30 Rock: Season 7 created by Tina Fey (Broadway Video, Little Stranger, NBC Studios)
Starring Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, and Jack McBrayer.
The Next Home Improvement
I can’t help but consider Tina Fey’s memoir, Bossypants, while thinking about Season 7 of 30 Rock. In her memoir, Fey admits the goal of her critically acclaimed NBC series was not to become an indie hit—or critically acclaimed for that matter. Instead, Fey hoped for the next Home Improvement, a ratings smash that was funny, but first and foremost, a money maker viewed by the canaille.
By its standards, 30 Rock failed. It never reached the highest ratings pantheon, constantly losing to the flavor-of-the-month from CBS. But to assess 30 Rock on ratings alone is a tremendous disservice to the last 7 years of this television show.
30 Rock begins and ends with Tina Fey. Her vision and her wit create the core of each character in the series and set the stage for a new way of understanding the showrunner.
A Comedy about a Comedy
30 Rock functions as a behind-the-scenes look at a fictional live television show airing on NBC, a clear reference to Fey’s time as head writer of Saturday Night Live. Tina Fey plays Liz Lemon, a constantly frazzled showrunner whose daily duties involve managing an adolescent writing staff and putting out the fires of the show’s star comedians, the all-bets-are-off Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) and the narcissistic Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski).
To keep everything in order, Lemon constantly leans on NBC page, Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer), to keep tabs on her stars. Additionally, she develops a close mentor/mentee relationship with NBC network executive and red-blooded conservative, Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin).
While the acting in 30 Rock is nothing short of fantastic, the series has been defined by rapid fire jokes, low-brow slapstick humor, loads of satire, and a tendency to break the fourth wall. No matter the character or written concept, Tina Fey shines. Her voice translates equally well to a dim-witted page, a C-Suite shark, and a self-involved actor.
30 Rock is Tina Fey’s baby and in its final season the viewer again observes Fey’s talent. She wraps up storylines well, linking heartfelt send-offs with comedic gold.
The Show that Changed It All
As the show concludes, it is natural to assess its cultural purchase. It entered its first season as an underdog against Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It exits as a pioneering show for the female showrunner. While female comedians have found success on television before, 30 Rock feels like the first show to completely and unequivocally center around its female leader. An advocate for female comedians, Fey never shied away from exploring gender stereotypes. Additionally, her work has seemingly opened the door for more women in executive roles. In the years since 30 Rock, networks have greenlighted shows from Mindy Kaling, Whitney Cummings, and Chelsea Handler.
30 Rock might not have met the lofty goals of Tina Fey, but it is a pioneering show that will certainly remain in the cultural consciousness of America. Fey’s voice developed a multitude of iconic characters. Moreover, Fey’s success as a showrunner paved the way for more women to run the show. 30 Rock had a great run and everyone needs to watch it.
Verdict: 5 out of 5