Thursday Playlist: 30 Rock's Loony Goodbye, Do No Harm's Ludicrous Hello Sweeps Begins
30 Rock | Photo Credits: Ali Goldstein/NBC
If Tracy Jordan were eulogizing NBC's 30 Rock, which is closing shop Thursday after seven wacky seasons of satirical bite-the-hand-that-keeps-you-on-the-air bliss — but not before we learn what acronym "bliss" represents for boss man Jack Donaghy — the fictional star of the thankfully fictional TGS would likely call it the end of an error.
Happily, Tina Fey is running this manic circus, rising to the occasion with a final hour of self-referential zaniness (8/7c) that finds many fruitfully funny and characteristically twisted variations on the theme of saying goodbye. "Does everybody have to be crazy today?" laments Fey's immortal Liz Lemon as she tries to put on one last show — but really, what makes this different than any other day in this dysfunctional network zoo?
Do Fey a favor and heed her cry upon accepting her latest SAG Award last weekend: "Just tape The Big Bang Theory for once, for crying out loud!" Probably not going to happen, as my colleague Michael Schneider explained recently, but it would be a shame to miss the inspired final act of a modern classic that never felt like an underdog. (Confession: I'm one of the lapsed formerly faithful who grew weary of the show's need to keep topping itself in recent years, spiraling into situations that ultimately felt more desperate than funny. I came back for most of this season and am glad that I did.)
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The gags never quit in the finale, and most are too good to spoil. Though you might want to freeze-frame new network president Kenneth's long list of "TV no-no words," which includes "shows about shows." Let's just say that Liz isn't taking well to her stay-at-home-mom status, and visiting vicious online chat rooms doesn't help. Similarly, Jack (the great Alec Baldwin, acing it again) is having his own mood-swinging post-midlife crisis, wondering if anything will ever bring him happiness. His crying jag in self-absorbed Jenna's office is a high point, even for this marvelous character. While Jenna (Jane Krakowski) seeks absurd new career paths, including a detour to a long-time NBC staple, Tracy (Tracy Morgan) pouts about being ignored by Kenneth the former page: "What am I, my son's piano recital?" Even the show's writers get a funny running gag in the second half of the show, and they're usually my least favorite part of 30 Rock, being the most poorly developed (and cast) part of the ensemble.
It wouldn't be 30 Rock if the show didn't take a swipe at the business that has rewarded it in every way but ratings, and when Liz declares to clueless Kenneth that "quality" (one of his taboo words) doesn't need to be sacrificed to make it on TV, you can read into that Fey's own criticism of NBC's mandate to "broaden" the network's comedy brand. The good news: NBC is keeping Fey in its creative stable, and while I'd argue 30 Rock has had its time, TV needs Tina Fey more than ever. Whatever she comes up with next, I bet it's not a lemon.
A LEMON: You don't have to be a brain surgeon to be able to pick Dr. Jason Cole out of a crowd of handsome TV physicians. He's the superstar neurosurgeon who goes off the grid for 12 hours every single day, between 8:25pm and 8:25am. That's when the violently depraved dark half of his split personality emerges. Bad Jason — call him McScreamy — goes by the name of Ian Price, and this dashing psychological werewolf relishes making life miserable for poor Dr. Cole and everyone he loves.