This review contains spoilers
7.12 & 7.13 Hogcock! & Last Lunch
This past half-season of 30 Rock has functioned something like the closing scenes of The Wizard of Oz. In turn, each of TGS’ rag-tag gang received their long-desired gift: Jack became CEO of Kabletown, Liz became a mother, Jenna married her gender dysmorphic bi-genitalia pansexual husband, and Kenneth became the president of the network.
All of which meant that there was very little to wrap up plot-wise by the time the finale arrived. Dangling threads had been snipped off, and most things had been packed tidily away, clearing space for whatever hour-long send-off 30 Rock’s makers wanted to give it.
They could have gone for Broadway spangle and closed on a high-kicking chorus line of returning characters and guest stars. They could have killed off one, or all of the cast. They could have chopped together a Coldplay-backed slo-mo montage of the best of the last seven years. But no, what they offered up by way of goodbye was superior to all that: it was just another episode of 30 Rock.
Yes, there was more poignancy than usual (even at its most brilliant, 30 Rock’s never been one for emotional warmth), a satisfying circularity to a couple of the plot points, and a more densely packed collection of in-jokes, but for all intents and purposes, last night’s finale was just another episode, and those who love the show will understand what a rare compliment that is.
To stave off the flow of hyperbole rising in my veins and poised to spew all over this keyboard, let’s revisit the events of the finale.
The life of a SAHM – all eight minutes of it – wasn’t sitting right with Liz. Without an all-female fight club to vent her energy on, being away from TGS was proving a trial. Lucky then, that Tracy’s and Jack’s antics gave the Blizzard one last fire to put out, and one last “what the what?” to mouth. After a spot of parental role-reversal, Liz was back at the studio and working on the last ever episode of TGS.
Cue shovelfuls of 30 Rock/TGS magic mirror irony as Kenneth tried to help Jenna realise that things were really ending, and Tracy attempted to avoid saying his goodbyes. The C (or D, or is it E) plot involved the writers squabbling over their lunch order, and featured some long-overdue starring moments from Lutz.
Jack meanwhile, was on his biggest winning streak since season five’s Reaganing, but enjoying precious little satisfaction from it. Spurred on by his mother’s last wish, he revisited his fiftieth birthday quandary – why, when he had everything, was he not happy? Despite having coloured in every spoke in his wheel of happiness domination (a good percentage of which was understandably taken up by his hair), Jack wasn’t satisfied. Compounding the problem was his tiff with Liz and the prospect of a future spent alone, drinking scotch, and throwing fireworks at Billy Joel’s dog.
Donaghy bounced back of course. After resigning from his dream job and embarking on a nine-second journey of self-discovery, the inventor of the trivection microwave oven finally came up with a worthy successor: the clear dishwasher, and patched things up with Lemon. Their spat resolved itself after a classic rom-com ‘airport rush’, and the mealiest-mouthed declaration of love since Charles and Di’s engagement interview. (Liz is right by the way: what better reason not to kill yourself than the existence of Mad Men?)
Plenty of nostalgia arrived, with a call-back to the pilot episode as Liz was forced to follow Tracy to another strip club. Along with cameos from Salma Hayek and Julianne Moore, we welcomed the return of The Rural Juror, Jenna finally closed the lid on her Mickey Rourke stories, and a post-credits sting confirmed Kenneth’s immortality. There were touching scenes too. Love was expressed between Liz and Jack, Liz and Tracy, Tracy and Kenneth (well, almost), and Jenna and her dressing room mirror.
Like the seven seasons that preceded it, the final hour was – like Jenna’s weight and Tracy’s blood sugar levels – up and down. Not all of the jokes landed, but 30 Rock has so many of them it would probably be medically dangerous if they did.
To return briefly to that “just another episode” label. The 30 Rock finale was just another episode of more gags per minute than any other sitcom, of whip-smart satire, glorious weirdness, instant comedy hooks and beautiful idiocy. It was smart and funny and inventive and TV will be a drabber place without it. It was just another episode of a show I loved the bones of, and now it’s gone.
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