30 Rock + To the Manor Born

Double feature: One would think that the daily operations of a New York City sketch comedy show would have nothing in common with the goings on at a traditional English country estate.  But watching “30 Rock” alongside “To the Manor Born” provides compelling evidence to the contrary.

Both series center on a strong-willed, highly principled, low-libidoed woman and the thickly-haired, self-assured man who invades her hard-won territory.  In both series, the protagonists start out with their interests at sharp right angles to each other, and then gradually develop a relationship based on mutual respect, learning, and insightful mockery.  The chemistry energizing both pairs stems from worldviews that are opposing, yet incisively appraising of each other.

Both series explore the relationship between principles and ambition, and both show the humorous potential inherent in strong convictions of self-righteousness.  Both feature zany, inevitably ill-fated schemes of comeuppance structured in accordance with these philosophies.

At heart, both series are concerned with presenting, and then sending up, the full variety of snobberies to which humans are subject, including but not limited to snobberies of the economic, intellectual, social, and cultural kinds. The protagonists in both series harbor very specific ideas about appropriate behavior and, though separated by an ocean and decades, both believe the lax standards of their respective societies are dooming them to destruction.

Through these convictions – expressed via offhand, but delightfully specific and persnickety, social commentary – both series provide a satiric counterpoint to the rapidly changing worlds in which they are situated.

[Updated 4/12/12:
For a marathon: A serendipitous channel-surfing session reminded me that “NewsRadio” is a clear pre-cursor to the manic media-related antics of “30 Rock.”  Both series feature post-modern constructive devices, a respectable nod to New York flavor, and a harried manager with the Sisyphean task of peddling responsbility to a crowd of lunatics and/or egomaniacs.]

(Creative Commons licensed original images courtesy of “Caroline on Cr**k” and “cygnus921” at Flickr)

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