Seeing Boston on film or tv is like watching the Red Sox play well — it’s not actually that unusual, but it’s always a pleasant surprise. So I was thrilled to see tv’s 30 Rock come to Boston last week.
Much has been made of guest star Julianne Moore’s “thick,” “terrible,” “atrocious,” “ridiculously broad,” “worst-attempt-ever” Boston accent, but I kind of love every minute of it. (As one commenter on Universal Hub states, at least she nails the attitude.)
I overheard someone at a conference last weekend small-talking about the 30 Rock episode with another conference-goer. “We don’t all talk like that, you know,” she said. I suppose she probably actually grew up in/around Boston, in which case maybe there’s a little more reason to take it personally… but 30 Rock historically hasn’t shied away from playing up broad stereotypes for laughs (in repeated parodies of gays, southerners, Canadians, i-bankers, etc). And while no Bostonian I know “talks like that,” the thrill of recognition is there.
When I moved from Michigan to a Boston suburb at age eight, kids really did use the modifier “wicked” all the time; it was totally weird. And I could never non-self-consciously say the word “aunt” in this new environment — I didn’t want to call attention to myself saying it the normal way (“ant”), but felt weird saying it the Massachusetts way (“ahnt”). So I would just refer to my “mom’s sister” a lot.
So I encountered some of the regionalisms as a kid, but honestly, I have heard much more of the “Boston accent” on screen than in any actual experience living around here. Fortunately there’s more to the Julianne Moore’s Boston “authenticity” than the accent. She and Alec Baldwin wander into a tv news studio in this latest episode, and Moore’s character eagerly sits at the news desk, announcing “I feel like Chet Curtis and Natalie Jacobson!”
The duo (“Chet and Nat”) hosted ABC’s local news for 20-something years, including the period of my childhood in which I lived in Acton, Massachusetts. I remember their names well, above all other local news anchors to whom I’ve been an been audience (except for rival Channel 7′s R.D. Sahl, who visited my fifth grade class — I have his autograph.)
Probably unlike most who recall Curtis and Jacobson well, I hadn’t realized “Chet and Nat” were also married for most of the time they ancored the news together, and their news partnership ended alongside their marriage, in a very public divorce. This detail adds a perhaps unintended layer to Moore’s character, who is in the midst of a pending divorce herself, which had also lasted 20-something years.
The second most satisfying Boston reference in the episode has to be Moore’s hysterical mention of Kelly’s Roast Beef.
Kelly’s is an historic (well, founded 1951) local roast beef chain outlet — but, more on Kelly’s next time.
Until then, enjoy this 30 Rock “web exclusive” of Grizz and Dotcom making their “own urban stories, just like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.”
A good reference is a wonderful thing, and somehow the Good Will Hunting guys have become the definitive urban Boston duo, even more so than Chet Curtis and Natalie Jacobson.