Tuesday, January 15, 2013

30 Rock/Real Husbands of Hollywood

It's difficult to determine if the actresses on the Bravo network's Real Housewives series are more emotionally infantile or self-absorbed to the point of repulsion. Their constant fits, bickering, gossip, and slapping leave viewers with a negative taste in their mouths, as the Real Housewives have come to characterize the worst excesses of the reality television era. Today, with hundreds of cable channels competing for advertising dollars, programming quality becomes irrelevant as producers only care if their shows create ratings. Reality television, particularly the Real Housewives series, sucks viewers into an abyss of martini splashes and momentarily exposed nipples.

The sitcom 30 Rock on NBC and BET's Real Husbands of Hollywood mock the Real Housewives' idiocy by parodying the reality show's nonexistent narratives and general pettiness. What these spoofs lack in subtlety, they more than make up for in advocating for greater female and minority exposure on prime time network television.

Tina Fey's 30 Rock devoted two episodes to mocking the Real Housewives on Bravo. The first is "Queen of Jordan" in the show's fifth season and the second parody is "Queen of Jordan 2" in the sixth and penultimate season. In these episodes, Fey's protagonist has an overblown feud with a toddler, Alec Baldwin's character is called a flatulent gay buffoon, and another character releases a song called "My Single is Dropping." Through over-the-top and witty dialogue, Tina Fey is able to portray the absurdity of reality television stars who perceive themselves as moguls exceeding in multiple entertainment and business endeavors when they clearly lack any talent, graciousness, or interpersonal skills.

30 Rock is one of the few television programs with a female lead above the age of forty, and this year will be the show's final season. Fey is a talented writer and improv/sketch comedy performer who has used her 30 Rock platform to explore the notion of "having it all," or whether it's possible for American women in the twenty-first century to balance professional and family life. Messages like Fey's should have greater exposure on prime time television; they should not be drowned out in tears from extended crying sessions or tossed wine.

The Real Husbands of Hollywood uses the same tactics as Fey to promote increased minority exposure in popular television shows. It features black actors, comedians, and singers who are relegated to mere character duty in mainstream network prime time programs. These performers launch a critique that is perhaps more explicit and targeted than Fey's, through the show's title and incredible story lines. A bird defecates on stand-up comedian Kevin Hart roughly fifteen minutes before he gets into an altercation with an 11-year-old boy. The fight ends when the vertically-challenged Hart gets kicked in the testicles and threatens legal action against the middle school student. While the Real Husbands of Hollywood is intentionally ridiculous, what's more ridiculous is the lack of black leads on network shows.

In a country with a 50.8% female population that had more minority than Caucasian babies born in 2012, it's about time our television screens accurately reflected our nation's demographics. Any time networks devote slots to shows like Real Housewives over underrepresented voices like Fey and Hart, we all suffer.

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