In the past, when a TV series has actually brought me to tears (small, manly tears) it's almost always been a drama, or a sitcom with some great character development that allows you to fully see who the characters are behind the punchlines and catch-phrases that they have to keep spewing forth like a rabid hyena playing it up for the retarded live audience.... But not my 30 Rock; the final episode of which — after running for 7 seasons with pretty much zero character development, and damn proud of that fact — brought a little water to my eye, but still made me laugh my dick off.
No, I'm not saying that 30 Rock ever really made me feel any emotionally charged messages that it was trying to deliver for a lame Emmy nod (of which it actually did receive 22 Primetime Emmy Award noms and 5 actual golden angels to call its own), but it never shoved any of its jokes or pathetic drama in the audience's face — unless the joke was that it was shoving the joke in the audience's face. No catch-phrases, no time to wait for a studio audience to stop laughing and hooting because a certain character simply walked through the door... No, 30 was better than that. 30 Rock had class, and smarts, and pee-in-jars jokes. 30 Rock was one of the greatest, funniest, and goddamn Traciest shows the world will ever see... Until Liz Lemon's great granddaughter reboots it in the distant future.
Okay, let me back up. Back when Tina Fey first left Saturday Night Live as its head writer, in order to create her own sitcom, I was sad. I had a man-boner for her snarky wit and oh-so-fuckable hot smirk she'd put on when she'd deliver the Weekend Update in the middle of the show. I was almost positive though that like 90% of every SNL-spin off movie or series that Fey's new adventure into prime time was going to suck. Suck hard. Suck it like Trebek's mother sucks Sean Connery off every Tuesday. I did tune in for the premiere episode of 30 Rock back in October of 2006... and was kind of disappointed. It seemed like all Fey was doing was hitting all the low marks already set up as the template for average sitcoms since the dawn of time... Or the dawn of television (which is the same thing in my and Kenneth the page's book). It was predictable, the characters were trying too hard to be unique (while coming across as the same old shit), and it just wasn't that funny. I think I watched another 2 or 3 episodes of the first season, but then gave up on the show, and just wrote it off as Tina Fey only being something nice to look at, but nothing more.
Then, a year later, Chi-Chi and I were talking and the topic of "good modern TV" came up. I said everything — except The Office — sucked (remember, this was 2007, when The Office was still pretty damn funny), but Chi-Chi disagreed. He told me his favorite show at the time was 30 Rock. I slapped him and called him a "retarded whore," if I remember correctly. He stood his ground though and told me to give it another chance. Since this was the guy who introduced me to internet pr0n back in 1992, I decided to take his word for it and give the Liz Lemonade another try.
The very first episode I watched after my hiatus was the 2nd season one where Alec Baldwin's character (Jack Donaghy) hires Steve Buscemi (Len, the world's most calm, but fucked up P.I.) to dig up any dirt he could on himself before his rivals found anything, and where fat primadonna Jenna gets upset that she's losing weight. I laughed. I laughed hard. These were NOT the same characters I had seen the previous year. This was NOT the same show. The second season of 30 Rock learned from all the mistakes that the first one made. It also improved on the parts that worked, and made them even funnier too. If you're starting cold on this show on Netflix or something, start with the 2nd season. Trust me.
But enough of this palaver. 30 Rock is great because of Tina Fey's Liz Lemon, a nerd/geek who's the head writer of NBC's live Friday night sketch show, TGS: With Tracy Jordan. It's better than great because of Baldwin's Jack Donaghy, GE's new straight as an arrow and right-winged as a Ronald Reagan's main strokin' arm "Head of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming." And it's brilliant because of Tracy Morgan's Tracy Jordan (apparently the only first name he'd ever be able to respond to), a loud, stupid, partying, amazing black actor who constantly has his own Eddie Murphy-like entourage hanging around doing all the crazy shit he throws their way. Beyond these big three though, I also love everybody else in the entire cast (except for Lutz): Jenna, the aging extroverted starlette; Kenneth, the hick from Stone Mountain, Georgia who LIVES for TV, and who may or may not be an immortal; all the bizarre writers for TGS, including the new-hat-everyday Frank, and the Harvard-educated Toofer; Jack and Tracy's personal physician, Dr. Spaceman (pronounced "Spes-eh-men" by everyone, except Tracy); and Jack and Liz's revolving door of girlfriends and boyfriends respectively (including Salma Hayek, Juliane Moore, Elizabeth Banks, Mayhem [from the Allstate commercials], Matt Damon, and Cyclops [James Marsden]).
So what's 30 Rock about, you ask like a little girl questioning the stranger offering her free candy to help him find his lost puppy but who then figures "Fuck 'stranger danger!' Free candy and a puppy to pet!" because you're goddamn retarded? It's about TGS (with Tracy Jordan) head writer, Liz Lemon, and her dealings with her staff, her stars, her boss, and her personal life. Yeah, it sounds like a Lifetime series, but 30 Rock is rude, crude, very intelligent, very stupid, racist, sexist, anti-republican, anti-liberal, not afraid to put a retarded black man in white-face, and it loves to get cameos by famous people for only 2 seconds of screen time (my favorites being Jim Carey as Leap-Year William [a being who emerges every 4 years from the Mariana Trench to exchange candy for childrens' tears], Oprah Winfrey as a sassy 14 year-old fat girl, and John Lithgow with a quick Harry and the Hendersons punchline). 30 Rock has some of the wisest characters ever written (well, Jack Donaghy is a fucking suave genius, and Kenneth is very insightful in his own bumpkin, dropped on his head sort of way), and also some of the dumbest (Tracy, Jenna, Kenneth, and fucking Lutz), and their interactions are the stuff of legends. Just putting two characters (doesn't matter who) in the same room together would be enough to have an entire episode based upon it, and it would be funnier than most anything else you've seen on TV in the past 10 years (except maybe another episode of 30 Rock with more than 2 characters in it).
Beyond that though, Tracy, Jenna, and Jack get almost as much screen time as Liz, and their stories (especially Tracy's and Jack's) are usually as good as Liz's. For instance: like the time when the partially mongoloid Tracy tries for his EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards); or the time when Jack finds out his girlfriend's hispanic mother hates him because he looks just like the evil character on her favorite Mexican soap opera, and he uses his power and influence to try and have that character killed off; or the time Jenna started dating a male impersonator whose specialty was impersonating her. Oh, and my favorite Jenna episode would have to be when she finally meets a prince who wants to marry her (a hideously deformed, inbred prince, played by Paul Ruebens), but he commits suicide by drinking a small amount of champagne (which his fucked up inards can't metabolize) so that he could end his miserable existence and die on a happy note. Goddamn am I going to miss this series.
But, despite my constant whining for the next 20 years about how we'll never have another show as fast, clever, and all-together stupidly hilarious as 30 Rock, I want to point out just how perfect Tina Fey's debut opus' grand finale truly was. The last episode was the most perfect final bow that it ever could have hoped to have been. From Lutz butt-fucking everybody with the final ever lunch order (how did they get away with making Blimpie Subs out to be the shittiest sandwich shop in the world without a lawsuit?), to Liz becoming a mommy to lil' Jenna and Tracy, all the way to the flash forward to a year later and seeing how everybody was, which then led to that incredible St. Elsewhere fake-out finale with Kenneth. When they showed that snowglobe I was ready to scream and punch my puppy, but then they went and TOTALLY redeemed themselves! Goddamn glorious!
I love how much this show gets away with. Not just the elements of good taste that it regularly slaughters (pig chuckles, lemon party references, and lesbian centenarians come to mind), but just the mad amount of jokes leveled at NBC, GE, and Comcast... I am mouth-gapingly amazed. 30 Rock constantly bites the hand that feeds it, then it pisses on it and smiles, and the people signing the paychecks don't seem to mind.
Oh, and to show you just how great 30 Rock is in a real world setting, I gave my parents seasons 2 - 4 of this show on DVD a few Christmasses ago, and they at first refused to watch them. My father was quoted as saying "This is that show with Alec Baldwin AND Tina Fey in it? Two of the biggest liberals in the known universe? That kind of preachy entertainment is not something I want to waste my time with. No thank you."
That's when I countered with "In real life, yes, maybe, they both want to butt-fuck Al Gore, but in this entertainment program Baldwin plays the most straight-laced right-wing republican this side of Eisenhower's right butt-cheek! And he's always right. Everytime a problem comes up between him and Lemon (who's Fey's whiny liberal character), the big, pushy, bossy republican is always right. This show is tailor made for you!"
They have since bought every season that followed, and have thanked me profusely for introducing them to the series. 30 Rock makes right-wingers root for Alec Baldwin. It's that amazing. You can quote me on that.
I can't believe that the Rossman actually became so enchanted by this show. I, at first, thought it to be quite humorous and comical in the sense that I like my comedy to contain lots of jokes about fat, partially brain-damaged, potty-mouthed man-childs. For Tracy Morgan's character alone is worth the price of admission for this series. But then I just stopped watching it at around season 5, and the Rossman apparently created a new religion based on this thing. To be fair maybe he's just worshipping Tina Fey's ass. I can't blame him for that. Who could?
The Rossman here. Since I couldn't find anybody else who's seen the entirety of this series (who actually wants their name associated with this site), I'm just going to post a shit-ton of my favorite quotes from 30 Rock here for poops and giggles. Enjoy!
Kenneth: Science is my most favorite subject, especially the Old Testament.
Tracy: I hate to bail, but I've been asked to do a commercial for the Boys and Girls Club of America, and I just can't turn down community service. Because if I do, that judge will make me join the Coast Guard.
Kenneth: [My pig] went crazy! She bit off my nutsack... that I kept tied around my belt to feed the squirrels.
Dr. Spaceman: All right, now that the popsicle's melted we've got ourselves a tongue depressor.
Liz: I wanted you to look at these cold sores. I get them when I'm stressed out.
Dr. Spaceman: Ah they're nothing to be ashamed of. I get them from prostitutes.
Kenneth: Oh, Miss Maroney, I have your messages. Uh, a Mr. Brett Fav-ray stopped by, and uh, dropped off this picture of a hot dog? There you go...
Jack: Home run, Lemon. And speaking of baseball metaphors I see that someone got to first base, which is what I consider sex with a stranger.
Tracy: If i start screaming in my sleep do NOT wake me up. I will attack you. [starts snoring] YAAAAA! WAKE ME UP! FREE ME FROM THIS! [snores] LAAAAHHHH HA!
Jack: I only pass gas once a year, for an hour, atop a mountain in Switzerland.
Lutz: Sir Ian McKellen? That dude must be knee-deep in boob.
Kenneth: When I first started working here, an eight-year-old Shirley Temple showed me how to roll a cigarette.
Liz: Do you have a neck pillow I could borrow? I blew mine up and now it smells like my mouth.
Jack: I don't sleep on planes. I don't want to get incepted.
Liz: You have two choices here. You can stay in your room like a child, or you can get out there and do your job.
[Tracy stands up]
Liz: Thank you.
Tracy: Oh, I'm sorry, that was misleading. I'm not going to rehearse. I'm going to get a sandwich and then eat it on the toilet.
Kenneth: I can talk to animals! Well, not talk to them. I can take commands from them.
Pete (TGS Producer): While our children are basically snot silos with BB guns, they do come in handy, as a buffer.
Kenneth: Is that like being a fluffer? Because I have done that and did not enjoy it. Blow-drying animals at a pet salon is hard work.
Pete: No, a buffer is a protective barrier.
Kenneth: Like pigs have around their delicious testicle meat.
Tracy: You remember Donald, my son who's two years older than me.
Tracy: I've poured more cash into Donald's restaurant than my money pit in Connecticut.
Jack: You have a house in Connecticut?
Tracy: No, I do not.
Liz: I always forget you used to be poor.
Jack: Thank you.
Kenneth: Is SpongeBob SquarePants supposed to be terrifying?
Tracy: I once saw a baby give another baby a tattoo! They were very drunk!
Liz: Usually everyone around here makes me feel like Hitler, but today I feel like Hitler in Germany.
Kenneth: Sometimes a place is so special to you, it feels like it couldn't possibly continue after you're gone. After I left Kentucky Mountain Bible College, it still kept going. Until it got shut down. Because of the wolves.
Jenna: I should get a chafing dish and fill it with my underwear in case some Saudi guys show up.
Jack: Making it through a full twenty-four hours without making a single misstep is called "Reaganing." The only other people who've ever done it? Lee Iacocca, Jack Welch, and — no judgment — Saddam Hussein.
Jack: We are an immigrant nation. The first generation works their fingers to the bone making things; the next generation goes to college and innovates new ideas. The third generation snowboards and takes improv classes.
Tracy: I've missed the birth of both of my sons, for very legitimate reasons.
Dotcom (one of Tracy's entourage): Cooking a french bread pizza, and forgot.
Tracy: There's something about you lately. Make me want to put my feet in your mouth.
Tracy: Parties are like Frisbees. If you throw them the wrong way, they'll veer off in a bad direction, and then your kid will fall into a quarry.
Tracy: Don't throw a party for vengeance. It will turn on you... like your wife, after your kid has fallen into a quarry.
Kenneth: Mr. Baker wants to do everything for himself. I feel about as useless as a mom's college degree.
Kenneth: Oh, Miss Lemon. You have several messages. Aw, let's see, that company running the bike tour in South Carolina says no singles. Uh, your credit card called, they want to make sure you're the one buying cream soda in bulk.
Liz: I sure am.
Kenneth: And your landlord called and he says it's not the toilet, it's you.
Liz: That's his opinion.