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'30 Rock' pulls blackface episodes from reruns, streaming

"30 Rock" creator Tina Fey has requested that

"30 Rock" creator Tina Fey has requested that several episodes depicting actors in makeup to appear as if they are a different race be pulled from digital streaming platforms. Credit: Getty Images / Jamie McCarthy

NBCUniversal is removing four episodes of its classic workplace sitcom "30 Rock" from streaming and reruns over instances of blackface comedy.

In a note from Tina Fey, the creator of the 2006-13 NBC series wrote to platforms including the streaming services Hulu and Amazon Prime. "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 makeup are best taken out of circulation,” she wrote. I understand now that 'intent' is not a free pass for white people to use these images. I apologize for pain they have caused."

The episodes being pulled — which remain available on extant DVD sets, and three of which are available to buy on the "30 Rock" YouTube channel — include two in which Jane Krakowski's character Jenna Maroney wears blackface.

In season 3’s "Believe in the Stars" (Nov. 6, 2008), Jenna and her late-night sketch-show castmate Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) argue over who has it tougher, white women or African American men, and they switch roles in a social experiment. In season 5's "Christmas Attack Zone" (Dec. 9, 2010), Jenna attends the "New Queers Eve" ball with her boyfriend Paul (guest Will Forte) — she as African American former Pittsburgh Steelers great Lynn Swann and he as Natalie Portman in "Black Swan" ballet wardrobe and makeup, so that they are two "black swans."

Also being removed is the East Coast feed of season 5's eponymous "Live Show" (Oct. 14, 2010), though the separately staged West Coast feed will remain. While specifics were not given, several things changed between the two stagings, including in a Fox News sketch in the show-within-show, "TGS." East Coast featured an on-screen chyron referring to President Barack Obama: "Exclusive Interview with Kenyan Liar." For the West Coast it read, "Impartial Interview with Barack Obammunist." The DVD contains the West Coast version as bonus content, with the main version of the episode being an edited mix of the two.

The remaining deletion is the second live episode, season 6's "Live From Studio 6H" (April 26, 2012). In a segment about the fictional history of live TV, both the East and West Coast feeds feature Morgan and blackface guest-star Jon Hamm as the respective title characters of "Alfie and Abner," a pastiche of the controversial 1950s CBS sitcom "The Amos 'n Andy Show," which starred black actors. The "30 Rock" live episode's blackface generated criticism upon its airing in 2012.

"Going forward, no comedy-loving kid needs to stumble on these tropes and be stung by their ugliness," Fey's note continued. "I thank NBCUniversal for honoring this request," which was made some weeks ago.

"30 Rock" and its various stars garnered 16 Emmy Awards, including three for Outstanding Comedy Series.

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