[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from the series finale of 30 Rock, so if you haven't seen it yet, grab some Sabor de Soledad and get on it!]
I don't want tonight's show to happen because I don't know how to say goodbye, Liz Lemon. — Tracy Jordan
We don't either, Tracy.
30 Rock, Tina Fey's 7-year-old genius brainchild, wrapped up on Thursday with an hourlong finale that not only offered closure, but paid tribute to the past, present and future of television — with a snow globe (not like that), held by the immortal Kenneth (Jack McBrayer), listening to a pitch from Liz's great-granddaughter.
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"So the whole show just takes place here at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Is that right, Ms. Lemon?"
"Yes, sir. It's based on stories my great-grandmother told me."
"I know. And I love it."
Could there be a better ending for the show that celebrated and skewered TV with laser-sharp wit, aplomb and self-awareness like no other? 30 Rock's finale didn't go for crazy stunts or shocks (What? You didn't really think Jack was going to commit suicide, did you?), but rather remained what it's always been to the bittersweet end: zany, biting, satirical, weird, meta and self-referential.
It starts with the nudge-nudge-wink-wink of Liz (Fey), unsatisfied as a stay-at-home-mom, futilely pitching a show about her life to new NBC President Kenneth, who rejects it because it hits certain words on his TV no-no list ("woman," "writer," "New York"). And it ends with Tracy, speaking on behalf of TGS, and in essence 30 Rock: "That's our show. Not a lot of people watched it, but joke's on you 'cause we got paid anyway."
But let's not get too ahead of ourselves. After Kenneth turns down Liz's idea, he offers her a one-time-only job for her: Make one more episode of TGS, because Tracy's (Tracy Morgan) contract stipulates that he be paid $30 million if fewer than 150 episodes are produced. As usual, Liz turns to Jack (Alec Baldwin) for guidance and job leads, only to learn that he has resigned as Kabletown CEO, unfulfilled by his dream job, which leads to an intense argument. "Work is never going to make you happy," he says. "You're the one who told me to want more," she retorts.
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Focusing on the show, Liz &Co. do manage, despite a Blimpie's lunch, to put on one final TGS — but not before Jenna (Jane Krakowski), after futilely attempting new career paths, realizes she'll miss looking at herself in the mirror most and Tracy goes AWOL. In one of the many nice nods to the pilot, Liz locates Tracy at his favorite strip club Dark Sensations, where they have a warm heart-to-heart about "hardcore truth" goodbyes. "People don't say honest goodbyes because when stuff is coming to an end, people freak out and they act crazy ... so you lie to them," Liz says, before giving him the honest goodbye he wants. "We were forced to be friends because of work and we're probably not gonna hang out after this. ... Working with you was hard, Tracy. You frustrated me and you wore me out. And because the human heart is not properly connected to the human brain, I love you and I'm going to miss you. But tonight might be it."
Liz misses the final TGS broadcast, though, to track down the seemingly suicidal Jack at the docks. He jumps — into a boat. Jack plans to set sail to find his bliss, which for once will not stand for "beautiful ladies in short shorts." As he bids adieu, he tells Liz that there is one thing that's made him happy the past seven years, launching into the etymology of the word that has been "tragically co-opted by the romance industrial complex." "I love you, too," she says. Jack takes off, but immediately turns around with an idea: clear dishwashers! And it's all cued to the lovely strains of Jenna's performance of The Rural Juror song.
A year later, everyone still keeps in touch; Liz is working on Grizz's (Grizz Chapman) sitcom Grizz & Herz; Tracy's dad finally returns from "buying cigarettes" (Chattertons, duh); Jenna tries to steal a Tony; Jack, who's back at GE, has a new hot second assistant; and Pete (Scott Adsit) and his new identity get busted by Paula. It all zooms out to the Kenneth-and-snow-globe reveal in the very distant future.
It's perfect that Kenneth, the person who loves television, has the final line, and even more perfect that after seven years, Jack and Liz finally acknowledge what they have meant — and will mean — to each other. Though there's a whole contingent of Jack-Liz 'shippers, the beauty of 30 Rock is that it never went there. (Though it did have fun teasing the possibility.) Their growing platonic relationship was far more interesting and fascinating than any office romance could ever be and kept the show about what it was always about: working in TV. "I guess you and I were just a boss and his employee, and now we're not anymore," she tells him during their fight. She's right — they're friends.
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One of Kenneth's other TV no-no words is "quality." "I think TV can be successful without sacrificing quality," Liz tells him. 30 Rock is definitely proof of that.
And so, 30 Rock, that's our honest goodbye. As Jenna would sing, "These were the best days of our flerm." Excuse us while we go talk to some food about this.
What did you think of the finale? Will you miss 30 Rock?
The best lines from the finale:
Liz: I was an NBC employee for seven years and even though right now I'm concentrating on being a mom —
Kenneth: You've always had the body for it.
Jenna [guesting on Law & Order: SVU]: I am just so glad to finally return to my two loves: dramatic acting and sex crimes.
Tracy [to Liz]: The night is young. And neither are you.
Jack: Most of Tan Penis Island was destroyed in Sting's house fire.
Tracy: If you think it's about the money, you're even dumber than I look.
Liz [to Jack]: There's so much to live for. Don't you want to know how Mad Men ends?
Kenneth's TV No-No Words
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