Television fans around the world have had January 31st circled on their calendars for months now. That’s the date that 30 Rock will air its heavily-hyped finale, bringing an end to one of television’s smartest and most critically acclaimed programs. Hailed by Newsday as “A rare and almost totally unexpected triumph,” this comedic gem has earned 14 Emmys, 10 Screen Actors Guild Awards and six Golden Globes since its debut in 2006. Of course, you already knew that. Here are five things you didn’t know about 30 Rock.
Rachel Dratch was supposed to be Tina Fey’s co-star
30 Rock underwent many changes from its inception to its first episode, but none was bigger than the decision to de-emphasize the show’s sketch comedy component in favour of a more traditional sitcom format. The decision changed the entire structure of the show and led producers to recast the role of Jenna, replacing multi-talented Saturday Night Live alum Rachel Dratch with veteran actress 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 explained to New York Mag. “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 made the best of a bad situation by going on to appear in 16 episodes of 30 Rock, playing everything from a deranged cat wrangler to a cleaning lady obsessed with Happy Days.
Tina Fey’s daughter is responsible for many of the show’s best lines
Tina Fey may be the writer in the family, but it’s her six-year-old daughter Alice who comes up with many of her best lines. Fey first credited Alice at the 2009 SAG Awards when she thanked her for being “the funniest member of my family and for coining phrases like ‘I want to go to there.’” Fey went on to tell the audience about Alice’s proclivity for playing dress-up. “Sometimes she puts on pretend make-up in the mirror and she’ll turn to me and say, ‘I look like Barack Obama,’” she said. “She has somehow gotten it in her head that it’s a good thing to resemble a famous politician. I don’t know where she got that idea.”
30 Rock wasn’t the show’s original name
Nearly everyone knows that 30 Rock is a reference to 30 Rockefeller Center, the iconic building where the show takes place. However, you may not know that Fey originally wanted her show to have another name. “When we were first starting the show we wanted to call it Rock Center,” Fey revealed in an interview with Brian Williams. “That was our first choice, but we were told we were not allowed to call it that. We were told ‘No, no, the people who run the building don’t want that.’ We also wanted to call the show The Peacock because I thought that would be funny and Alec’s character would be kind of like a peacock, and we were told it was a very serious and important symbol of a big, strong, important network and we couldn’t use it.” Ironically, Williams is now the host of another NBC show called Rock Center. The program premiered on October 31, 2011 and can currently be seen on Thursdays at 10:00pm.
Jon Hamm auditioned for the role of Jack Donaghy
Imagine how different 30 Rock would be if the role of Jack Donaghy was played by Jon Hamm rather than Alec Baldwin. It nearly happened when Hamm auditioned for the part of Fey’s self-assured boss way back in 2006. “It was way early in the process,” Hamm revealed in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “So somewhere on tape, there exists me talking about three kinds of heat.”
Producers chose to pass on Hamm at the time, but returned to him in 2009 when they were looking for an actor to play Fey’s amorous neighbour, Dr. Drew Baird. “We were lucky with the timing because Mad Men was on hiatus and he was hosting SNL,” Fey told Entertainment Weekly. “So I called over there and asked them, ‘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.” Hamm ended up making seven appearances on 30 Rock, earning rave reviews from fans and critics alike for his superb comedic range.
It launched Donald Glover’s career
Donald Glover may be an award-winning actor now, but the Community star was still living in an NYU dorm and working as a Resident Advisor when he was hired as a staff writer on 30 Rock. The Georgia native wrote for the program from 2006 to 2009 before leaving to pursue a career in stand-up comedy. “People thought I was insane,” he told The A.V. Club. “My mom was livid. I mean, she wasn’t going to kill me, but she was—no, I’ll take that back. She was. She didn’t get it. She’d come to visit me before and said, ‘Okay, he’s not starving. He lives in an apartment. He’s not on the street. I don’t get what he’s doing. I assume he’s writing Tracy’s [Morgan] words, but at least he’s taken care of.’ And then I was like, ‘I’m leaving,’ and before that, I had planned on moving to L.A. too, so she was really like, ‘I don’t get it. What are you doing?’”
Luckily, Glover soon allayed his mother’s fears when he was cast in the NBC series Community. He has since appeared in more than 70 episodes of the show and has gone on to earn nominations from the TV Guide Awards, the Satellite Awards and the Image Awards for his spot-on portrayal of Troy. In fact, Glover has become such a big star in his own right that he was recently invited back to 30 Rock to play a young Tracy Jordan in an episode of the show.