It’s a understatement to say that I’m going to simply miss 30 Rock.
I’m going to miss Jenna Maroney’s unbearable diva antics and extreme lack of self-awareness, Kenneth Parcell’s blind, dim-witted loyalty to NBC, and my confusion that always comes with separating Tracy Jordan, often troubled star of TGS, with Tracy Morgan, often troubled cast member of 30 Rock. I’m going to miss perhaps the greatest strictly platonic relationship between a man (Jack Donaghy) and a woman (Liz Lemon) I’ve ever seen, but most of all I’m going to simply miss the way all of these elements seemed to blend together so seamlessly, making these past seven seasons one wonderfully weird hell of a ride.
The modern sitcom never really manages to hold my attention for too long. The humor falls flat, the gags painfully recycled, and the references awfully drawn out and tired. Upon its premiere, 30 Rock was championed as a dynamic, fresh spin on the traditional sitcom, a smart, modern, state-of-the-art comedy that unfortunately is rarity in this day and age. As the series progressed through it’s first season, the focus switched from the day-to-day at TGS to more how the characters dealt with and balanced their personal lives, giving way for more open-ended, unrestricted styles of comedy. This flexibility allowed 30 Rock to expand from the get go, allowing you to became acquainted and therefore see characters at more than just face value. Like The Office before it, 30 Rock conveyed a wonderfully offbeat charm in getting to know these lovable losers, throwing the traditional sitcom format out the window in the process. References could be as subtle as a poster on a wall, often bypassing you upon first viewing, forcing you sit down and really immerse yourself in the comedy. In fact, there are still moments I catch myself finding new references in episodes I’ve watched plenty of times (Thank you, Netflix!), a trait that gives a show like 30 Rock an infinite amount of replay value, just another aspect that sets it apart from sitcoms past.
I can completely understand why I gravitated towards 30 Rock so easily. It’s a quirky, misfit program that bombards you with more pop culture in-jokes than a game of Trivial Pursuit. It celebrates a genre of humor that largely manages to sail right over many people’s heads; a cogent satire of America’s obsession with celebrity culture and the lunatics obsessed with it (ahem).
This brash approach to comedy meant nothing was off limits, whether it be the seemingly endless financial and creative woes plaguing NBCUniversal by having Jack greenlight shows such as MILF Island and America’s Kidz Got Singing or the utter calamity that became of Real Housewives (on NBC subsidiary network Bravo) with two on point episodes of Queen of Jordan. It is with this self-awareness that managed to treat something like the NBC/Comcast merger with the same 30 Rock charm, having Jack answer to humble, holy Hank Hooper and Kabletown. Nothing was never too much or too soon for Tina and co. This boldness, which first and foremost acted as a brilliant, take-no-prisoners commentary on the art, science, and business of broadcast television, simultaneously showed that a television sitcom with seven seasons and not one major cast shakeup can have no trouble remaining current and relevant.
While doing an incredible job of showcasing the madness that comes with a normal day at TGS with Tracy Jordan, 30 Rock always managed to incorporate just as much heart as it did laughs. Jack Donaghy, the rare example of a conservative who wasn’t a bumbling idiot, looked to left-wing liberal Liz Lemon as his closest friend and confidante, showing that such differences were just that, differences. Over the years we’ve seen Jenna realize that the only person she could truly love was herself (a Jenna Maroney impersonator played by Will Forte), Jack’s rocky relationships with women such as Nancy Donovan (Julianne Moore) and Avery Jessup (Elizabeth Banks), the latter giving birth to his daughter and showing him that there is something more important than status, and of course, Liz Lemon’s relentless pursuit to one day have it all; a modern, more attainable vision of Carrie Bradshaw that was equal parts Nora Ephron. As the show progressed, so did your allegiance to the characters, hoping that one day each of these oddballs would achieve a sense of normalcy in their lives.
I’ve laughed, I’ve almost cried, but with the series’ penultimate episode, I finally understood a real meaning in these past seven seasons. Even if not explicitly pointed out, seven years unleash a lot of growth upon oneself; this growth being a universal theme clearly reciprocated in the show and characters themselves. In the trail end of the episode we see Jenna and Tracy, usually too preoccupied with themselves to even bat an eyelash, decide to step up and help Liz in the only way they have left—by informing the board that they, along with the show’s staff, are quitting; allowing Liz to finally move on to the next chapter in her life, motherhood. In the same episode, we see Jack Donaghy, freshly appointed CEO of Kabletown, realize that television is in fact an unconventional medium, and the best skill for leading it is to love it; before bestowing lowly diehard NBC page Kenneth with the title of president of the network, showing that a love for what you do is sometimes all it takes.
As we inch closer and closer to Thursday’s finale and I find myself mulling over the plethora of little life lessons the show left behind, I find it appropriate to leave you with one that stood out in particular courtesy of everyone’s favorite basket case, Jenna Maroney.“You know what they say boys. If you can’t stand the heat, get off of Mickey Rourke’s sex grill.”