30 Rock totally defied the usual long running sitcom pattern, if you ask me. There’s the early seasons in which the show finds its footing, the peak middle years in which the dynamics and tone are well established, and the final seasons in which familiarity with the characters makes up for tired writing. 30 Rock, on the other hand, was just this machine that churned out comedy, and that machine got more well oiled with every season. The seventh and final season was the crowning achievement of the series.
This was also a show that, and I’ve never been sure if I was in the minority in believing this, actually benefited from the characters getting more and more exaggerated. The more outlandish everyone on 30 Rock got, the more I enjoyed it. Kenneth the Cheery Page who gets taken advantage of by everyone in Season 1, funny enough. Kenneth the Cheery Page who’s probably a benevolent demon in an ageless human vessel in Season 7, hilarious. It helps that 30 Rock never at any point demanded that you invest in the characters or care about them as people too much, they just wanted you to laugh. They weren’t betraying their roots by making things so broad, there were no roots to betray.
30 Rock goes further and further for laughs this season. We get big stories about Liz trying to start a family, Jack’s relationship with his mother, and the fate of T.G.S. itself. Far from being played seriously, these stories just open up some great new avenues for comedy as the show comes to an end. And the number of jokes per episode is absolutely incredible. It’s Airplane! levels of humor saturation, and what’s more, the majority of gags in every single episode are funny. I don’t know how they did it, but it’s quality AND quantity.
If I Had to Nitpick…: A selfish nitpick. The 13 episode order did probably gave the writer’s room extra focus, and helped them to pick out all their best ideas. But the season was over so quickly. 🙁
Notable Episodes: “There’s No I in America,” the second half of a great two parter taking on the Obama/Romney election. “Game Over,” which worked in Chris Partell, Steve Buscemi, Chloe Moretz, and Will Arnett for one last encore. And “A Goon’s Deed in a Weary World,” the 11th episode which could have been a great finale in itself (though the actual end itself was no slouch).
Honorable Mentions: Season 6, for pretty much the same reasons as Season 7. Season 7 just did it a little better.