 18</p>

<p>From the live episode, guest star Jon Hamm helped elevate this satire on old shows that relied on glorified minstrelsy.</p>
  • <p>Aired: Season 6 Episode 18</p>

<p>This obvious take on <em>Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In</em> features Alec Baldwin’s unforgettable Nixon impression.</p>
  • <p>Aired: Season 7 Episode 1</p>

<p>Fittingly enough, the premiere episode of the final season was partly about Jack Donaghy’s decision to sandbag NBC with purposefully bad shows. Among them was this hour-long drama about <em>Hunchbacks,</em> starring Jonathan SIlverman. It was pitched as an alternative to sexy vampire shows.</p>
  • <p>Aired: Season 7 Episode 1</p>

<p>Also from the first episode of the final season, the point of <em>Tank It </em> is for grandpas to put on tank tops so the studio audience can laugh at them.</p>
  • <p>Aired: Season 7 Episode 1</p>

<p>This game show is unwinnable: Anytime the contestant guesses, say, "meet," the answer will always be "meat."</p>
  • <p>Aired: Season 7 Episode 1</p>

<p>The centerpiece in Donaghy’s plot to hurt NBC with bad programming, this parody of high-concept cop shows stars Donaghy himself as a cop who also happens to be God.</p>
  • 01 /20
    | #1 Gold Case

    Aired: Season 1 Episode 11

    The very first fake show within the world of 30 Rock was the brainchild of Jack McBrayer’s sweet Southern page, Kenneth. Gold Case is a game show in the spirit of Deal or No Deal, wherein one of a series of models holding briefcases is actually holding one filled with gold. Unfortunately, it turns out the weight of the gold makes for a dead giveaway. Host John McEnroe is not happy about this outcome.

  • 02 /20
    | #2: MILF Island

    Aired: Season 2 Episode 11

    Perhaps the best-remembered of all the 30 Rock pretend shows, MILF Island is exactly the Survivor parody it sounds like: 25 super-hot moms, 50 eighth grade boys, no rules.

  • 03 /20
    | #3: Los Amantes Clandestinos

    Aired: Season 3 Episode 10

    Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy finds himself not currying favor with paramour Salma Hayek’s mother, who is hooked on this Puerto Rican soap opera (the title translates to "The Secret Lovers"). The show’s villainous Generalissimo bares an uncanny resemblance to Donaghy.

  • 04 /20
    | #4: The Vondella Show

    Aired: Season 3 Episode 22

    Liz Lemon and Jane Krakowski’s Jenna Maroney go on this daytime talk show to talk about the runaway popularity of their new catchphrase: "That’s a dealbreaker, ladies."

  • 05 /20
    | #5: Dealbreakers

    Aired: Season 4 Episode 7

    Liz Lemon’s catchphrase eventually turned into a He’s Just Not That Into You-level phenomenon, spawning a book and eventually this TV show, which we were to correctly assume was not long for this (pretend) world.

  • 06 /20
    | #6: Bitch Hunter

    Aired: Season 4 Episode 17

    This show, in which Will Ferrell plays the titular Bitch Hunter, supposedly got the executives at fictional NBC in hot water. It is unclear what exactly Ferrell’s Bitch Hunter is hunting.

  • 07 /20
    | #7: Right On

    Name: Right On
    Aired: Season 5 Episode 3

    Keith Powell’s character "Toofer" has always struggled with accusations of not being "black enough." On this episode, however, he is promoted to co-head writer in order to fulfill a new diversity quotient. The afrocentric show Right On has little love for Liz Lemon when she comes on with Toofer to talk about his role on TGS.

  • 08 /20
    | #8: Hot Box with Avery Jessup

    Aired: Season 5 Episode 12

    Jack Donaghy’s most significant love interest in all of 30 Rock is Elizabeth Banks’s journalist, Avery Jessup. Here we see her Squawk Box-like financial show.

  • 09 /20
    | #9: Gals On the Town

    Aired: Season 5 Episode 14

    Real actresses Lindsay Price, Teri Polo, and Aisha Tyler play themselves as leads of a failed NBC show. Although we only see the opening credits, it’s well worth it for the on-the-nose theme song, which describes its generic-sitcom lead characters ("One of them has to be Asian," etc.).

  • 10 /20
    | #10: Queen of Jordan

    Aired: Season 5 Episode 17 (and also Season 6 Episode 19)

    Tracy Jordan’s wife gets her own reality show. Angie Jordan (played by the formidable Sherri Shepherd) says things like "My single 'My Single Is Dropping’ is dropping." Her show is a perfect amalgam of every single show on Bravo. Queen of Jordan is the deepest that 30 Rock ever delved into parody of TV shows; two whole episodes are devoted to it, with typical Lemon-Donaghy plot lines bleeding over into the Angie action.

  • 11 /20
    | #11: America's Kidz Got Singing

    Aired: Season 6 Episode 1

    John McEnroe returns, this time as co-host alongside Jenna Maroney of a parody of every singing competition show on TV. The show would remain an ongoing plot thread throughout the sixth season, with Jenna embracing her villainous turn to a Simon Cowell-ish degree and way beyond. The writers were careful as ever to fully nail the lingo that the judges use in their assessments of the contestants. ("I think you’re a star," etc.)

  • 12 /20
    | #12: My Fault

    Aired: Season 6 Episode 4

    A short-lived game show on NBC in which homeless people would win money for confessing to crimes they didn’t commit.

  • 13 /20
    | #13: The Lovebirds

    Aired: Season 6 Episode 18

    This take on The Honeymooners surfaced during one of the show’s famed live episodes. It was supposedly part of The Kraft Product Placement Comedy Hour.

  • 14 /20
    | #14: The Joey Montero Show

    Aired: Season 6 Episode 18

    From the same live episode, this show presented Alec Baldwin as a swingin’ Dean Martin type bringing some over-the-top misogyny to the small screen.

  • 15 /20
    | #15: Alfie and Abner

    Aired: Season 6 Episode 18

    From the live episode, guest star Jon Hamm helped elevate this satire on old shows that relied on glorified minstrelsy.

  • 16 /20
    | #16 The Gruber Brother and Nipsey

    Aired: Season 6 Episode 18

    This obvious take on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In features Alec Baldwin’s unforgettable Nixon impression.

  • 17 /20
    | #17: Hunchbacks

    Aired: Season 7 Episode 1

    Fittingly enough, the premiere episode of the final season was partly about Jack Donaghy’s decision to sandbag NBC with purposefully bad shows. Among them was this hour-long drama about Hunchbacks, starring Jonathan SIlverman. It was pitched as an alternative to sexy vampire shows.

  • 18 /20
    | #18: Tank It

    Aired: Season 7 Episode 1

    Also from the first episode of the final season, the point of Tank It is for grandpas to put on tank tops so the studio audience can laugh at them.

  • 19 /20
    | #19: Homonym!

    Aired: Season 7 Episode 1

    This game show is unwinnable: Anytime the contestant guesses, say, "meet," the answer will always be "meat."

  • 20 /20
    | #20: God Cop

    Aired: Season 7 Episode 1

    The centerpiece in Donaghy’s plot to hurt NBC with bad programming, this parody of high-concept cop shows stars Donaghy himself as a cop who also happens to be God.

If precedent is any indicator, the final episode of 30 Rock will begin with Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon psyching herself up for the final episode of TGS with Tracy Jordan, the series’ central show within a show. 30 Rock is nothing if not self-referential, with season premiere plots often hinging on TGS’s return from summer hiatus. But the scope of parody in Fey’s zany-smart workplace comedy reaches far beyond its own navel; the series has long made ruthless fun of television as a whole.

When it debuted in 2006, 30 Rock was presented to baffled viewers as a show about Saturday Night Live, It was an idea that didn’t seem to have legs, especially with Aaron Sorkin’s dramatized version of same guaranteeing that at least one such show would be canceled imminently. Of course, the SNL-esque TGS gradually became less the subject of the show than merely its setting—and often just a flitting presence in the background. While the satirical focus on television was often dropped in favor of Liz Lemon’s mostly doomed attempts to lead a balanced life without compromising, it still hung around—often in the form of fake TV.

Ridiculous reality competitions, sexy vampire counter programming, even the supposed golden age of TV—it’s all fair game for Fey and her tremendous writing staff. Over the course of seven seasons, 30 Rock has racked up enough fake shows to adequately populate a network’s fall lineup. As the show takes its final bow on January 31, look through the slide show above for an overview of what TV might look like in an alternate universe. (Hint: an only slightly exaggerated version of this universe.)

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