The last time I got truly emotional about the end of a show was Lost in 2010, and those six years were a roller coaster of frustration and confusion. The end of 30 Rock was a bit different. The ending wasn't depressing in the traditional sense. All the characters lived (including Kenneth, who is indeed immortal), grew self-aware and went on to pursue their dreams. What made me tear up was the finality of it all. The last seven years have constructed an entire world with everything from in-house Nazi doctors to fake Funcookers. Shutting the door on it all felt like a rude awakening to a much-less entertaining reality. Where am I supposed to get reaction GIFs and inspirational messages?
Instead of weekly Liz Lemon parties (because Liz Lemon parties are mandatory), I'm stuck eating night cheese in my Snuggie as I watch its reruns on Netflix. Instead of watching characters repeatedly struggle with the pursuit of something ambiguously "more," I have to take a page from the series' finale and find a way to move on.
The finale picks up with the production of the last TGS show as characters try to plan their futures. Liz copes as a stay-at-home mother while Jack attempts to conquer happiness in a pie chart. Kenneth takes on the role as CEO of NBC as Jenna searches for acting opportunities. Tracy avoids saying goodbye to the cast and crew who have become his family.
Tracy is the perfect example of what this show does best: developing characters gradually and naturally. He understands that he must set Kenneth free to be CEO, but still forces Liz to watch the Skank Train as though we were still in Season 1. He encapsulates the essence of the show as a slow maturation that still retains an extreme strangeness. Most of the time he rarely makes sense, but his rare moments of clarity put the ridiculousness into perspective.
What 30 Rock has always done well is translate internal struggles into external ones. The central relationship of the show has always been the friendship between Jack and Liz. They bring out the best and worst in one other, assuming the roles of both mentor and mentee. One of the many aspects of 30 Rock that made it so revolutionary was that it proved that despite awkward bed-sharing and more awkward kisses, a man and a woman can remain purely platonic. As much as I enjoy ship wars and angsty romances, I've loved that 30 Rock has always been able to stand alone and not depend on a "will-they-won't-they" foundation to keep viewers coming back. If anything, Jack and Liz's connection is stronger than any other relationship on television because they've literally been each other's constants (Lost reference anyone?) throughout these seven chaotic years. By extension, the show has achieved much more by being able to focus on greater goals for its individual characters. Relationships play secondary but important roles, just as it often is for us in real life.
Their long-overdue admission, however, is one of my favorite exchanges in television history because it almost comes as no surprise that they haven't admitted it out loud. They're Jack and Liz. He's used to her barging into his office multiple times a week. She's used to hearing the phrase, "Good God, Lemon!" They've both had such a profound impact on one another's lives that it almost goes without saying that they love each other. But it does need to be said at least this once.
Of course, 30 Rock would be nothing without Liz Lemon (or as Tracy fondly calls her, "LL"). She's taught me to never take crap from anyone who cuts in front of her at a hot dog stand. She understands that being a human woman is the "worst because of society." I share her nerd rage and distaste for youths. I would convert to Lizbianism. She's a modern day heroine who focuses on personal improvement first, which sometimes includes a yearly pushup or saying yes to staying in more. Her lifelong belief that she can "have it all" is finally realized in the series finale and is a fantastic way to send off one of the most iconic characters of our time. If anyone deserves to be happy, it's someone who has been sexually rejected by not one, but two guys who later went to clown college.
It was easy to fall in love with 30 Rock. It was that cool, hip kid that everyone knew was awesome, but for some reason not enough people talked to (damn you, Big Bang Theory). It struck the perfect balance between slapstick comedy (see the TGS Fart Machine sketch: "Someone put too many farts in this engine! It's about to explode!") and witty exchanges (see the gravel-voiced double entendre of Jack Donaghy and Devon Banks). It wasn't afraid to take on sensitive issues of gender, race, or sexuality and addressed them truthfully in their own quirky way. Just look at Jenna’s marriage to Paul L'astname, a cross-dresser and self-proclaimed "she-man," or as he prefers it, "shman." It made nerd life cool (who doesn't enjoy night cheese?) Above all, it was an exaggerated complement of reality, and that's what I appreciated the most.
30 Rock is pretty direct when it comes to mocking reality, or Kim Jong-Il. I love that the show doesn't take itself seriously and just builds off of its own weirdness. Even minor characters are remembered and revisited, from Leo Spaceman (now the Surgeon General) to Lutz (or I guess he legally changed his name to "Aardvark"?). There isn't enough weirdness on television, but that's what defines a show and its characters. By embracing absurdity, 30 Rock created its own parallel world that's a bit crazier than ours, but not completely unfathomable. I could totally see the world getting addicted to shows like MILF Island and maybe even Celebrity Homonym. I would also like Jenna Maroney to release her complete summer dance jam "Balls."
Thank you, Tina Fey, for seven brilliant years. These really were the best days of my flerm.