TV Review: Final season of ‘30 Rock’ to end on high note

By Dan O'Leary

Due to the nature of television, with shows continuously needing to be renewed and the threat of cancellation always looming in the background, it’s often difficult to end a TV series in a way that will satisfy fans. Shows can overstay their welcome and give off the sense of treading water while characters become stagnant — just check out “The Office” — while even popular series like “The Sopranos” (1999-2007) and “Lost” (2004-2010) have frustrated their fan bases with polarizing finales. Thankfully, “30 Rock” has avoided these pitfalls and launched a strong comeback in its final episodes of the series, perfecting the show’s sharp wit and quirky humor.

Since its inception in 2006, “30 Rock” has followed the exploits of Liz Lemon (Tina Fey), head writer of the sketch comedy show “TGS.” But “30 Rock” quickly branched out beyond this basic concept, using the backstage setting as a springboard for over-the-top hijinks, eccentric humor and meta references that allowed the show to grow into one of the strangest, funniest comedies on television. While the show was rather hit or miss in later seasons, this final run of episodes in the seventh season has been one of the strongest in the series’ history and epitomizes all that is great about “30 Rock.”

The home stretch of the show finds Liz striving to resolve many of the issues she’s struggled with throughout the series. She’s finally made headway with an adoption agency, has found a steady partner in Criss (James Marsden) and her life generally seems to be looking up. Still, pitfalls lurk. A pending lawsuit has placed the status of “TGS” in jeopardy. Jack Donaghy’s (Alec Baldwin) promotion at Kabletown leaves him unable to save the show while Liz can find no help from her cast and crew to save “TGS,” led by Jenna (Jane Krakowski) and Tracy (Tracy Morgan). All these events coalesce in an organic way, making the episodes in the seventh season feel like a proper build-up to a finale that will bring resolution to all of these plot threads.

Liz’s life may still be a bit less than perfect, but “30 Rock” still manages to fill each moment with hilarious punch lines and rapid-fire gags. Thanks to the fantastic supporting characters, with standouts being Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) and Tracy, there has yet to be a dull moment during the past five episodes. Jenna is still vain as ever in her attempts to upstage everyone else, and Tracy remains the king of irrelevant yet hysterical one-liners. Kenneth has still struggled with trying to find his place in the world, but his plotline ends up arriving at a satisfying conclusion. “30 Rock” has also welcomed back fan-favorites this season, giving recurring characters such as Dr. Spaceman, Devon Banks and Colleen Donaghy one final appearance.

The heart of “30 Rock’s” success lies in the mentor-mentee relationship between Liz and Jack, and the writers have highlighted this remarkably during the concluding season. The mutual admiration and respect between the pair manages to shine through the banter and gags, serving as a reminder as to what will be sorely missed when the series ends. As Jack comes to terms with what he’s looking for in life and as Liz begins to realize that her job can’t always be prioritized over her personal life, the final stretch of episodes finds the two characters remarkably developed and matured since their first appearance in the pilot seven years ago. The audience has followed both the highs and lows of Liz and Jack throughout the years, and this makes the impending conclusion to their storylines all the more satisfying.

It’s a testament to the creative power of Tina Fey and her writers that the quirky “30 Rock” has been able to survive seven years in primetime on a major network. Even though the series finale will not air until tomorrow night, it’s clear from these last few episodes that the writers have put much care into constructing a conclusion that will reward long-time viewers by combining the show’s trademark humor with a surprising level of emotion and sense of farewell. So even if you haven’t watched “30 Rock” in ages, there’s still time to join in and say a final goodbye to Liz Lemon and the rest of the gang at 30 Rockefeller Plaza as the show ends on a high note.

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