OK…here it goes.
I’ve been really nervous all day as to how I was going to write this reflection. Or maybe I was just nervous that the show was ending. I mean, I’ve literally been dreading this moment since last May. But all good things have to come to an end. And I really do believe this was the right time for the show to end. Ugh…this whole post is going to sound like a Jodie Foster speech. Let’s start at the beginning.
I’ve actually loved Tina Fey since her SNL days. I always looked forward to Weekend Update with her and Jimmy Fallon. I thought Mean Girls was hilarious. And when it was first announced she was leaving SNL to work on her own show, yeah, I was a littler nervous. But when it was announced that she was bringing along Rachel Dratch I was like “I want to go to there.” Then…it was quickly announced that Rachel Dratch would be replaced with some actress named Jane Krakowski. I’m not gonna lie: I was pissed. And with more buzz going towards Studio 60, my excitement for the show completely deteriorated. I just wasn’t convinced that the show would be worth it. So I forgot about the show and continued watching Disney Channel.
A few weeks went by. The Golden Globes happened where Alec Baldwin surprisingly won Best Actor despite the fact that the show wasn’t nominated for anything. I had heard some very mixed things about Studio 60 which surprised me (to this day, I’ve never seen a second of the show). I was bored. I decided “why not?” All the episodes are on the website. Let’s watch the first episode and see how it is.
Y’know…I was around 14 when the show first premiered. I still wasn’t watching network television. I was still stuck in the “Disney Channel/Nickelodeon/Cosby Show” phase of my life. 30 Rock was the first current adult single camera show I had ever watched. I couldn’t compare it to The Office or Arrested Development like everyone else seemed to do. So…yeah, I actually really liked the pilot. I still do, actually. It’s funny how people act like the first half of the first season was terrible but…I dunno, I think there were some funny moments during its first few weeks.
So, I continued watching the show. I wasn’t too crazy about Baldwin or Tracy Morgan. But, ironically, my two favorite things about the show was Jane Krakowski as Jenna and Rachel Dratch as “various characters.” By the end, I had really loved the show, and when the Emmys came around, not only was I pleased that the show picked up a slew of nominations, but that it ended up winning Best Comedy Series, beating the front runner Ugly Betty (the show I was probably more excited for during the beginning of the fall, but ended up abandoning when I realized how “serious” and soapy it was.)
I remember the moment when I completely fell in love with this show. The moment when I decided that this show was my favorite. It was “Episode 210″ (the last episode before the strike?) and it was the scene where the entire cast (+Edie Falco) sing “Midnight Train to Georgia.” The already wonderful moment is capped by a surprise 2 second appearance by Gladys Knight. I don’t know why that scene made me love this show. I think it just made me realize that this show was capable of anything. They could get Gladys Knight to appear on the show for 2 seconds because…well…they’re that kind of show. I guess that’s why I never minded when the show would stack up on guest stars. It just made sense to me. It makes sense that a show about the entertainment industry would have a lot of high profile guests.
So…yeah…that’s my history with 30 Rock. I’ve just loved the show ever since. It’s been my favorite comedy for the last seven years. And I’m just not sure there’ll be another comedy show I’ll love as much. For some reason, this show is special to me. As a writer, it truly inspires me. The humor just connects with me and I feel like I’ve learned a lot watching the show. I’ve connected with the characters. I’ve laughed at the jokes. I’ve quoted all the weird irreverent one liners. I’ve fervently stood up for the show when “fans” said it had jumped the shark. And…I’ll truly miss it. I think what Tina Fey has done is great…and I can’t help but think of all the shows (particularly female-centric comedies) that wouldn’t have existed without her.
I don’t know what I can say about the finale. It definitely was an emotional roller coaster. I was a bit surprised that there weren’t too many guest stars (I was definitely expecting Jon Hamm and Michael Sheen…but I was happy to see Kathy Geiss one last time…whomever the actress is), but I think it was for the better because it allowed for there to be a fully formed story that featured a lot of the main cast. There were three moments that stuck out. One was the moment where Jenna’s mirror in her dressing room is taken away and the little montage that followed. The second one was the scene with Liz and Tracy in the strip club (a beautiful bookend to the pilot) where Liz tearfully and earnestly tells Tracy that she’ll miss him. And the last was, of course, the scene outside the studio with Jack in the boat. The moment where he figures out “see through dishwashers” was just brilliant. Oh! And Kenneth’s immortality towards the end was perfect. (Of course they’d end the show on a Kenneth note).
So…without further ado, here are the 20 episodes of 30 Rock I love the most. This wasn’t an easy task…and in a year or two, this might change. But, right now, this is the list I have compiled. (I created this list before I watched the finale so I never considered it.)
20. The C Word (Season 1) - I felt like I had to include a season 1 episode…so here it goes. My favorite episode from season 1. This was the episode where Lutz calls Liz Lemon the “C word” and Liz has trouble figuring out how to deal with it. I just love the end where Liz tries to work a VHS player. And also the scene where Rachel Dratch’s “cat lady” yells out RUNT!
19. Emanuelle Goes to Dinosaur Land/I Do Do (Season 4) - I consider this a tw0-parter, so I’m putting them in one rank. I mean…I honestly could never watch one episode without the other. This is the season 4 finale where Liz has to go to three weddings in one day while dealing with Wesley Snipes (Sheen). In the process, she meets her next boyfriend, Carol, played by Matt Damon. Meanwhile, Jack realizes she’s in love with Avery…and that she’s pregnant. This was just a beautiful, well directed episode that gave Don Scardino an Emmy nomination. This episode also features a hilarious cameo by Jon Hamm’s Dr. Drew (probably the single funniest moment in season 4.)
18. The Moms (Season 4) - The moms visit the TGS set. I particularly loved Jan Hooks (Jenna’s mom) in this episode. (“I sexually assaulted Scotty Pippin”). In my opinion, she probably deserved an Emmy nomination over favorite Elaine Stritch.
17. The Tuxedo Begins (Season 6) - This was the very hilarious Dark Knight parody where Liz Lemon comes to the conclusion that because everyone in New York is rude, she might as well fight fire with fire. Her transformation into The Joker is just spectacular and Tina Fey gives a really funny performance. This episode also had an abundance of hilarious one liners. (“3 Bucks. Two Bags, One Me. Say, where does a young prostitute get started in this town?” / “Sam and Diane are a lesbian couple in my building who killed each other.” / “Concrete bunghole where dreams are made up there’s nothing you can do.”)
16. Live From Studio 6H (Season 6) - I loved the first live episode as much as the usual fan, but I think this second installment hit the mark perfectly. This one just seemed so uninhibited and messy and it really looked like the cast was having a ball. Jon Hamm (“BANJO!”) was a revelation, but the funniest moments occurred when Paul L’astname (Will Forte) sings “Zou be zou,” Fred Armisen’s silent appearances throughout the episode, and anything having to do with Kristen Schaal’s Hazel Wassername (Ripping the picture of Sindead O’Connor / “Next stop. Hollywood, Florida to get the car from my mom. Next stop. California Pizza Kitchen to tell my old boss Nadine to suck it. Next stop. Tinseltown because Christmas decorations are really cheap this time of year.”)
15. Unwindulax/There’s No I in America (Season 7) - This was the big political episode two-parter of the season where, because of her large Florida following (“The penis of America!), it becomes clear that Jenna could very well decide who becomes president. The ending of the first episode (where Tracy and Jack explain what candidate each swing state will vote for) and the beginning of the second episode (To Danny: “Really? Now you have a thing?”) just kill me. Definitely a highlight among a season of them.
14. MILF Island (Season 2) - I just liked how contained this episode was. It took place in one building on one night, yet most everyone in the cast (except curiously Jane Krakowski) has a moment to shine. The “MILF Island” scenes are also great and that scene where Liz Lemon says the exact same thing as Deborah on TV (it’s kind of hard to explain) is what made me choose this episode over the similarly absurd “Episode 210″…sorry.
13. Standards and Practices (Season 6) - The rivalry between Kaylie Hooper (played by Chloe Moretz) and Jack is one of the stronger recurring story lines during the last few seasons, and this episode is definitely my favorite. But, for some reason, the last scene with network censor Gaylord Felcher, is what makes this episode memorable in my eyes.
12. Double-Edged Sword (Season 5) - This episode had two significant plots. The first plot involved Liz and Carol arguing on a plane (Carol’s a pilot) and breaking up in the end. Those plane scenes were hilarious, particularly the theme song for NBC’s failed show Gals in the Town starring Aisha Tyle, Teri Polo and Lindsay Price (“Love and friendship having it all / Or maybe just a great pair of shoes / One of them has to be Asian / Can they be good at their jobs?”) that played on the plane. The breakup scene was surprisingly sad. And the second plot involves Jack and Avery trying to prevent their baby from being born in Canada…which just gave us a slew of amazing Canadian jokes (“Your milk comes in bags! BAGS!”) A nearly perfect episode that earned Fey, Elizabeth Banks, and Matt Damon all Emmy noms.
11. Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning (Season 5) - Such a great episode that featured Jack trying to pre-film disaster benefits so when a disaster actually happens, NBC would get there first and receive the higher rating. Unfortunately things go wrong when the disaster involves the hated Mel Gibson and his buddy Jon Gosselin. This episode also highlights Liz’s and Tracy’s intense and complicated relationship; and seeing them continuously try to one up each other was just great.
And now…THE TOP 10…DUN DUN DUN…ston.
10. Reunion (Season 3) - This is an episode that I obviously loved when I first watched it…but it took me a while before I appreciated it. (And it took me a little while before I understood why Tina Fey would submit this episode for Emmy consideration as opposed to “Believe in the Stars”). 30 Rock is a crazy show, but I think this is actually one of the more restrained episodes of the series believe it or not. We learn about Liz’s past and maybe an explanation as to why she acts the way she acts. We see Jack (after finding out he’s not going to be the chair of GE) become depressed and yearn to relive his youth. And we’re introduced to the catchphrase that has become a staple in 30 Rock’s dictionary: “I want to go to there.” This is one of those episodes where the story is probably more important than the number of jokes and cultural references…and maybe that’s a reason why fans who aren’t necessarily fans of the “later seasons” love this episode a lot.
9. Queen of Jordan (Season 5) - I had to put this episode in my top 10. This, along with the first live episode and probably “100,” are probably the most polarizing episodes the show has put out. After this episode aired, I read comments and reviews ranging from “SO FUNNY” to “This is the worst episode in the history of 30 Rock.” But…that’s what I like about this show – always taking chances. I think by the end of season 5, Tina Fey realized the show would never be a ratings hit the same way Modern Family and Big Bang Theory are. So I think she felt more comfortable making absurd and weird episodes like this one. This was pretty much a parody of those trashy Bravo shows starring Angie (Tracy’s wife). Sherri Shepard is hilarious and she’s always been one of my favorite guest stars on the show. But, anyway, I had to put this in my top 10 because I probably watched it 10 times on my DVR after it aired. They did another episode like this in season 6 which was also great…but this first one will always be the best.
8. My Whole Life is Thunder (Season 7) - Season 7 is probably as strong and consistent a season as seasons 2 and 3…which is why two episodes from the season easily make my top 10. This episode was particularly emotional because it was the passing of the beloved Colleen Donaghy, played wonderfully by Elaine Stritch. Elaine Stritch was the first actor on the show to win an Emmy. She won for season 1, and was nominated for 3 years afterwards. Colleen was Jack’s foil. She was the one character who could push Jack’s buttons the hardest. So she does one last thing to push them…she dies. Her death was sad, but it gave us one of the funniest scenes of the show – the funeral where Jack recites the greatest eulogy in the history of the world (“Today we are all Irish!” remarks Tracy). Even Kermit was invited to the party. Alec Baldwin is wonderful in this role and this episode is one of many reasons why. In another part of the 30 Rock universe, Liz and Jenna’s friendship is tested (again) when Jenna’s upset that Liz got married before she did. That entire scene in the conference (featuring wonderful performances from famous women, most notably Gayle King…and least notably Wendy Williams) is pitch perfect. Liz has always done a good job poking fun at her gender…which is why it was upsetting leaving “TGS Hates Women” off this list. Oh well…maybe in 10 years, my mind will change.
7. Sandwich Day (Season 2) - This was the episode Tina Fey won her only acting Emmy for…and while Fey probably deserved a couple more afterwards, I’m glad that if she had to win one – this was it. This episode displays Fey’s strongest performance. She really hits all the right notes. Anger (“WHERE’S MY MAC AND CHEESE???”), disappointment, sexiness, sadness, betrayal…all of this while being funny. And who else loves that scene where she swallows that entire sandwich at the airport in one take. That’s how committed Fey/Lemon is…to food. This isn’t the most LOL episode of the bunch, but, similar to “Reunion,” I can appreciate the story and how relatable the character is.
6. Cooter (Season 2) - What I love about 30 Rock is how seamlessly the are able to squeeze in 4 or 5 plots in one 22 minute episode. It’s crazy! First we had Jack going to work in DC (which featured a hilarious Emmy snubbed performance from Matthew Broderick). Then we had Liz’s pregnancy scare (it turns out those cheese puffs were made of evaporated bull semen). Then we had Kenneth try to get on the page program in Beijing for the Olympics (for “Rainbow Chicken”). And then we had Tracy attempt to make the world’s first porn video game. (“Touch my knees butt.”) And then there’s Jenna who easily participates in 3 of these plots, helping each character in her own way. (My favorite scene in this episode is definitely Jenna’s “video essay” for Kenneth and her song: “Mind. Body. Spirit. Kenneth…I see myself in you. So brave. So ready…to be all that you can do. So beautiful. In every way. I see myself in you.”) Tina Fey won an Emmy for writing this episode and it was much deserved. Definitely the highlight of season 2!
5. Kidney Now! (Season 3) - Speaking of musical moments, we really have to give a hand to Jeff Richmond, the guy who’s married to Tina Fey, and the guy who did all the music on the show for free because their married (Tina’s words). Seriously, the music on this show is excellent and it’s a big part of the entire tone of the show. A lot of times, I just find myself humming to the score. It’s that catchy and that beautiful. And one of the greatest musical moments was the song “He Needs a Kidney” featuring a smorgasbord of different celebrities and singers (Why this wasn’t on the soundtrack, I’ll never know). The song was a benefit Jack set up for his father who actually really needed a kidney. It’s a hilarious/ faux-emotional moment that made me really appreciate this show and what it’s about.
4. Mazel Tov, Dummies! (Season 7) - What I love about this comedy show is that it doesn’t get bogged down in sentimentality. Even it’s most sentimental moments are absurd and weird at the same time. Take Liz and Criss’s wedding for example. Criss sported grillz. Liz wore a Princess Leia costume. The only people in attendance was Dennis Duffy, his trashy girlfriend and a couple random hobos (+Jack). It’s a hilarious bit…but at the same time, I might have teared up watching it. I always love movies and TV programs that can manage to make me cry and laugh at the same time…and that’s exactly what this episode did. It’s only been a few weeks since it aired, but I can confidently say that this was one of the best episodes this show has ever created and it shall forever be in my top 10.
3. Lee Marvin vs. Derek Jeter (Season 4) - After season 3, the rest of the seasons have gotten a varied mixed response from fans. However, season 4 is probably the season that gets the most flack. Season 4 may not be as consistent as the seasons before it, but it still gave us some of the best episodes and moments ever. Honestly, I only think this season looks bad because it came right after the show’s peak (season 3). I don’t think anything could compete with season 3. But, anyway, “Lee Marvin vs. Derek Jeter” is the strongest episode of the season and one of the best overall. Yes, it’s another “Liz Lemon wants a man” episode…but who else gets a little misty eyed during the scene where Liz is explaining what she wants in a man while a bunch of red dodge balls are thrown at her. Only me? OK. This episode also deals with Jack’s dilemma as to whether he should choose Avery or Nancy. And Toofer expressing anger over only being hired because of affirmative action gave us some funny moments. Most importantly…we were introduced to Bitch Hunter. Need I say more?
2. Mrs. Donaghy (Season 5) - Let’s face it – as much as we love the kooky supporting characters and the crazy guest stars, the best thing about this show has always been the friendship between Liz and Jack. Dissenters always complain about how the show has little character development. That may be true for Jenna, Tracy, and Kenneth – but ya gotta admit, the way Liz and Jack’s relationship has developed over the years has been beautiful and darn right inspiring. It’s almost crazy to think that these two were once mortal enemies. When Liz had a problem, she’d either go to Pete or Jenna. Now she goes to Jack. And vice versa! Yes, this is an episode where they spend most of the episode arguing (in a nutshell, Liz and Jack accidentally get married, and Liz won’t sign the divorce papers unless Jack gives in to her demands on TGS), the ending where they realize how much they need and depend on each other is beautiful and just shows that these are two deep, fleshed out characters who need each other. Also…Tina Fey’s Little Edie accent is hilarious!
1. Believe in the Stars (Season 3) - I felt sort of weird about putting this episode at number 1 because it’s not a particularly deep or important episode. But…it’s been my favorite episode for the longest time…and I just can’t see any other episode surpassing it. This was the Oprah episode and contains two of the most hilarious scenes in the show’s history. The first is Liz’s conversation with Oprah on the plane. Liz has a mixture of alcohol and pills in her system so she’s pretty whacked. She ends up confessing random nonsense to her. (“One time at summer camp I kissed a girl on a dare, but then she drowned!”) The second hilarious scene is later when she finds out she wasn’t actually talking to Oprah on the plane, but a random middle school girl who looks like Oprah (played amazingly by Raven Goodwin). This episode is just so absurd and features another great performance by Fey.
OK…I know this was long but…thank you for reading. And, 30 Rock, thank you for making high school and college more bearable.
I guess my Plan B is…New Girl for now? And the second season of Veep is premiering soon so that should be nice. And of course The Office finale is coming soon…