As NBC’s stalwart comedy 30 Rock enters the final season of its award-winning seven year run, I imagine the writers’ room carries a similar atmosphere to that of a group of second semester high school seniors. On one hand, none of us rejoice the moment when a good thing must come to an end. On the other, f--- it—now’s the time to embrace the bittersweet liberation of our imminent end. Slap a Bush/Cheney 2000 bumper sticker on your Lorax–look-a-like environmental science professor’s brand new Prius. Submit a graphically homoerotic short story to the Mormon who teaches creative writing. Wear a Speedo to gym class.
Or, in this particular scenario, openly mock your own network as the creative equivalent of a hotel information channel.
It’s no secret that NBC is phasing out critically acclaimed comedies like 30 Rock and The Office—though Parks and Recreation and Community may find themselves on the chop block as well—in favor of a new “broad comedy” approach with shows like Go On, The New Normal, and Animal Practice. I’m not going to say that these new shows are objectively worse than the old. I’m not going to say that these shows are among the intellectual dregs of contemporary television. And I’m certainly not going to say that NBC comedy has digressed to a farce of recycled premises with as much authenticity as a Kim Kardashian wedding.
I’m not going to say any of these things because doing so would imply that the other three major networks (CBS, ABC, FOX—all three of which have outranked NBC in viewership through recent years) aren’t doing the exact same thing—don’t tell me that The Neighbors is better than even one of NBC’s new comedies.
Alas, it appears television today has no place for a savvy, self-reflexive comedy like 30 Rock. Do not fear, however. 30 Rock appears well poised to take advantage of its final stand with a healthy dose of bite-the-hand-that-refuses-to-continue-feeding-you quips in addition to your standard dose of neurotic humor from the characters you’ve grown to love over these past seven years:
(After Jack tells Liz his plans for NBC’s new line-up)
Oh, Brother! A comedy about two jive-talking con men hiding out in a monastary.
Jonathan! Fetch me my green light!
Jonathan runs in with a flashing green light.
CUE TITLE CREDITS
Ah, yes—this is going to be a fun season.
After opening with a couple jabs at the network, we quickly cycle through the episode/season tensions of our main characters: Jenna (Jane Krakowski) is planning her “surprise wedding” (à la Kim Kardshian) with Paul (Will Forte) and wants Liz (Tina Fey) to be her maid of honor; Liz is trying to conceive with Criss (James Marsden), her boyfriend from last season, and is looking for a way to NOT be Jenna’s maid of honor; Tracy (Tracy Morgan) gives Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) advice on how to please his new girlfriend, Hazel (Kristen Schaal); Tracy asks Kenneth why his wife has been in a hospital the past week…
So, you know, business as usual.
If the premiere is any indication, however, it appears as though the finality of a last season has endowed the cast and crew of 30 Rock with newfound chutzpah after somewhat lackluster season six. With no concern for ratings or series renewal—and with everyone involved guaranteed to secure a desirable new job as soon as the show ends—the show is now free to indulge every creative impulse it has ever had. It can satirize without shame, embrace the esoteric, and go out with one final bang that will secure its title as one of television’s modern classics.
And who knows? If this season goes well, maybe NBC will green light Queen of Jordan to air alongside Dwight Schrute’s The Farm as “the best spinoff comedy line-up on Thursday night television!”