Last Thursday marked the end of a comedy era. No more will Liz Lemon’s life lessons and Tracy Jordan’s cries for attention be a part of NBC’s Thursday night of comedy. After seven wonderful years of eccentric characters and valuable life lessons, “30 Rock” has ended.
If you haven’t seen it, “30 Rock” is essentially a show-within-a-show. It centers on Liz Lemon (Tina Fey, “Saturday Night Live”) and her boss Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin, “Saturday Night Live”). Lemon and Donaghy have very different outlooks on life, and their already tenuous relationship is often challenged by the antics and egos of Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan, “Why Stop Now”) and Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski, “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant”). Tracy and Jenna are actors on “The Girlie Show with Tracy Jordan”, the brainchild of head writer Liz.
“30 Rock”‘s cadre of quirky characters is one of the reasons the show is a favorite among fans and critics alike. Many are egomaniacs, but the balance achieved between the subplots focused on each character is sublime, and a feat to be recognized. Though it is difficult to determine the most beloved or important character, Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon is the glue that holds together the dysfunctional mess of “TGS”.
Before there was Jess from “New Girl,” Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon was the queen of awkward. For the women out there who prefer to drink their wine with ice cubes, eat cheese before bed and build a wardrobe around blazers, she was their fearless leader. Liz challenged Jack’s expectations of the working woman, and showed success doesn’t always come in a well-manicured, expensively-clad package — sometimes, it wears thick-framed glasses and frumpy mom clothes.
“30 Rock” is not afraid to test boundaries — many a race joke or political slam abound. However, much like the cartoon “South Park”, “30 Rock”’s adventurous approach to comedy challenges viewers to think critically about important social issues. Gender roles, racial stereotypes and far-from-vanilla sexual preferences are constantly re-evaluated. Liz struggles to find a successful relationship, and when she finds it with Criss (James Marsden, “Bachelorette”) they deal with issues of getting married and starting a family.
Morgan’s character challenges racial stereotypes, both by participating in them and defying them. Throughout the many seasons of “30 Rock”, Tracy stars in ridiculous fictional films reminiscent of Tyler Perry’s “Madea” films and is an absent father — reinforcing the black male stereotype to the extent of mockery. In other episodes, he does his best to not follow in the footsteps of his father, who “left for a pack of smokes and never came back” (though the two are reunited at the end of last week’s episode).
“30 Rock” is often over the top, but obviously so. In the last episode, consisting of two parts, “Hogcock!” and “The Last Lunch,” Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer, “The Campaign”) is now in charge of NBC’s programming. Liz, desperate to continue her writing career after “TGS”, pitches several ideas to Kenneth. He tells her all of her pitches are on his official list of ideas banned from new TV shows. The list of network “no-nos” includes words like “immortals,” “quality” and “show-within-a-show.” By the end of the farewell episode, every single “no-no” item has made an appearance.
As “30 Rock” ends, so does “TGS.” Jenna learns to display real emotion as she ends the show with a live performance from the musical adaptation of the fictional “The Rural Juror.” Kenneth has reached the high level of success he’s been working for since beginning as a lowly NBC page. Jack and Liz realize how much they need each other’s friendship, and each finds their own source of happiness. Tracy is reunited with his father and writer Lutz (John Lutz, “Saturday Night Live”) exacts his lunchtime revenge. As every character’s story wraps up, the bittersweet reality sets in — never again will this clever crew of comedy be together onscreen again.
And so, farewell Liz Lemon and “TGS”, thank you for seven years of Thursday night laughs. Though fans may try to fill the void with copious viewing of “Parks and Recreation” or the soon-to-return “Community,” nothing will be the same. You will be missed.