30 Rock and the Black Rock are just a few blocks away from each other. However, my experiences at each of them were worlds apart.
I recently flew to New York City to attend NFL on CBS Media Day. After my meetings, I stayed an extra day in Mid-Town Manhattan to turn my business trip into a vacation; at least for a day. So I took in the NBC Studio Tour at 30 Rockefeller Plaza or “30 Rock.” I really loved that sitcom with Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey. I think it’s one of the best written shows ever to grace network television’s airwaves. It’s also how I learned that the NBC Studio Tour existed.
However, I have to warn you now that the NBC Studio Tour is as awful and painful as 30 Rock was witty and enjoyable.
First, let’s back track to CBS.
This day was not just a highlight of the summer for me; it was a highlight of my sports media career. I had lunch with Dan Marino and Dan Fouts. Shannon Sharpe regaled me with some excellent insights about being on television and the career arc of Jay Cutler (“There’s a reason he has a different offense, because he wasn’t playing well in the previous offense, but at some point in time, you need to see to say it’s not the coach, it’s you,” Sharpe said. Full interview here).
Jim Nantz gave me an exclusive on how he single-handedly saved “One Shining Moment” (the March Madness highlight music video that culminates the Final Four on CBS). Greg Gumbel was rather candid about his days of youthful partying when he lived in Chicago.
And then there was Phil Simms, who owned the room.
All of us reporters were mesmerized by his hilarious personality and football erudition. He also does a fantastic, dead-on impersonation of Bill Parcells. All in all, this was right up there with covering the 2010 Final Four and the 2012 Rose Bowl.
Then I took the NBC Studio Tour; which was right up there with setting up an online bill pay account and going to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
First off, by the time you pay all the fees, one adult ticket for the NBC Studio Tour costs $33. Here’s where I would review what you get for that money; and tell you about the experience.
However, I was so taken aback by their bizarre, Draconian rules that I’m not interested in reviewing the sites and sounds. I’m going to tell you about their paranoia and rigid edicts, so that you know what you’re getting into, should you consider signing up for this.
In the Facist spirit of the tour, I will write the rules in ALL CAPS!
1. YOU WILL NOT GET ANY BATHROOM BREAKS DURING THE TWO HOUR TOUR.
If you have to go to the bathroom, your tour ends right there and then.
No partial refunds.
And you can’t just go to the bathroom; you must wait for someone to escort you off the tour. They radio to get someone in, and it takes awhile. So your body better be able to “hold it in” for some time. Knowing this rule, I utilized it to be dismissed from the NBC Studio Tour early. I didn’t have to go.
I just wanted out. At CBS, I saw a sign that said “Studio 19,” one conference room and a Charles Schwab brokerage in the lobby of the building. Those sites were much more interesting and exciting than what I saw on the NBC Studio Tour.
2. YOU WILL NOT USE YOUR PHONE. AT ALL. EVEN IN AIRPLANE MODE
They claim this rule is in place because your signal will disrupt their broadcast.
Because the flagship station of a major network has technology so primitive that your blackberry will damage it; and throw it into utter chaos. I’ve talked with airplane pilots who have told me the airline rule is just as much b.s. as NBC is here on this one.
3. YOU WILL NOT TAKE ANY PICTURES. PERIOD.
This one is very strange to me because you’re not looking at centuries old masterworks of art that could be damaged by a flash. You’re looking at studio sets. And wait, you’re catering to tourists by………….NOT LETTING THEM TAKE PICTURES???? Last time I checked if you’re marketing a product to tourists, you should let them do what tourists do. And that’s take pictures.
Even odder, there are no postcards of anything on the NBC Studio Tour in the gift shop for sale. So taking pics isn’t cutting into their profit margins.
4. YOU WILL NOT WRITE IN YOUR NOTEBOOK DURING THE TOUR
I know, you think I’m making this up.
Sadly I’m not.
And this one was told to the entire group mid-tour; but I was the only one taking notes. Therefore, it was directed at me. This was the last straw. Even if the NBC Studio Tour was free, I’d want my money back. Let's recap:
No phones, no social media, no internet, no texting, no picture taking, no bathroom breaks, and no writing anything down in your notebook.
I think we can all see where this is going.
Ah, Jack Donaghy, one of the greatest TV characters ever. Why couldn't you be on the NBC Studio Tour and salvage this train wreck?
Just a hunch, but I'm guessing The Peacock is paranoid that their tours will be populated with spies from other networks. Their Draconian rubbish is in place because they believe someone from a rival will acquire inside information provided on the tour. To that I say
1.) Why even offer these tours then? It’s not like New York City is a place hurting for entertainment options
2.) What do they honestly think we’ll see? And what will we relay to others that could destroy them?
The NBC Studio Tour does not include sitting in on a shareholders meeting. There is no stop on the tour taking you inside the programming director’s office.
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