DADDY’S LITTLE PIG: Some awful part of me can imagine that the Alec Baldwin Bad Dad Phone Call thing was ginned up by NBC publicity to give the season finale of 30 Rock a bit more profile, but that’s as close as I get to conspiracy theory these days – for the record, I still think Oswald acted alone.
While listening to the widely-leaked phone message where an enraged Baldwin seems unsure of his pre-teen daughter’s age before calling her a pig is a gruesome experience, watching the fallout from it all has been fascinating. That he chose The View as his public forum for contrition confirms that it’s the hot daytime destination for working over emotional bruises in public; even more interesting is his statement that he wants to get out of his 30 Rock contract so he can give up acting and devote himself to the presumably far less lucrative pastime of being a spokesman for parental rights, and NBC’s quick retort that it a contract is a contract and it ain’t gonna happen, fat boy.
Putting aside the question of whether parental rights are well-represented by a man that calls his child a pig, TV columnist Alan Sepinwall of the New Jersey Star-Tribune used his blog to ask his readers whether the whole Baldwin affair has affected their appreciation for him as an actor, and whether anyone thinks 30 Rock could survive without Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy. At least half his readers didn’t think the show would be worth watching, while the other half were happy to entertain possible replacements, notably Christopher Walken. (For the record, I not only support NBC should they decide to have Walken replace Baldwin, but I also urge them to create a separate all-Walken network as soon as possible.)
Even more amazing is how many of Sepinwall’s readers said they didn’t think Baldwin’s phone call was that big a deal: “Both my parents said worse to me when I was a petulant pre-teen and teen,” wrote one poor soul. Time magazine TV critic James Poniewozik excused himself from the debate by insisting that he’s “a TV critic, not a parenting critic,” and that as long as Baldwin maintained his “brilliant performance” on 30 Rock, he didn’t care. He also said that he “may be the last entertainment/TV blogger in the world not to comment on the Alec Baldwin incident.” No, James, that would be me.
Baldwin has never seemed to me a paragon of particular virtue, so I can’t honestly say that the whole sad affair diminished my opinion of him, or the character of Jack Donaghy, a self-absorbed emotional bully for whom the outburst actually would be in character. I was more disappointed with Baldwin when I read a Reuters story confirming that he’d called Dr. Phil for advice. The darkest aspect of all of this was a short video posted on Will Ferrell’s FunnyOrDie.com website, which had Dora The Explorer on the receiving end of Baldwin’s rant. The New York Post speculated that Baldwin left his agency, CAA, last week because they weren’t able to persuade Ferrell, another CAA client, to take the video down. Baldwin’s rep told the Post that “Three-year-olds everywhere are upset that Dora the Explorer and her friends are being dragged into this.” I’d be more upset if I was sure that any 3-year-olds knew anything about it.