I was practically crying through my mouth tonight as I settled down to watch the seventh and final season of 30 Rock. To quote Liz Lemon, “Realizations are the worst!”
Last season ended with every character essentially moving into a new phase of their lives – Jack divorcing Avery, Liz agreeing to have a baby with Criss, Kenneth and Hazel becoming roommates and semi-lovers reminiscent of The Virgin Diaries, Jenna planning a celebrity wedding and Tracy starting his own production company. In tonight’s season premiere, we return to TGS to see how these huge transitions are going, and more importantly, whether or not these transitions will be made at all.
In a relatively traditional 30 Rock fashion, the episode focuses on three major storylines that give virtually every character enough screen time to tie up last season’s arcs, while introducing the major ones for the final season. Jack Donaghy, having settled his divorce with Avery Jessup to the point that they were never even married, embarks on what he calls the “tanking” of NBC. That is, turning the network into a revenue-losing entertainment abomination in an effort to drive out Kabletown and rebuild from its ashes (much like Bane’s vision for Gotham). Liz returns to work and sees the fall programming that Jack has planned, including a supernatural thriller called Hunchbacks and a God-awful crime show God Cop, but doesn’t realize the Titanic iceberg of disaster that Jack is steering them all into. Returning to the normal Jack-Liz dynamic, she advises him to follow the path of righteousness, but gets rebuffed with a stiff, “Good peacock to you.”
While waging peacock wars with Jack, Liz is also thrown into even more chaos in the form of Jenna’s surprise celebrity wedding, for which she is appointed the maid of honor. In lieu of hearing her duties, ranging from wearing a green sparkling leotard that brings out her “witch undertones” to planning a surprise bachelorette party, she becomes so desperate to get out of performing them that she adopts Jack’s “tanking” strategy. Jenna literally turns into bridezilla when seeing that her bachelorette party consists of a sad clown and a God Cop marathon. As one of the core pairings of the show, it would have been nice to see this struggle continue in later episodes, but instead it is settled that Jenna would be her own bridesmaid (that way she can have two spotlights).
In the continuing pursuit for her own spotlight, Hazel proposes that she and Kenneth host a dinner party for Tracy, hoping to seduce Tracy in exchange for a role as a white villain in one of his Tyler Perry movies. Kenneth, on the other hand, is adjusting to his first real relationship and goes so far as to seek advice from Tracy himself. The standout aspect of the premiere was the revelation of Tracy Jordan as the most mature adult, married for 22 years and running his own production company. The accomplishment of the writers is that viewers are also realizing this as Tracy is, while maintaining the utter weird brilliance that is Tracy Jordan (“shoe stuffing keeps the shape of the shoe”). His rejection of Hazel’s advances and loyalty to Kenneth are testaments to the new Tracy. Kenneth, however, confused by Tracy’s advice and his own logic, keeps the Hazel-Tracy feud burning.
The premiere was overall a solid 30 Rock episode, but the ending sets up the new season as one we’ve never seen before. Jack and Liz raise a glass (and a bottle) to the mutual effort of tanking NBC. I can’t wait for the end of the rainbow.
Moments that had me lizzing (that’s a combination of laughing and whizzing):
- The triumphant return of Jonathan! “I still don’t like you!” he reminds Liz, showing that some things never change.
- Jack’s summer superhero movie blockbuster references to Bane in The Dark Knight Rises and the Tesseract in The Avengers.
- How to satisfy your woman? Either stand naked in the kitchen cooking chili or know that she’s always right.
- Let’s play the game show Homonym! “Au pair” versus an exclamation at a piece of fruit, “Oh, pear!”
- “I have to try? WORST NIGHT EVER!” Oh, Tracy. You understand me too well.
- Liz’s satanic voice when hearing “There’s no cake?!”
- Did anyone else notice that Kenneth’s Government Ice Cream looked like Lost’s Dharma packaging? Does this mean that Kenneth is the Smoke Monster?