It took me a while to write this. About six years and a few months to be precise. It will be difficult to summarize why I love NBC’s TV show, 30 Rock so much, but I will attempt to in this timely reflection of this week’s season finale.
I have been watching 30 Rock ever since it first aired during my 8th grade year. I remember sitting in my living room watching SNL and seeing Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan appear on stage to promote the show. Alec talked about his successful movie career and stints hosting SNL, Tina about her job as the Head Writer of SNL and writing Mean Girls and Tracy about how many times he had seen Star Wars. I watched the pilot live when it came on after The Office, and was a bit skeptical at first. I did not yet fully understand Tina Fey’s importance in the world of comedy. I knew her as a host of Weekend Update and thought she had a cold exterior. However, Tina Fey’s 30 Rock character, Liz Lemon, was sympathetic in the pilot and I immediately liked her. I was hooked.
The show was initially intended to be about the writers’ fictional creation, “The Girlie Show” and the antics that take place when nerds convene to write for a fictional, feminist, low-ranking sketch comedy show. Jenna, played by Jane Krakowski, was Liz’s best friend and the two struggled like many do in Chicago’s various improv and theatre groups. They “made it big” in New York but everything went wrong when Jack, the hot-shot executive played by Alec Baldwin, tried to make the show his own by adding movie-actor Tracy Jordan, played by Tracy Morgan. When Liz was furious at Jack for messing up the dynamic of the show, her producer, Pete, played by Scott Adsit, told her not to quit because she had the best job in New York. I remember hearing that and believing it was true. To this day I still want to be Liz Lemon.
As the show went on, audiences became more and more interested and Jack became a likeable character that was increasingly incorporated into the show. This changed the direction of the show, for it was no longer about the writing staff but about the relationships between everyone involved in putting on “The Girlie Show.” While Tina was initially writing about her life, her character turned into a lovable, always hungry caricature of herself who needed the guidance of Jack. Jenna, who was more self-conscious and raw in the beginning, later became petty and wild. Tracy was a loose cannon with a sinister edge who only became more and more ridiculous. The evolution was natural.
It became cool to like the show. On Fridays, after NBC’s Thursday night lineup called Comedy Night Done Right, my friends in eighth grade would discuss everything that happened in all the shows.
But by high school, most of my friends also really liked 30 Rock. It bothered me that Tina Fey claimed that no one watched her show. Nationally, that was true. And in her book, Bossypants, she says that the show was not intended to be a critical darling, but a normal comedy that would be as successful as The Office.
The type of people who liked 30 Rock were the people that just “got it.” They understood farce. They understood the type of people that were imitated. And, to keep them satisfied, Tina kept with her own style of writing throughout the entire show, but with jokes that were topical and current. With every episode, the writers did something different. They refused [spoiler alert] to let Jack and Liz get together in the end. They refused to be conventional, and that was the biggest breath of fresh air.
Tina, it seems, put her heart into this show. She did not want it to end but she also did not want it to jump the shark, or go on too long with no purpose. Her passion for the project was unique and trailblazing, as there are many shows on TV now that are not believed in by the people making them.
The last episode did not beg for tears, but satisfied. It had a scene in a playground that I used to go to every day when I was growing up. The show came full circle for me. At the risk of sounding like Lena Dunham in her Golden Globes speech, the 30 Rock show got me through middle school, high school and one and half years of college. It grew up with me as much as I grew up with it. The show loved and understood the city I love and portrayed it so wonderfully. It will be missed, and in my opinion will not be paralleled. Hopefully it will change the world of TV comedies and comedy in general even more than it already has.