30 Rock: Tina Fey apologises as blackface episodes are withdrawn

Four episodes of the US hit series in which characters appear in blackface are to be taken down, at the request of creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock.

In a note seen by Vulture and Variety, Fey wrote that the episodes are “best taken out of circulation” and apologised “for pain they have caused”.

The episodes will be removed from streaming services Amazon Prime and Hulu, as well as purchase platforms.

They include a live episode with guest star Jon Hamm in series six.

He appeared in a wig and blackface, part of a spoof of an old US radio and TV show titled Amos ‘n’ Andy.

Two episodes featured Jane Krakowski’s character Jenna – one from series three, Believe in the Stars, and the other from series five, called Christmas Attack Zone.

The Believe in the Stars episode (2008) involved Jenna and Tracy Jordan (played by Tracy Morgan) deciding to swap identities in order to determine whether black men or white women faced more challenges in society.

The fourth and final episode being pulled by the studio is the East Coast version of season five’s Live Show – the first live episode of 30 Rock.

Tina Fey
Image captionThe show was based on Fey’s experience of writing for Saturday Night Live

Purchase platforms the episodes have been removed from include iTunes and Google Play. No re-runs will be shown on TV either.

“As we strive to do the work and do better in regards to race in America, we believe that these episodes featuring actors in race-changing make-up are best taken out of circulation,” wrote Fey.

“I understand now that ‘intent’ is not a free pass for white people to use these images. I apologise for pain they have caused. Going forward, no comedy-loving kid needs to stumble on these tropes and be stung by their ugliness.

“I thank NBCUniversal for honouring this request.”

All of the episodes will be removed by the end of the week, a source told Variety.

News of their removal comes as many content platforms are re-evaluating their offerings following mass protests against racism and police brutality after the death of George Floyd in police custody.

HBO Max said they would temporarily remove Gone with the Wind, and re-add it with a new introduction putting the film in historical context.

UKTV said they would do something similar with an episode of Fawlty Towers, re-adding The Germans episode with a warning about “offensive content and language”.

Keith Lemon and Craig David
Image captionLeigh Francis used masks to dress up as exaggerated versions of black celebrities such as Craig David

Meanwhile, Matt Lucas and David Walliams apologised for their use of blackface as two of their series, Little Britain and Come Fly With Me, were removed from circulation.

Leigh Francis also apologised for using masks to dress up as black celebrities such as Trisha Goddard, Craig David and Melanie B on the Channel 4 show Bo Selecta.

30 Rock originally ran from 2006 to 2013. The series, based on Fey’s experiences as head writer for Saturday Night Live, takes place behind the scenes of a fictional live sketch comedy show.

It won numerous awards, including 10 Primetime Emmys.



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