When "30 Rock" debuted, lots of people were comparing the relationship between independent but vulnerable career gal Liz Lemon and her imperious but good-hearted boss Jack Donaghy to classic TV pair Mary Richards and Lou Grant.
But a few years have passed, and another show has emerging with a core relationship that's eerily similar to that of Jack and Liz: "Mad Men." Seriously -- aren't "Mad Men" protagonist Don Draper and his foil/protegee Peggy sort of the dramatic version of Jack and Liz?
On both shows, the male character considers himself a guide to the female, and she considers him a mentor who is more experienced in the ways of the world than she. Both pairs have an odd -- but platonic -- bond that unites them, and makes them each other's touchstone in times of trouble. Don shepherds Peggy through the aftermath of her unplanned pregnancy. Jack is there for Liz when she learns that her unplanned pregnancy isn't a pregnancy at all, but a reaction to some cheap cheese curls.
Peggy picks Don up in the middle of the night after he gets in an accident with an extramarital paramour. Liz once picked Jack up from night court.
Of course, neither pair is immune to conflict. This week, on both shows, we saw both pairs reach a possible turning point in their relationship with the man. In this week's "30 Rock" episode (titled "The Problem Solvers"), we saw Liz wrestling with something that Peggy struggled with a lot this season on "Mad Men" -- Liz wanted to be independent, and act like an adult businesswoman, while Jack wanted to keep her under his thumb. When Jack proposes that Liz have her own talk show, she agrees. But her friends tell her she should shop around before accepting Jack's offer. She does, and Jack isn't happy, freezing her out and threatening to replace her with Padma Lakshmi ("Then who will host 'Top Chef?'" Liz wails.) Liz is angry that Jack doesn't respect her enough to let her be independent. Jack is hurt that Liz doesn't trust him. In the end, they realize that they're happier together than apart, and that they do really care about/trust each other.
In a much more emotional episode, the season finale of "Mad Men" had Peggy finally standing up to Don, refusing to follow him on his new venture "like a nervous poodle," because she feels Don doesn't respect her. But, like Jack, Don realizes he needs Peggy, and wants to be a positive force in her life. He tells her he needs her for his new venture and that, if she says no, he'll spend the rest of his life trying to hire her. Yes, it's more of a tear-jerker than Liz and Jack reuniting in Rockefeller Plaza, but you get my point.
Watching the "Mad Men" finale and "The Problem Solvers" just days apart, it's hard to ignore the similarities.
Of course, there is one major difference: In no language does "Peggy Olson" translate into "Lesbian YellowSourFruit."