30 Rock is important to me.
It is not series that helped me through a difficult time, though I did gorge on it while I was in the hospital in December; it didn’t help me come to some particular epiphany about my life or offer me guidance in a career path, even if I think I would totally rock an NBC page jacket; and I didn’t meet the love of my life over a shared admiration of the show.
There have been, and continue to be, plenty of shows about television shows or that have television shows as a setting, but starting on Oct. 11, 2006, there was 30 Rock, and it was about television: its past and its present, its shows and its business, all things that I love, and that the series' writers and producers clearly loved, too.
But 30 Rock wasn’t slavish in its admiration, and instead opted for satire, parody, and winking homage, whether it was needling NBC’s corporate ownership through GE by way of the Sheinhardt Wig Company or demystifying TV “golden age” with a character like Tim Conway’s racist and homophobic Bucky Bright or creating a delightful fictional history of broadcast television in “Live from Studio 6H” or driving the never-ending train of horrible made-up NBC programs like MILF Island, Homonym, and the Will Ferrell-starring Bitch Hunter.
30 Rock thought and felt about TV the same way that I, and many people I knew and still know, think and feel about TV: with love and irreverence, respect, and an arched, knowing eyebrow.And so the finale of this series has filled me with both dread and happiness. Dread, well, for the obvious reasons, because it’s a show that I’ve watched, loved, quoted (“blerg” is a permanent part of my vocabulary, among many, many, many, other words from the series), and discussed with others for seven years. But the happiness comes from the fact that the show, despite its ratings, stayed on the air (likely due to media ownership, Emmys, and fear of Lorne Michaels) and ended on its own terms.
Those terms were pretty good. “Hogcock!” and “Last Lunch” weren’t 30 Rock’s funniest episodes, but as has always been the case with the series, there were plenty of stellar little bits, including Liz seeing the on-screen ad for Grizz and Herz, Tanned Penis Island (mostly destroyed due to Sting’s housefire), Kenneth’s list of of TV no-no words*, and the very spot-on recreation of the mom forums, reflective of the web in general more than anything.
* Conflict, Urban, Woman, Divorce, Shows About Shows, Writer, Justin Bartha, Dramedy, New York, Politics, High Concept, Complex, Niche, Quality, Edgy, Blog, Immortal Character, Foreign
If there was one new bit that somehow slayed me (and we’ll get to the old bits in a moment), it was Lutz’s insistence on ordering Blimpie. Yes, it gave Lutz his final victory over a room of people who have abused him and maligned him for years (except for that one day they thought he had a car), but it also put a bow on the gift of 30 Rock’s consistent needling of product placement. Subway, given its presence on other NBC shows like Chuck and Community, would’ve been the obvious choice, but instead we got a sort of anti-product integration plot where no one but the show’s most hated in-universe character wanted it.
But the finale also paid off on and called back to lots of running gags, including Pete’s unhappiness with his life (and he still couldn’t even fake his death properly!), the return of The Rural Juror (I’m convinced that the Mean Girls musical is just a feint and that Tina Fey is really going to do a Rural Juror musical), and Kenneth’s seeming agelessness with that St. Elsewhere-in-the-future gag as a descendant of Liz Lemon pitched 30 Rock to NBC. It was one last little meta joke for a show that thrived on meta jokes.
What I liked most about the finale, though, was the question of whether or not Liz and Jack could really have it all. That drive to have both a job and a family has been at the core of both their lives for all seven seasons. Both have faced ups and downs professionally and personally, and now, faced with getting what they thought they wanted all along—complete business and political domination in Jack’s case and a family in Liz’s case—they realized that the other components are just as important, and that they needed all of it to be happy.
But of course they could have it all, and I love that in this regard—together with the fact that Kenneth was still in charge of NBC who knows how many years later (and that NBC still existed!)—30 Rock’s jokey cynical shell broke apart and exposed its gooey center one last time.