October 5, 2012



30 ROCK:  Thursday 8PM on NBC

WHERE WE WERE:  Jack (Alec Baldwin) was divorcing his now-freed North Korean prisoner wife Avery (Elizabeth Banks).  Jenna (Jane Krakowski) was engaged to her Jenna-impersonator boyfriend Paul L’Astname (Will Forte).  Liz (Tina Fey) was, somewhat surprisingly, still with boyfriend Criss (James Marsden), and even more surprisingly, former page Kenneth (Jack McBreyer) was “with” his rival and replacement Hazel Whatshername (Kristen Schaal).  Under the ownership of Kabletown, all was otherwise normal craziness in the meta-world of 30 ROCK‘s NBC and TGS With Tracy Jordan.

WHERE WE ARE:  Summer has passed, and Jenna is eagerly planning to be the most horrifying Bridezilla ever, recruiting a reluctant Liz as her Maid of Honor.  But the A storyline in the Season 7 (and last) premiere, written by Executive Producer Jack Burditt and directed by Don Scardino, is that Jack, seeing no future for himself under Kabletown’s regime, is out to deliberately tank NBC’s programming so that Kabletown will sell to a more aggressive owner that will make him CEO.  This is the kind of meta-premise that 30 Rock lives for (discovering the plan, Liz had an epiphany that it explained all of NBC’s programming choices over the past 7 or 8 years–only to discover it had only been in effect for 6 weeks).  Among Jack’s new shows:  “God Cop,” with him playing the lead role himself, the game show “Homonym” (it’s always the other one), and “Cricket Night In America.”  Best (albeit saddest) of all, though, might have been the gag that the network’s entire Thursday night schedule is now an in-room hotel information channel.

This was the first of 30 Rock‘s final run of 13 episodes, referenced (of course) in the episode’s title “The Beginning Of the End,” not to mention the very start of the episode, where Liz appears to have a baby and be summing up her character’s series arc before it’s all revealed as a gag.  Without doubt the oncoming end will be referenced in dozens if not hundreds of ways before the actual finale.  In fact, the show has always been beloved by critics but less so by viewers, and Fey’s desire to move on was probably matched by NBC’s (the real one) willingness to let the show go.

There are those of us who think that while 30 Rock has always had plenty of laughs and a fantastically talented cast, and is practically unmatched for sheer cleverness, its failure to ride awards glory to a broad audience has been attributable in part to a certain coldness at its core, a willingness to heave its characters to and fro in any direction in exchange for a pop culture punchline.  (On the other hand, where else are you going to find a bit that references Arliss?)  It’ll be interesting to see if the close of business brings some real sentiment to the show’s universe, or if any hint of emotion will always be undercut by some level of irony.

In any case, there’s nothing on NBC’s new line-up (or among its midseason shows) that will come close to replacing 30 Rock; all of the network’s recent comedies–even Go On, by far the best of them–are down-the-middle, unexceptional exercises in traditional situation comedy.  In other words, exactly the shows 30 Rock has always loved to ridicule.  (I’m not so sure, come to think of it, that Animal Practice isn’t 30 Rock parody.)  The exit of 30 Rock, even for someone who’s always admired and respected more than adored it, is another sad part of the dismantling of Must-See-TV.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."