30 Rock parodies Real Housewives but can’t match the original

Last night’s episode of 30 Rock, the NBC sitcom that is no stranger to reality TV references, borrowed a page from Community’s format and presented its entire episode as if it was an episode of a reality show, though it really was just a parody of Bravo’s Real Housewives. Unfortunately, it’s hard to parody something that’s so ridiculous to begin with, so the episode felt flatter than most episodes of 30 Rock, which is usually fantastic.

The show, Queen of Jordan, was presented as a Bravo series following Tracy Jordan’s fictional wife, Angie, played by Sherri Shepherd, and NBC has even created a web site for the fictional series. The attempt to satirize The Real Housewives was made obvious with references like Angie saying “thick as thieves” and then flipping a table, even if that did combine two cast members, and lots of Bethenny-esque product-whoring.

There was also drink-throwing (including at a dog) and playing to the cameras, plus nods to the way scenes are often awkwardly set up on the Housewives series, never mind pretty funny descriptions of the characters when they were introduced. The editing and transitions were amusing and spot-on, and reality show producers’ attempts to oversimplify and take advantage of things cast members say was illustrated by Alec Baldwin’s character.

The problem was that it just wasn’t as funny as the show usually is, and a few times the veneer of the reality series fell away, though they’d quickly bring it back (one of the faux reality show cast members dancing on a pole in the background was my favorite). There was also a non-starter of a storyline with Susan Sarandon as a recently released sex offender who’d had an affair with Frank when he was in eighth grade.

And ultimately, while it copied The Real Housewives well, it failed to capture the way that series works because it takes itself seriously despite the utter lunacy we are often watching. This felt too set up, which I realize is ironic criticism since the show it was parodying is so set up.

Anyway, see what you think:

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.