“30 Rock” is like one of those tiny, cheap little neighbourhood restaurants you accidentally stumble across that turn out to be magnificent, and leaves you wondering why everybody isn’t raving about it. It was an NBC comedy show which ran for seven seasons about the comings and goings on a Saturday Night Live style comedy show filmed in the NBC New York studio at 30 Rockefeller Centre (Geddit?). As it ran, it got progressively more surreal but always funny.
The show got a much deserved boost thanks to its writer, creator and star Tina Fey’s very funny performance as Sarah Palin during the 2008 campaign, but the fact is, the show can stand on its own. Fey is, in my opinion, quite possibly the funniest female comedian around, and went on after the show to write create Netflix’s equally whacky “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”.
Aside from Fey’s superbly self-mocking performance, the show boasted a brilliant ensemble cast including Alec Baldwin’s career-defining performance as the slightly mad conservative Republican Jack Donaghey, head of NBC’s television and microwave division. It’s up there with William Shatner in Boston Legal. Jack McBrayer as the mysterious page Kenneth, and extraordinarily versatile singing, dancing Jane Krakowski (Elaine in Ally McBeal) also steal scenes, as does Tracy Morgan as the unhinged star of the show.
The show was never a huge hit. It opened in the same season as Aaron Sorkin’s criminally underrated “Studio 60″ which covered very similar territory, and many pundits assumed that there was only room for one SNL-inspired show. They were right, although most of them guessed the wrong one.
“30 Rock” is one of those shows that people either love and rewatch, or turn off after 15 minutes. Me? I put it up there with “Frasier”, and that’s saying something. Netflix UK and Ireland: pay attention!
I was talking to someone recently about what short message each party will be pushing in next year’s election, going on what we know as of today. This is what we came up with.
Fine Gael: Stability, business, cut taxes, keep the Shinners out. Political reform is the exact same system FF had but with us in it.
Labour: We have absolutely no idea why you people aren’t cheering us from the rafters. As I said to Jennings, my under-butler, yesterday…
Fianna Fail: We’re much nicer than we used to be. Look, we have gays and Averil Power and everything. We’re not Fine Gael. We’ll give you money! Please! (sob!) We’ll do anything. (Unbuckles belt). For Jesus sake I’ve a mortgage!
Sinn Fein: We’ll take money off people you don’t know and give it to you. Brits Out? Lock up your daughters, eh! (tone turns menacing, glint in eye freezes over)
Greens: Polar bears?
Renua: So far, words like enterprise and dignity. And abortion hangs about in the background.
Alphabet Left: Slogan! Anger! Fury! Slogan! Indignation, etc.
Independents: Amazingly, I realised the party system was corrupt on the exact same night I lost a selection convention for FF/FG. What were the chances?
I love this so much. It’s just wonderful. Imagine an entire party accidentally reading its own spin as fact when it sees it beamed back to itself on Fox News. A professional election expert actually picking facts to suit the result he wants. Extraordinary.
A blazing row has broken out in the GOP over the issue of whether the prime minister of Israel, Binyamin Nethanyahu, can be nominated as the Republican presidential nominee in 2016.
Rep. Jefferson Davis Cottonking (R-Alabama 3) has attacked party colleagues who suggested that Nethanyahu not being an American citizen, being born in a foreign country and being the actual prime minister of that foreign country might “not be ideal”.
“This is a disgrace. I yield to no man in my support for the state of Israel, and the idea that Bibi is not fit to be president of these god fearin’ united states, hell, you might as well be Osama Bin Laden to be sayin’ such things! Are you honestly telling me that Bibi Nethanyahu is less of an American than that pretender in the White House, Barack Hussein Obama? Aren’t we effectively equating Bibi with the same equal status as, say, a goddamn Frenchman? They can’t run either! Thank you Barack Hussein Obama and your “Constitution”!”
The GOP leadership, after humbly beseeching the Israeli prime minister’s forgiveness, proposed to make amends by legislating to allow the Knesset to nominate the next secretary of state.
The Mayor of 9/11(tm), Rudy Giuliani, has called on Israel to be allowed vote in the next US election, and called anyone who opposed the idea a Nazi terrorist.
Voldemort, the dark wizard, has announced that he is declaring war on the fanatical extremists of ISIS. A spokeswizard said: “These people aren’t just, you know, baddies like me. They’re a disease, a cancer on the planet, a death cult that actually threatens normality. If NATO or China or anyone else isn’t going to step up, then I guess I’ll have to assemble an international coalition to do the job. I’ve spoken to the Daleks, who are onboard, and the Joker in Gotham City who has expressed serious concerns about their mental health. We’re currently working on reviving Stalin to help too. He’s great at motivating people, a real go-getter. Ayatollah Khomeini is coming back too. He said to me yesterday that “someone has to deal with these religious nutjobs!”
The weapon, later identified as a 40 mega-ton former Soviet warhead, detonated just as the new Knesset began proceedings. In a flash, Israel’s administrative capital, political leadership and just under three quarters of a million Israelis died, along with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank.
The news was greeted in different ways. In the US, the president was rushed to the emergency national airborne command post, whilst the vice president and others were sent to the alternate national command centre in Mount Weather. US forces were ordered to def con 2.
In Cairo, Damascus, Tehran and Riyadh, spontaneous crowds gathered in grotesque displays of euphoria.
“Midnight Caller” ran from 1988-1991, and starred Gary Cole, who’d later become known to “The West Wing” fans as Vice President “Bingo” Bob Russell (and cult “Office Space” boss Bill “Yeah” Lumbergh). In fact, given that Gary Cole is pretty much in everything, one would be forgiven for thinking there is a secret protocol in the US Constitution that demands it. As an aside, his other great role was in the disgracefully cancelled after one season “American Gothic” where he played the sheriff of a North Carolina town who may or may not have been The Devil. But I digress.
Cole played Jack Killian, a former cop turned late night radio host. It was stylish for its day (especially as nearly every episode seemed to be set at night, which is hardly surprising, given its title), and was famous for Killian’s “Goodnight, America, wherever you are” signoff. Cool theme music too.
In the end, it came down to that much ballyhooed phrase, “national sovereignty”. For all the technical arguments between the Syriza government and its EU partners, the Greeks needed money and the rest of Europe didn’t believe it would get it back. After months of negotiations and little progress, the crisis in Athens forced the Tsipras; government’s hand. All the promises of restoring public sector employment and early retirement and spending to the old pre-crisis PASOK/New Democracy levels needed money, and Greece didn’t have it. What little money it had was going on barely keeping the creaking state going and paying the interest on eye-watering debts. Something had to give.
The South American option, default and devaluation, and with it a return to the Drachma, was the final tool in the box, and with angry crowds losing patience on the streets, and the fascist Golden Dawn now in second place in the polls, the decision was made. Greece was leaving the Euro.
The army sealed the borders as vehicles were searched to prevent the export of savings. Capital and withdrawal controls were introduced instantly, and the mint began printing the old notes once again. A swathe of new laws made it a criminal offence to keep large amounts of euros.
On the issue of debt, Prime Minister Tsipras and his finance minister found themselves battling the left of the coalition over the size of the default. Tsipras wanted to haircut the debt to a manageable level, but then promptly pay the new interest debt, believing it to be vital to eventually permit Greece to re-enter the bond markets at a future date. In particular, he wanted the government to focus on defaulting on other state debts. The communists in the government were outraged at any debt remaining, with some leaving the government immediately. But Tsipras got his way, and when Greece defaulted it maintained over half of its debt.
Devaluation sent imports, especially food and energy soaring in cost, with the government then having to subsidise both for a growing part of the population, eating again into state revenue. The tax system, which was now beginning to function in a more efficient manner, was slowly increasing tax revenue, especially on wealthy Greeks, but as every country has learnt, it had its problems. Ordinary Greeks took to the streets objecting to having to pay higher taxes alongside soaring imported goods prices caused by a feeble Drachma. It wasn’t long before “Traitors!” was being sprayed on Syriza posters, and the prime minister and his finance minister were being jostled in public.
The government focussed on taking advantage of the weak Drachma to transform Greece into THE value destination for European tourism. Money was invested in tourist facilities, and Euro controls were loosened to permit hotels and resorts to source the supplies they needed. Across the EU, anti-EU parties started advocating Eurosceptics holiday in Greece, and the image of Nigel Farage puffing on a cigar on a Greek beach surrounded by buxom Greek women became iconic.
The government did find itself having to make awkward decisions. As tourism started to recover, the tourism industry warned the government that large numbers of people begging were beginning to swamp the resorts on the basis that tourists had money, leading to Syriza having to deploy police (and in some cases soldiers) to form checkpoints and clear the streets, a scene that did not go down well in left wing circles across Europe, nor in Greece, causing Syriza to lose its parliamentary majority.
Although the devaluation did lead to a modest recovery in employment in the tourist industry, the failure of the government to keep its promises on the public sector and spending meant that it was now being attacked on the left by communists and former Syriza members and the right by New Democracy and fascists. The devaluation had now brought new problems with inflation soaring and the Bank of Greece aware that raising interest rates would not really help given the source of inflation. Tsipras and Varoufakis barely managed to block a proposal to get the central bank to just print more money.
A savage attack on a group of German tourists, killing two and injuring five, by supporters of Golden Dawn did not help the tourism led recovery, unleashing stories across Europe of muggings and begging and seriously dampening demand for Greek holidays with northern Europeans. The Greek tourist minister’s promise to put troops on the streets to protect tourists became a spectacular own goal.
The government was faced with a dilemma. The only way out of its downward spiral was economic growth. The problem was that the actions needed to trigger that growth, including market and labour deregulation and lower taxation, were pretty much the exact opposite of what Syriza had been elected to do. Greek exports to the rest of Europe were growing as a result of devaluation, but the country was simply not producing enough export income to fund the social welfare system it wanted. Instead, it wanted the welfare system first. More Greeks were in employment now, but the soaring cost of living was making their standard of living worse than under the Troika. It was becoming a common joke that the Euro was still the de facto currency in Greece, with large purchases having an official Drachma price, and an under the table Euro price. Families kept Euros under the bed for a rainy day, despite the law.
Devaluation was also resulting in higher raw material costs, which began to feed through into export prices, making them less competitive.
Golden Dawn rallies attacked the government for not cracking down on immigration, and racial attacks were becoming more widespread, with the under-resourced police either stretched beyond capacity or in some cases sympathetic to Golden Dawn.
With no majority, and paralysed, the Syriza government called an election, with polls putting it in fourth place behind the Communists, New Democracy and Golden Dawn, all vying for top spot. The European Council, which had already suspended Greek voting rights after the Syriza government had unilaterally defaulted, warned that if Golden Dawn formed the next Greek government, the option of the expulsion of Greece from the EU would have to be considered.
On election night, Golden Dawn narrowly defeated New Democracy and won a majority. In his victory speech, the incoming prime minister announced that he had already negotiated a deal with Russia to build a massive Russian naval base. That night, 42 illegal immigrants were killed by fascist gangs, in some cases in plain sight of police. The Kremlin offered to send Russian police to assist in the maintaining of law and order.