Navigating television production during the coronavirus pandemic has proven challenging, but a handful of series have figured out how to make it work. Most prominently, the Parks And Recreation cast reunited for a surprisingly impressive special in April—and now its former NBC Thursday night lead-in 30 Rock is following suit with its own “One-Time Special.” But, unlike their Parks And Rec pals, it appears the 30 Rock crew went beyond a Zoom setup to film actual scenes in actual New York City streets around actual other people. “Boom! Another successful interaction with a man,” a masked Liz (creator Tina Fey) exclaims in the special’s trailer after terrifying an unmasked coronavirus survivor on his way to donate plasma.
The 30 Rock: One-Time Special is set to air Thursday at 8 p.m. ET, just one day after the launch of NBCUniversal’s new streaming platform, Peacock. According to the promo above, Peacock will feature “every 30 Rock episode”—but that’s not exactly true. In late June, Fey and executive producer Robert Carlock asked NBCUniversal to pull four 30 Rock episodes that feature characters in blackface from Hulu, Amazon, and Peacock. In a written statement to the various streaming platforms, Fey expressed that “‘intent’ is not a free pass for white people to use these images” and that she’s sorry for “pain they have caused.” She added that “no comedy-loving kid needs to stumble on these tropes and be stung by their ugliness.”
The episodes in question are “Believe In The Stars” from season three (which features Jane Krakowski posing as a Black man to prove that white women have it tougher in society), “Christmas Attack Zone” from season five (Krakowski dresses as former Pittsburgh Steelers player Lynn Swann for a Black Swan joke), the live episode from season six (which had Jon Hamm in blackface in a parody of Amos ‘N’ Andy), and the East Coast version of season five’s live episode. At the time of its removal, Vulture reported that it’s unclear why the season 5 live episode was taken down, but that it does feature a joke about Fox News referring to Barack Obama being a “Kenyan liar” that was changed in the West Coast version.
In addition to being removed from Hulu and Amazon, these episodes will no longer air in syndication on regular TV and they will be unavailable for purchase from iTunes and Google Play. This news came on the heels of Netflix pulling an episode of With Bob & David that featured David Cross in blackface (Cross seemed to disagree with the decision to pull it), and Jimmy Fallon apologizing for an old SNL clip of him in blackface that resurfaced back in May. The day after the 30 Rock news, Jimmy Kimmel released a statement apologizing for performing in blackface in comedy sketches several times over the course of his career, saying that—while he “thought of them as impersonations of celebrities and nothing more” at the time—the sketches are “embarrassing” to look back at now. He criticized right-wing critics trying to “feign outrage” over the backlash and stated he was apologizing to prove that he won’t be “bullied into silence.” Kimmel’s statement was released just days after the announcement he was going on a three-month break from Jimmy Kimmel Live! over the summer. He said in the statement that the break was already planned before the controversy came up.
Looking for ways to advocate for Black lives? Check out this list of resources by our sister site Lifehacker for ways to get involved.