Season Analysis: Given 30 Rock’s nature as a well-oiled joke factory, it was a pleasant surprise that it spent its final season wrapping up all its character arcs in the most emotionally satisfying ways possible.
If the finale of 30 Rock had a thesis statement, it was represented by the scene of Liz talking with Tracy at the same strip club they visited in the pilot. These characters are going their separate ways, just as they are going their separate ways from viewers. They may promise to reunite with each other, and they may really mean it, but life gets in the way, and so those promises do not always work out. Liz Lemon does mean it when she makes that promise, despite all the grief that Tracy Jordan gave her when they were working together. Her sincerity, gratifying though it is, may do nothing to make a reunion any more likely. So that is why she tells him that she is going to miss him, and she tells him as hard as she possibly can. We already miss you, 30 Rock, and it sounds like you miss us, too.
The past few weeks, Vulture has been has been having a bracket-style “Sitcom Smackdown” to determine the best sitcom of the the past 30 years. Yesterday, The Simpons was chosen as the winner. Today, however, Arrested Development was crowned in the readers’ bracket. Here’s how I how I would have ranked the shows that were in contention. (I haven’t been a regular viewer of all of them, so for some, I had to guess based on reputation. I’ve indicated how much I’ve seen of each show in parentheses.)
1. Arrested Development (seen every episode, most – possibly all – multiple times)
2. Seinfeld (seen most episodes, most of them multiple times)
3. Community (seen every episode at least twice)
4. The Simpsons (started watching regularly in season 11, seen a handful of episodes from before then)
5. Cheers (only seen clips)
6. The Larry Sanders Show (not sure I’ve even ever seen clips)
7. Louie (started watching regularly in Season 3)
8. 30 Rock (seen every episode)
9. The Office (seen every episode)
10. South Park (seen several episodes here and there)
11. The Cosby Show (only seen clips)
12. Roseanne (seen a few episodes)
13. Friends (seen a few episodes)
14. Malcolm in the Middle (watched it regularly until it moved to Fridays, then lost track of it)
15. Golden Girls (seen bits and pieces)
16. Sex and the City (walked through the room while my sister watched it a few times)
Some Good Shows That Could Have Made It:
-The Wonder Years – More of a dramedy, and thus it initially feels weird to include it a best sitcom discussion, but it was excellent.
-Parks and Recreation – If I were going to leave out one of the late 00′s/early 10′s NBC Thursday standbys, it wouldn’t be Parks and Recreation. Actually I probably wouldn’t leave out any of them.
-Curb Your Enthusiasm – Maybe it loses influence points by virtue of its Seinfeld connection, but it is still curmudgeonly hilarity to the nth degree.
-It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – It’s strange that a show with a decidedly anti-mainstream sensibility has lasted 8 seasons. It feels like it should have been a one- or two-season cult oddity. That it’s not is surely some sort of accomplishment.
-NewsRadio – I’ve never seen it, but from what I’ve heard it was the little quirky comedy that could of the nineties.
-Archer – Comedy may be subjective, but Archer is the most purely funny sitcom on the air right now.
-King of the Hill/Beavis and Butt-Head – Mike Judge, never getting any respect.
-Frasier – The best spin-off of all time was different enough from its predecessor to earn recognition all its own.
-Futurama – The best sci-fi sitcom of all time. Not that there have been that many of those, but this is still no faint praise.
-Family Guy – Before it became weighed down by a shock for shock’s sake sensibility in its current state, its mess of pop culture-saturated cutaways was innovative.
-American Dad! – What was once a Seth MacFarlane also-ran has now surpassed its predecessor.
-Murphy Brown – I’ve never watched, but I’ve heard that while it is a bit dated, it is worth remembering for how important it was at the time to the TV landscape.
Some Good Shows With Fewer Than Three Full Seasons (And Thus Not Meeting Vulture’s Criteria):
-Bob’s Burgers – Currently the best show on Fox’s Sunday animation block, and possibly the best show on TV right now.
-Stella – A one-season wonder that may have limited appeal, but if you are part of that appeal, then you are devoted to it.
-Flight of the Conchords – When I first read a review of FOTC, Gillian Flynn said that the show it most closely resembled was Stella. So I was immediately on board. But despite its uniqueness and surreality, FOTC is goofy and lighthearted enough to appeal to the masses.
-Happy Endings – I’ve never really watched Friends, but Happy Endings totally out-Friends Friends, doesn’t it?
-Girls – It provokes strong reactions from a great varitey of people – that is like the definition of great art.
-Enlightened – I haven’t started watching this, but I’ve been hearing several times this year that it’s the best show on TV right now.
Season Analysis: 30 Rock is starting to repeat itself, but it is also making funny out of the fact that it is repeating itself, which is kind of a good thing.
“Real life is for March.”
30 Rock was particularly enamored of holidays in Season 6. Certainly, holiday-themed episodes are nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to television, with most shows having Christmas-themed episodes and many often covering Thanksgiving and Halloween as well. But 30 Rock did not premiere until January, so it could not cover those perennial favorites, but it was able to take on the classic Valentine’s Day as well as the not-quite classic St. Patrick’s Day, and it even managed to spruce up one episode with a fake movie trailer for Martin Luther King Day, a Valentine’s Day/New Year’s Eve-esque ensemble rom-com. But the best holiday cheer was saved for a day that only comes around every four years: Leap Day, a magical extra day when you can do things you would not do on any other day. Unless my childhood was just as deprived as Liz Lemon’s, I am pretty sure that February 29 is not actually celebrated by wearing blue and yellow (and poking in the eye people who don’t), dressing up as Leap Day Williams (who spends all other days besides Leap Day in the Marianas Trench), and trading candy for children’s tears. If all those traditions were real, then that fake Jim Carrey movie would probably be a real Jim Carrey movie. But much like Festivus emerging as a real thing thanks to Seinfeld, do not be surprised if come 2016, you suddenly feel the urge to put real life off until March and take a leap into something you otherwise never would have done.
Year after year, Thursday continually proves itself to be the most loaded, most rewarding night of television, and I feel like singing that out in a blog post. Here are all the shows that I have regularly watched on Thursdays this season (September 2011-now), ranked in ascending order of quality (of the current season). And, for your entertainment, I have also included a memorable quote from several of these shows from their current seasons.
12. The Secret Circle
11. The Office (“I haven’t had this much fun since seeing Zoo E Desk Channel at the Cocarella Music Festival.”)
10. The Big Bang Theory
9. Up All Night
7. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (“Dennis is asshole. Why Charlie hate?”)
6. 30 Rock (“I finally understand the ending of The Sixth Sense. Those names are the people who worked on the movie!”)
5. Billy on the Street (“I LOVE MERYL STREEP!”)
4. Archer (“Thanks, Holly Hindsight.”)
3. Beavis and Butt-Head (“Masturbation frequency dialed in.”)
2. Parks and Recreation (“Anyone want to go to JJ’s for some after-dinner omelettes?”)
1. Community (“Boopy doopy doop boop sex!”)
“TGS Hates Women”
“Augh! My period! You’re all fired!”
Is Tina Fey the official voice of reason when it comes to women’s affairs today? As perhaps the biggest female name in comedy today, she is certainly in a position to be a major influence on the representation of women in a field that has often been characterized as a boys’ club. So by taking on the article from the Jezebel blog that criticized The Daily Show’s hiring of Olivia Munn with the storyline of “TGS Hates Women,” she made it clear that this sort of thing is a complicated issue. Liz Lemon hires a female writer in an attempt to assuage criticisms of TGS as misogynistic. But it blows up in her face in more ways than one, and all TGS is left with during Tracy’s absence are sketches about Hilary Clinton, Amelia Earhart, and Wonder Woman getting their period at inopportune times, which Liz tries to characterize as “ironic re-appropriation[s],” and they really are, whether they were meant to be or not, considering how absurdly nonsensical they are. At least they come off as ironic to viewers, as 30 Rock consistently represents TGS as a hopelessly dumb show. Meanwhile, Jack competes with Kaylee, Kabletown CEO Hank Hooper’s granddaughter, as he tries to position himself as the top candidate to succeed Hank as CEO. Kaylee, as played by the prodigious Chloë Grace-Moretz, proves to be the most formidable competition Jack has ever faced in the area of corporate climbing. Jack distracts Kaylee from succession by encouraging her love of marine biology, a love that she faked as a scheme to lead Jack back toward his love of marine biology. Ultimately, once each figures the other one out, they lay down the law with each other, Kaylee making it clear that she is not above accusing Jack of giving alcohol to a minor and Jack making it clear that he is not above seducing Kaylee’s teachers for the sake of having them flunk her.
Next up: Fringe
“Don Geiss, America and Hope”
When Comcast bought NBC in real life, we wondered if this development would turn into a 30 Rock storyline. In “Don Geiss, America and Hope,” we met Kabletown (with a “K”). And we learned the secret of their absurdly successful company. (It has something to do with Fresh Ass Based on the Novel ‘Tush’ by Ass Fire.) We also learned the big secret of Tracy Jordan, via a tell-all memoir that could only happen on a show like 30 Rock: Tracy’s former nanny revealed that Tracy has never cheated on his wife. Life as charade has never been more gonzo. We were also treated to the debut of the delightful Michael Sheen as Wesley Snipes.
Next up: Fringe