NBC recently debuted an animated Web tie-in series for 30 Rock called either The Jack Donaghy Files or Jack Donaghy: Executive Superhero. The titles appear to be interchangeable, which really highlights the level of commitment and confidence the network has in the production.
The three-minute segments are based on the idea that Jack has superhero powers, which he uses in secret while performing his day-to-day duties at the executive level of NBC Universal Kabletown. Episodes rely heavily on celebrity cameos from Al Roker, Brian Williams, Ryan Adams, Childish Gambino (a.k.a. Donald Glover from Community) and Michael McDonald. The strategy is the same as the one used during the second season of 30 Rock itself, when a parade of ill-advised, celebrity-centric plot lines were called upon to boost ratings. Jennifer Aniston as the painfully not funny frenemy who makes her own hats smelled of desperation.
Hearing Michael McDonald sing the theme song to Saved By the Bell is by far the most worthwhile moment in the Web series, which also depends on the usual 30 Rock jokes about NBC itself. So much so that the "synergy" moves from being meta and all the way back around to obvious plug.
In one episode, Jack must find a Super Bowl half-time show replacement for Madonna (watch the Super Bowl, folks!) and calls in Adams, McDonald and Gambino to have them audition by singing NBC show theme songs (watch these too!). Then Jack realizes that The Voice (please, please watch this! NBC is begging you.) is debuting right after the Super Bowl and just decides to sign on Cee Lo Green as Madonna's replacement. Cue some animation of Cee Lo singing in front of the Voice logo.
All the characters are voiced by Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey and the rest of the celebrities themselves, but this mostly serves to remind viewers how much better it is to watch their actual forms and not some cartoon version. If television companies are struggling to hold onto their audiences during the Great Streaming Online Video exodus, then this had better not be their best effort.
Most of the jokes in Executive Superhero sound like writers'-room rejects. A person would have to be extremely proactive in order to even discover the series by poking around the official Web site, and while serious 30 Rock fans might be persuaded to go online for deleted scenes or interviews, animated ads thinly disguised as exclusives are significantly less compelling. If you're already watching TV on the Internet, there are a lot more entertaining things to spend time on. If you're watching TV on an actual television, there's an even slimmer chance you'll move to the computer for extras afterwards. The saying is true, NBC. It's better to work on improving sub-tolerable quality than producing loads of quantity.
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