’30 Rock’: Tina Fey Was Convinced the Show Would Fail Early

30 Rock gave fans a hilarious look at the creation and management of a fictional sketch show. It was known for its use of surreal humor and unique camera setups. Ultimately, 30 Rock ran on NBC for seven seasons, ending in 2013. And it came back for a 2020 reunion special. Still, there was a time when launching the show seemed like a huge gamble, and even creator Tina Fey didn’t believe it would last beyond the first season. 

Tina Fey as Liz Lemon on '30 Rock'
Tina Fey as Liz Lemon on 30 Rock | NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

When did ’30 Rock’ debut?

30 Rock is the brainchild of Fey, who rose to fame on the iconic sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live. Originally conceived as a series about cable news, Fey started the concept script for what eventually became 30 Rock in 2002 when she was a head writer and performer on SNL. The show was picked up and debuted on television in October 2006.

30 Rock featured a roster of talented actors, including Fey as Liz Lemon, the showrunner of an SNL-style comedy show. It also starred Alec Baldwin as the testy network executive Jack Donaghy, Jack McBrayer as page Kenneth Parcell, Tracy Morgan as comedian and actor Tracy Jordan, and Jane Krakowski as performer and Liz Lemon’s friend Jenna Maroney.

Star power notwithstanding, Fey later admitted she was worried whether the series would ever end up making it off the ground — especially considering it was facing some pretty stiff competition in the early days. 

Tina Fey thought ’30 Rock’ would fail

When 30 Rock premiered, there was another show that featured a very similar concept: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Both shows ran on NBC, and they were considered to be direct competitors. In fact, Krakowski later revealed that Fey didn’t think 30 Rock would make it past the first season, primarily because of the rival show. 

“Today I was remembering Paul Reubens being on the show in season one,” Krakowski told Glamour in 2012. “It had a real title [ed note: “Black Tie”], but I remember Tina was calling the episode “Goodbye America” because she thought we wouldn’t stay on the air after that one.”

’30 Rock’ became a hit comedy


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It was the zany nature of many of 30 Rock‘s plotlines that helped the show to pull through and survive that first season.

“We were not a hit. But we barreled ahead,” Fey wrote in her book Bossypants. “You know that saying ‘dance as if no one is watching’? Well, that’s what we were doing. We were dancing with abandon, and no one was watching.”

Eventually, 30 Rock became a hit, receiving critical acclaim for the acting, writing, and excellent use of surrealism. It received a number of awards and nominations, including Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series three years in a row. It went off the air in 2013 but not before it earned a place in television history as one of the freshest and funniest shows ever to air.