Actress and producer Tina Fey has asked that four episodes of 30 Rock be removed from syndication and streaming services due to characters appearing in blackface. In a letter written by Fey — who created and starred in the series — and executive producer Robert Carlock sent to the media platforms streaming the sitcom and obtained by Variety, the actress said that the episodes are "best taken out of circulation" and apologized "for pain they have caused."
Citing their efforts "to do the work and do better in regards to race in America," Fey and Carlock acknowledged that "'intent' is not a free pass for white people to use these images." They added that "going forward, no comedy-loving kid needs to stumble on these tropes and be stung by their ugliness." They also thanked "NBCUniversal for honoring this request."
The four episodes in question include "Believe In The Stars" (Season 3, Episode 2), "Christmas Attack Zone" (Season 5, Episode 10), "Live from Studio 6H" (Season 6, Episode 19), and the East Coast version of "The Live Show" (Season 5, Episode 4). According to Vulture, two of the episodes featured Jenna Maroney, portrayed by Jane Krakowski, in blackface. In one such episode, Jenna and Tracy Jordan, played by Tracy Morgan, decide to swap identities to determine whether black men or white women face more challenges in society. In a Season 5 episode, Jenna again appears in blackface as she dresses as former Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann at a party. In a Season 6 live episode, guest star Jon Hamm wore blackface while spoofing Amos 'n' Andy.
According to a source, the four episodes are set to be removed from platforms by the end of the week, and they will no longer air as reruns on television. Some streaming platforms, including Amazon Prime and Hulu, have already removed the episodes. The episodes will also no longer be available for purchase on iTunes and Google Play.
News of Fey's request for their removal comes amid similar moves sweeping across the entertainment industry in response to the police killing of George Floyd and the growing demand for racial equality. Earlier this month, HBO confirmed that the US civil war epic Gone With the Wind would temporarily be removed from its new streaming platform, HBO Max, due to its "racist depictions." The film will eventually return to the platform "with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions."
Prior to that announcement, police-focused series Cops on Paramount Network and Live PD on A&E were canceled. On the streaming platform side, Netflix pulled British series Little Britain, citing the sketch show's use of blackface.