nor•ton•esque

30 Rock Jack speaks for all of us now

In W.P. Norton on February 23, 2012 at 2:31 pm

We’re up on the roof of NBC’s New York headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Jack’s talking Tracey Jordan out of shooting Kenneth. That is, we think he’s talking to Tracey but he’s really talking about the might-have-beens and missed chances that defined the career of the great Alec Baldwin.

“Tracey, you wanna destroy the goodwill you have, so you can go back to your easy TV job? Do TV. No one will ever take you seriously again. It doesn’t matter how big a movie star you are. Even if you had the kind of career where you walked away from a blockbuster franchise or, worked with Meryl Streep or Anthony Hopkins, made important movies about things like civil rights or Pearl Harbor. Stole films with supporting roles and then turned around and blew them away on Broadway. None of that will matter once you do television. You could win every award in sight. But be the biggest thing on the small screen, and you’ll still get laughed out of the Vanity Fair Oscar party by Greg Kinnear.”
That was author Tom Clancy’s “Jack Ryan” franchise, of course — the role that got hijacked by Harrison Ford after “Hunt For Red October.” And if it seems like just yesterday that Baldwin was in that romcom with Streep — something about “Complicated” — that’s because it was almost yesterday. The Hopkins vehicle was called “The Edge.” (Full disclosure, I had to look that one up.) And a gold star to anybody who can figure out the Kinnear/Vanity Fair/Oscar Party reference.

My point is that Alec Baldwin has really become a modern-day Antonio Salieri (you know, from “Amadeus”; you can look that one up yourself) — a stand-in and a symbol for the mediocrities many of us think, or fear, or know we’ve become. That means he’s speaking for all of us now. I’ll be 46 next month, and I think it’s time for a long think about whatever may be possible to salvage from the better part of the rest of my life.

For starters, I think I’ll try to be a little more like Jack when it’s possible. No drinking for me, of course. I’ll just have to stare out my office window holding a glass of Zevia on the rocks. But it won’t be the same.

Here’s to all of us also-rans, might-have beens and probably never will be’s. Alec Baldwin just made me feel a little less desperate about it all. Come over to my windowless office one of these days. We can step out to the parking lot, crack a couple ice-cold Zevias, and have a few laughs about how it was never going to work out anyway. In the words of Maestro Salieri, “Te absolvo, te absolvo, te absolvo.”

Now put the gun down, Tracey. We’re all going to have to come down off this roof someday.

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