Tina Fey Found the ’30 Rock’ Pilot ‘Awkward’ For Multiple Reasons

Tina Fey is one of the preeminent female comics in the entertainment industry. She’s known as a brilliant writer and actor who has had a hand in many notable projects. Undoubtedly, one of Fey’s most significant ventures is the TV show 30 Rock. The series is now widely considered one of the greatest television comedies of the past several decades. 

30 Rock became a runaway hit for NBC, running from 2006 through 2013. But the show’s early years caused its creator a great deal of stress and uncertainty. In fact, Tina Fey later revealed she found the pilot for 30 Rock “awkward.”

What did Tina Fey say about not liking the pilot for ’30 Rock’?

30 rock pilot
Tina Fey as Liz Lemon in the ’30 Rock’ pilot | Eric Liebowitz/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

When Tina Fey was first approached about developing a new show for NBC, she was best known for her work on Saturday Night Live. As a writer and performer on the show, Fey’s dry humor and versatility had made her a fan favorite. When beginning work on her new show, Fey decided to take inspiration from the one that made her a star.

The comedy went into development in 2005, with the pilot episode debuting on NBC in October 2006. The series was slow to get started. Tina Fey would later credit that to the pilot episode, which she categorizes as disjointed. In The 30 Rock Book, Fey admits the pilot episode was “awkward and sweaty.” She suggested the cinematography and performances seemed off. And she didn’t see any reason for people to go back and watch it. Other showrunners agreed. Doug Abel said, “to be honest, I didn’t think it was really going to work when I first saw it.”

Fey worked hard to keep the show going

In the early years of 30 Rock, Fey believed that the only thing that kept the show from getting canceled was the presence of Alec Baldwin. He played network executive Jack Donaghy. In a 2019 interview with Conan O’Brien, Fey noted that “If we didn’t have Alec” the network “was not even picking up this pilot.” 

Baldwin, a Hollywood mainstay for decades, helped bring star power to the set of 30 Rock. And for a while, the promise of Baldwin’s acting chops was enough to bring viewers to the fledgling comedy. Eventually, 30 Rock started earning acclaim on its own merits. In her memoir, titled Bossypants, Fey wrote that for a long time, she was convinced the show would go off the air due to low viewing numbers. “We were not a hit,” she wrote. “But we barreled ahead.” That persistence, and Fey’s hard work, paid off, and it received many awards and nominations. 

Fey credits ’30 Rock’ with helping her learn ‘so much’

Tina Fey served as the producer and star of 30 Rock until it went off the air in 2013. These days, she credits the show with helping her get her feet as a showrunner and executive. “I learned so much in those seven years about production, handling people, respecting your crew’s time, collaborating with designers, and even when to bother a guest star to come in,” Fey told Variety in a 2021 interview. 

Fey is a big star now, with various successful projects to her credit. Still, many fans will always love her best for her work on 30 Rock, portraying the lovable and well-intentioned Liz Lemon.

RELATED: Tina Fey Pulls ’30 Rock’ Episodes Featuring Blackface From Streaming – ‘I Understand Now that Intent Is Not a Free Pass’