Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy is one of my favorite TV characters of all-time. Baldwin’s megalomaniacal, prescient, manipulative, eccentric NBC executive was a hit from the pilot, but really had his first moment of pure “Jacktasticness” (trademark pending) in 30 Rock’s sixth episode. Jack has his overworked showrunner Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) pulling extra duty during an especially busy time writing jokes for a conservative fundraiser at which he’ll be speaking. This scene is the culmination of an episode of Donaghy messing with Lemon for his own amusement, plus it contains the greatest one-line explanation for why a character SHOULDN’T be wearing a tuxedo in entertainment history. 30 Rock went on to become one of the seminal sitcoms of the last 25 years, and in the sixth episode you can already see why.
The West Wing remains my favorite of Aaron Sorkin’s creations on the big screen or small. It stands, especially in these times, as an idealistic vision of what government could and should be. It’s populated by wonderfully developed eccentric devoted public servants, each of which is so fully-realized and distinct from each other that they feel like old friends more than characters on the screen. This same treatment is extended to even minor characters and, in the show’s first two seasons, no minor character was as much fun as Mrs. Landingham (Kathryn Joosten), President Bartlet’s wonderfully cryptic and acerbic assistant, gatekeeper, and confidante.
In the show’s first Christmas episode, “In Excelsis Deo”, the show takes two characters, Mrs. Landingham and Richard Schiff’s Toby Ziegler, and has them deal with the ghosts of the Vietnam War while the rest of The White House prepares for Christmas festivities. The two stories come together in a stunningly powerful final scene for the episode: one of the best Christmas episodes in dramatic television.
I cannot believe it took me until year five of Killing Time to feature this during Thanksgiving week. WKRP in Cincinnati was not a great sitcom (it would qualify as one today given the lowered standards) in an age of classic sitcoms, but it was a solid show. It does, however, have one of the all-time best Thanksgiving moments in TV history. The country’s most inept radio station decided to hold a turkey giveaway as part of a Thanksgiving promotion and the station manager decided to jazz it up by having the turkeys dropped from a helicopter onto the waiting crowd below. Unfortunately for the manager, the crowd, and the turkeys….he was ignorant of a simple fact he learns (read below) by the end of the episode. Happy Thanksgiving week, readers!
30 Rock is one of the last great network sitcoms, and was absolutely stellar throughout its seven seasons on the air. Choosing ONE moment from a season of 30 Rock is a superhuman feat, not unlike when Alec Baldwin’s elitist, CEO character, Jack Donaghy, attempts to have a perfect day (“Reaganing” is what he calls it). Jack Donaghy is easily one of my top 10 characters in TV history, and it will be the defining role of Alec Baldwin’s career. One of my favorite Jack moments comes in season 6 episode 18 (“Murphy Brown Lied to Us”) when NBC is purchased by a fictional company called KableTown, and Jack is demoted to running their subsidiary company, KouchTown.
The couches, unfortunately are death traps, closing like Venus Flytraps on their sitters. This may have stopped a lesser CEO, but this is Jack Donaghy and he was going to impress the new brass by selling every one of those death traps. He hires actor Stacy Keach to film an increasingly hilarious and desperate series of commercials; marketing them as the Tough Man’s Couch. It’s stupid and brilliant and that’s 30 Rock in a nutshell. Here’s a bonus video of some of Jack’s other great moments with some commentary from 30 Rock‘s writers.
Christmas is nearly upon us (Star Wars caused a temporary holiday blackout in my brain) and, with it, the bombardment of Christmas specials that run non-stop on TV. I grew up with a number of the classic ones from Rankin-Bass, but the gold standard in my book for Christmas specials is A Charlie Brown Christmas. First aired in 1965, the special still remains one of the best things Schulz’s creations were used for outside the funny pages and a moving and inspirational reminder of best of the season.
I don’t really care if you are a Christian or not. I don’t think you have to be to appreciate the sincerity and conviction with which Linus recites the Christmas story from the Book of Luke. It’s a beautiful moment, heartfelt and unapologetic. It’s one of my favorite holiday moments, so I wanted to share it with you all, who make writing this blog so much fun and so much of a gift to me. I wish you all a very, very Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart. Killing Time is going to go on a brief holiday hiatus. Last year, the loss of my wife was too raw for me to do anything but survive the holidays, but this year I have been reminded of the magic that still lies in this special time of year and I want to spend every minute with the family and friends I love. We’ll be back on 12/26/15 to start reviewing the best of 2015, but until then Happy Holidays!