Last year was rough for NBC because the struggling once-juggernaut network lost two of its biggest shows – The Office and 30 Rock. The final year of 30 Rock lasted a mere 13 episodes, despite star Alec Baldwin’s attempt to keep the show going by offering a cut in his salary. Despite the sitcom’s devoted fan base, seven years is enough, and the show did run its course. There is a slightly valedictory feeling to the show – plotlines are tied up and each character goes through some major life change that gets resolved in the show’s patented cockeyed way.
In its seventh season, the fictional version of NBC is going through some major changes. TGS writer and showrunner Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) is looking to start a family – this story line picks up from a few seasons ago that had Liz try to adopt a child as a single mother. This time she has a partner – Criss Chros (a funny and game James Marsden). NBC president Jack Donaghy (Baldwin) is ready to become CEO of NBC’s parent company Kabletown due to the impending CEO’s retirement. TGS stars Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) and Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) still plague the studios at 30 Rock with their ridiculous eccentricities, while at the same time trying to build careers outside the show. And NBC’s most devoted page, Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer) goes through some jaw-dropping career changes.
Because of the cartoony-nature of the show – sight gags and goofy jokes make the show feel like a live action Family Guy – audiences don’t get wrapped up into the characters’ lives too much. Instead 30 Rock has always been a show that showcased Fey’s sharp and on-point sense of humor – but like Seinfeld, there were no hugs, kisses, and lessons to be learned.
And while there were no very special episodes, there is a slightly wistful feeling to the final season of 30 Rock that ends on a lovely and a satisfying note, completely consistent with the show’s tone. The final episode moves at a break-neck pace to tie up the season’s plot lines, but does find time to give Krakowski a funny-but-kinda-sad musical number, which she performs with Jenna’s penchant for showboating vocalizing, but with an underlying sense of sadness and poignancy (which made me wish that Krakowski picked up an Emmy from the couple of nods she got).
During its run 30 Rock was a critical favorite that was ignored by mainstream audiences, which makes it all the more miraculous that the show lasted as long as it did. It survived with a rabid fan base that responded to the off-kilter Mary Tyler Moore/Murphy Brown styled show about a working single woman and her office family. And while it would’ve been nice if the final season had more episodes – the truncated number of episodes made the proceedings feel a bit rushed – the show ended gracefully.