30 Rock is one of the most impactful TV comedies of the 21st century for a great many reasons: memorable characters, indelible moments, and a commentary on the business of television that continues to resonate long after the show has ended. Some of 30 Rock's sharpest – and most accurate — jabs at TV came when the show made up fake TV shows, for either a quick throwaway gag or for a plot point. The Jack Donaghy-led NBC of 30 Rock greenlit some crazy shows, and that's even before Jack tried to tank the network.
The thing is: the real world of television in 2021 has pretty much caught up with 30 Rock when it comes to ludicrous premises. Each week seems to bring a new batch of TV shows that are indistinguishable from those Tina Fey and her fellow writers dreamed up. So why don't we put that to the test. Below are the descriptions for 15 TV shows; some are real shows that exist (or existed) in the real world, while the rest are fake shows that were invented by 30 Rock. Read through the descriptions, make your guesses, and then scroll down to the bottom for answers!
Description: Twenty attractive older women and 50 teenage boys share a tropical location as the women compete for island supremacy.
Description: Three attractive women and 24 attractive men share a tropical location, with half of the men as self-described nice guys and the other half as self-described cads, competing for both love and prizes.
Description: Teens and tweens compete in a talent competition to see who has the voice and the star power to be chosen by America to form a pop group. Hosted by Ryan Seacrest.
Description: Teens and tweens compete in a talent competition to see who has the voice and the star power to be America's favorite. Hosted by John McEnroe.
Genre:: Game Show
Description: Contestants must choose from an array of briefcases; some are empty, but one is filled with $1,000,000 worth of solid gold. Hosted by John McEnroe.
Description: A first-generation Indian-American girl must traverse the difficult terrain of high school, boys, friendship, and an overprotective mom. Narrated by John McEnroe.
Genre:: Horror Drama
Description: Jonathan Silverman stars as Dr. Fantastico in a series where he must hunt the terrifying hunchback creatures of gothic lore.
Description: A Los Angeles Police Department detective solves crimes with the help of her new partner: the Devil.
Description: A New York City detective solves crimes with the help of his new partner: God.
Description: An atheist podcaster gets a Facebook request from God, who sends him out to complete various tasks across New York City.
Description: Brooke Shields, Kim Raver, and Lindsay Price star as a trio of professional women living and loving in sexy modern-day New York City.
Description: Teri Polo, Aisha Tyler, and Lindsay Price star as a trip of professional women in sexy modern-day New York City navigate love, friendship, and a chance at having it all. Or maybe just a great pair of shoes.
Genre:: Game Show
Description: Contestants navigate an obstacle course in a room filled with 80,000 gallons of bright red goop.
Description: The wife of a famous film and television actor invites reality cameras into her home to document her life, her eccentric circle of friends/employees, and her quest to become a multi-hyphenate pop star and entrepreneur.
Description: Reality TV cameras follow a Memphis, Tennessee, family that runs a funeral home which features a drive-through viewing window for mourners on the go.
Show #1: 30 ROCK! The show in question is, of course, the famous MILF Island, from the season 2 episode "MILF Island," where Jack Donaghy, the TGS staff, and America itself have been captivated by Deborah and the other MILFs on NBC's hottest reality show.
Show #2: REAL! It's HBO Max's improbably titled FBoy Island, where three women try to tell the nice guys apart from the total fuckboys (spoiler: they're all fuckboys).
Show #3: REAL! American Juniors was FOX's 2003 American Idol spinoff to discovered, among others, Lucy Hale.
Show #4: 30 ROCK! Both Jenna Maroney and D'Fwan were judges along with McEnroe on America's Kidz Got Singing, the America's Got Talent knock-off that turned Jenna into America's most hated personality.
Show #5: 30 ROCK! This brainchild of Kenneth Parcell was a knock-off of Deal or No Deal called Gold Case, an ill-fated program that was doomed by the incredible obviousness about which incredibly heavy briefcase held the gold.
Show #6: REAL! This is an actual John McEnroe screen credit, Netflix's Never Have I Ever.
Show #7: 30 ROCK! This one is Hunchback, the supernatural drama in the vein of Grimm and Dracula that was one of the shows Jack put on the air in his effort to tank NBC.
Show #8: REAL! Soon to be airing its final episodes on Netflix, this story of the prince of darkness come to earth to run a nightclub and assist the LAPD in solving crimes is Lucifer.
Show #9: 30 ROCK! This series starred Jack Donaghy himself and was called God Cop. No, the idea that God wouldn't just know who committed the crimes instead of working to help solve them was never truly fleshed out. Yes, this was another show Jack greenlit in the hopes of tanking NBC.
Show #10: REAL! This is of course the plot of the CBS quasi-spiritual drama God Friended Me.
Show #11: REAL! This was the 2008-08 NBC series Lipstick Jungle, from Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell.
Show #12: 30 ROCK! This is the description for Gals on the Town, a failed NBC pilot that served as airplane "entertainment" when Liz and Carol (Matt Damon) were stuck on a nightmarish flight to Nag's Head that never took off in the episode "Double-Edged Sword."
Show #13: REAL! This is, of course, the Netflix competition series Floor Is Lava.
Show #14: 30 ROCK! It's Angie Jordan's way til payday on Queen of Jordan, Angie's reality show hit and the launching pad for her new single "My Single Is Dropping," which was indeed dropping.
Show #15: REAL! Even though Southern drive-through funeral viewings definitely seems like an idea that Jack Donaghy and Kenneth Parcell would have dreamed up together, this is the Netflix reality series Buried by the Bernards.
All seven seasons of 30 Rock are now streaming on Peacock, Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
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Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.