For the last time, viewers went to there.
30 Rock signed off in a one-hour series finale that featured a plethora of guest stars, shout-outs to the show’s pilot, inside jokes, biting social commentary, lots of Lutz and even an homage to one of the most famous series finales of all time.
With TGS shut down, Liz is at home and bored while her husband Criss has taken a job as the receptionist at a dental office (because what else are you going to do with a degree in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan?). She and Criss realize that they got it backwards. He should stay home while she goes back to work. She worries that wanting to work makes her a bad mom. “If you were a dude, you would not even be thinking that,” he tells her, cementing Criss as the best TV husband of all time.
The only problem is that Kenneth is now the head of NBC and he has a long list of TV “no-no” words—words he never wants to hear when describing a show on NBC. The list includes “high concept,” “complex,” “niche,” “quality” and “Justin Bartha” (does that mean someone over at 30 Rock loves or hates The New Normal?) But Kenneth does have good news for Liz—she has to do one last The Girlie Show. It’s in Tracy’s contract that he has to do 150 episodes of TGS or he gets paid 30 million dollars. The problem is they’ve only done 149 episodes.
Still haunted by his mother’s last words that she just wants her son to be happy, Jack has decided to tackle happiness with his “Six Sigma Wheel of Happiness Domination.” He does everything to make himself happy (including convincing Julianne Moore’s Nancy and Salma Hayek’s Elisa to be involved in a group relationship) but he still is not happy. He realizes it’s because he’s reached the pinnacle of what he’s always wanted in his career and he’s angered his enemies—Pelosi, Maddow, Baldwin (ha!)—but work isn’t fulfilling him. “Work is never going to make you happy, Lemon. Anyone who tells you differently is a fool,” he tells Liz.
The problem is that he’s the one who has told Liz differently. She blames him for wanting more from her work. He blames her for making him care. “So we’ve ruined each other; good to know,” she tells him. The two have an epic fight and Liz thinks Jack may even be contemplating suicide. But he was really just trying to make her realize how much she would miss him. The two have a surprisingly touching conversation. Jack sets off on a boat trip to find happiness. But in classic 30 Rock form, he turns around instantly. He knows the key to happiness—developing a clear dishwasher. “Thank God I took that boat trip,” he declares.
Tracy, of course, is being non-cooperative and doing everything he can to prevent the final show—including blackmailing Al Roker into announcing that a snowicane is coming. Once again, just as they did in the show’s pilot, Liz and Tracy end up at a strip club together. Tracy admits he doesn’t want to say goodbye. “I love you and I’m going to miss you,” Liz tells him. Honestly, I got a little teary.
It’s hard to create a series finale that will make every fan happy. But 30 Rock, which is going out still very close to the top of its game, came very close. (Are you listening, every other comedy that overstays its welcome?) There was so much to love about the episode: Liz’s frighteningly spot-on fights with the moms at Gothammoms.com. Jenna landing in LA, seeing the competition, and high-tailing it right back to New York. The show getting in a few last digs at NBC. Plenty of Grizz and Dot Com. What appeared to be the show’s real crew in the final TGS shot. The return of Jonathan (Maulik Pancholy). Tracy spelling out his name for Kenneth’s receptionist (”’R’ as in the pirate noise, ‘A’ as in the Fonzie noise”). Jenna having actual feelings even when she can’t look in the mirror to confirm that she’s crying. Sure, I could have done without the Lutz demand for “Blimpies” as the last lunch, but I quibble.
The absolute best was the tag at the end, which flashed forward to one year later. Liz is producing the comedy starring Grizz (which I would so watch as long as it featured very special guest star Dot Com). Jack is back working for GE and suddenly has a laugh track to underscore his jokes (I think it’s the only time a laugh track has ever been heard on the show). And the final image is of Kenneth staring into a snow globe and being pitched a show by a young female writer in glasses. The show is based on the stories her great- grandmother told her. It’s the future (because there are flying cars!) but Kenneth still looks exactly the same. Perhaps, just like in St. Elsewhere, the entire show existed only in his simple mind. Or perhaps, like one of Kenneth’s no-no words, he is immortal.
The hour was uproariously funny and also—dare I say it—beautifully poignant. Well done, Lemon, well done. You’ll get no eye-rolling from me.
So many quotes to choose from, but here for the last time (double blerg!) are a few of my favorites:
• “There’s so much to live for. Don’t you want to know how Mad Men ends? I hope Don goes to work for Peggy.”—Liz to Jack.
• “I love you too Jack.”—Liz to Jack.
• “Pornography box.”—What Tracy calls a computer.
• “Chickpeas, moonshine, turtle meat.”—What Kenneth has for refreshments in his office.
• “Eating my night cheese and transitioning pajamas into day wear.”—what Liz was happy doing before she met Jack.
• Law & Order: Mind Beauty—the NBC show Jenna would like to star in
• “Thank you, America. That’s our show. Not a lot of people watched it, but the joke’s on you, because we got paid anyway.”—Tracy at the end of the final TGS show.