Listen up fives, a ten is speaking.
There’s been a lot of ink spilled over the last week on the occasion of 30 Rock’s final episode. It has finally come and gone, and we as a nation now need to face our Liz Lemon-less future. How are we to survive without Lesbian Yellow Sourfruit? I feel empty already.
Over the past seven years, I’ve been a somewhat faithless lover, going through spurts where I meticulously made room on Thursday nights for 30 Rock and stopping on the channel every time it shows up in syndication. But this season couldn’t hold my attention and I found myself waking up on Friday morning (or Saturday) to realize I’d missed my pal Lemon along the way. Maybe it was last season’s unevenness. Maybe the jokes didn’t seem as sharp as they had in the heady days of our early romance. Maybe it was me, not her. But still, I knew I didn’t want to miss our last good-bye.
In the last hour of 30 Rock, Fey and the other writers on the show managed to cram in seven years of storylines, in-jokes, references, and guest appearances without making the episode feel bloated or self conscious. We got resolution on our favorite characters that were consistent with their arcs – Jenna’s narcissism, Pete’s single-guy fantasies, Tracey’s immaturity and laziness, Kenneth’s love of television, Liz’s having-it-all dreams. There was one last glimpse at Julianne Moore’s atrocious Boston accent and a surprise Skyping from Elissa, my personal favorite of Jack’s ex’es, doing time in a Puerto Rican jail for killing another one of her lovers. And yes, Kenneth has been alive forever. We revisited Rural Juror, the strip club Liz first meets Tracey in, see Jack’s daughter Liddy as an adorable toddler, and witness DotCom finally snap under Tracey’s mistreatment.
Fey even gets in a last not so subtle nod to the feminism. The show has always juggled Liz’s feminism with her neuroses, but the overriding question its always posed is ‘is it possible to have it all’. That question has been the butt of more jokes than I can count and the zinger was always ‘of course not’. But here we are at the end of seven seasons, and Liz does have it all – she has her family, her career, her Astronaut Mike Dexter stand in Criss. She can have it ‘all’ but ‘all’ doesn’t necessarily mean 2.5 kids and a white picket fence in the suburbs. Life requires a little more flexibility than that.
The finale was, if not quite up the heights of the greatest of 30 Rock episodes, a damn admirable way to end its run.
Friends, I cried a little. I’m not ashamed.
In no particularly order, some of my favorite 30 Rock episodes:
“Christmas Attack Zone”, S5,E10 — What’s not to love about this episode? It features Colleen, Jack’s crabby mother, national treasure Alan Alda as Jack’s Bennington-teaching, hippie, liberal bio dad, and Avery, the role that made me like Elizabeth Banks. Liz learns something special about families and she makes it home in time to see her Aunt Linda to prove she’s sober by holding a baby while cooking. Jenna and Paul sing “Oh Holy Night” while dressed up as “two black swans.”
Milton: We have to call an ambulance. Listen to me, damn it, I’m a doctor!
Jack: Of HISTORY. In what emergency would you be necessary? If someone wanted to know whether the sixties were awesome or not?
Milton: They were!
Jack: I knew you would do this…take a happy moment and ruin it, just like you did when I won that scholarship at my high school graduation.
Colleen: It should’ve gone to the other boy!
Liz: Who hasn’t made mistakes? I once french kissed a dog at a party to try to impress what turned out to be a very tall 12-year-old.
“The Fighting Irish”, S1,E17. — In which we meet Jack’s extended family, including Nathan Lane and Molly Shannon. Eddie (Lane) tries to fleece the TGS staff into donating money in honor his and Jack’s (undead) father. The Irish siblings gather to mourn and drink, drink some more, and break into an all out brawl, which ends in Liz getting beat up by one of Jack’s sisters. Additionally, in a gross over exercise of power, Liz fires Floyd’s girlfriend, the other Liz.
Jack: When I think of all the things that I’ve been holding inside me that I wanted to say to you… Well now I’m gonna let “Saint Patrick” and “Saint Michael” DO MY TALKING FOR ME!
Jack’s Dad: You’ll have to get through “Tip O’Neill” and “Bobby Sands” first!
Eddie Donaghy: You call those fist names?! Say hello to “Bono” and “Sandra Day O’Connor!”
Jack: Those are the stupidest fist names I’ve ever heard.
“Chain Reaction of Mental Anguish” S5, E9 — Therapy fixes nothing. The only way to deal with your emotions is by tamping them down into a box, because otherwise you’ll be forced to face the reality that you ate your father-pig, or that your sexual frustration is due to a childhood trauma involving a Neil Diamond poster. Or maybe you’ll invest in your con artist son’s poorly thought out theme restaurant, in which two guys in Godzilla suites fight for an uncaring, unloving audience.
Kenneth: There’s a reason God gave us two ears and only one mouth. Listening is twice as important as talking. But he gave us ten fingers… he must really want us to poke things!
Jenna: Relationships are like sharks, Liz. If you’re not left with several bite marks after intercourse, then something’s wrong.
“Rosemary’s Baby” S2,E4 – How much begging, cajoling, or ass-kissing do you think Fey had to do to convince Carrie Fisher to utter the lines ‘Help me, Liz Lemon! You’re my only hope!’? Because that’s basically nerd nirvana. In between the main plot of Liz hiring one of her childhood heroes, Rosemary, who lives in a one room walk up next to the train tracks, drinks wine from a thermos, and most damning of all, as Jack points out, is old, we also get to see Kenneth in a page off and Tracey go to therapy. Alec Baldwin is rightly hailed for his portrayal of Jack Donaghy on this show, but his therapy impersonation of Tracey, Tracey’s father, Tracey’s mother, and the upstairs neighbor is one of the highlights of his tenure on the show.
Jack: Never go with a hippie to a second location.
Liz Lemon: I can’t end up like that. I have gotta make money and save it. And I have to do that thing that rich people do where they turn money into *more* money. Can you teach me how to do that?
Therapist: I think we’re just doing Good Times now.
Tracy: Now do the white dude that my moms left my dad for.
Jack (in stuffed-up voice): Now see hear Tracy, it’s impolite to slurp one’s soup.
Tracy: Whoa, no need to resort to ugly stereotypes.