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SERIES FINALE RECAP & REVIEW: 30 Rock “Hogcock” & “Last Lunch”

01 Feb

Series finales are always tricky.  You invest so much time into the characters and their stories that when it’s going to be the last time you ever see them all together, you want something amazing.  You want something special.  You want something that make sense.  You want something that stays true to the characters.  You want closure.   You’ve all heard the shows people list as the biggest disappointments, in terms of series finales…St. Elsewhere, The Sopranos, Seinfeld, Lost, Chuck, The X-Files, Roseanne, Life on Mars.  Most of the time, your feelings on the finales are subjective.  Depending on what you wanted to get out the finale, you may have loved it while others hated it and vice versa.  However, I don’t think I’ve ever heard one person out there say the St. Elsewhere finale was wonderful.  Universally, it was hated.  But you have very divided camps over the Lost finale.  So you never know.  And depending on the type of show, you may be looking for resolutions to storylines and mysteries while on other shows, you may be looking for a sentimental farewell.  I would say that 30 Rock falls into the latter category and in terms of last night’s finale, it hit some home runs and in other areas, it struck out completely.

I always felt that this was a cast that truly loved working with one another.  Yes there were some things that happened with some of the actors off the screen during its run but all that insanity aside, the 30 Rock team was a family.  I loved reading all the articles leading up to the finale where you heard how hard it was for some of them to say good-bye and how emotional the final episode was from the table read to the final airing.  The cast also agreed to get together and watch the finale together.  They loved what they produced just as much as we loved watching it.

I didn’t watch 30 Rock right out of the gate.  In fact, I hated the show.  Not because I had ever seen it, but because it was the Modern Family of the Emmys back in its prime.  It won all the awards, it got all the great reviews, everyone buzzed about how this is the greatest comedy since Seinfeld.  I don’t know if it was because I felt like I was left out of the club or it was just over exposed, but every time I heard about 30 Rock, I would cringe with disgust.  But then, about 3 years ago, I took a trip to Italy.  Anyone who has ever traveled a significant distance knows that in addition to movies on the plane, there are now episodes of TV shows that you can watch.  On my flight to and from Rome, the NBC comedies were playing.  I was already over in Italy for business when my husband flew over to meet me.  All he talked about the whole time was this episode of 30 Rock that he watched and that we have to start watching this show.  He was laughing so hard, he could barely tell me why it was so funny.  When we get on the plane to come home, he was giddy with joy that the same episode is airing on the way back and tells me we have to watch it.  I begrudgingly agree.  The episode was from Season 2, Episode 5: Greenzo.  For you die hards, you know this one immediately.  This is the episode where so many hysterical things are happening, you lose count.  First you have David Schwimmer playing Greenzo, this energy conscious, superhero that teaches kids and adults how to be more green (complete Jack Donaghy idea).  I’ve never been a huge fan of Schwimmer’s but he is fabulous in this episode.  Then you have Pete and his wife Paula who are sneaking around having sex in Liz’s apartment.  And to top it off, you have Kenneth throwing, what will come to be, his very last party.  That scene is Jack’s office, the day after the party. maybe one of the funniest things I’ve seen on TV.  Basically, Kenneth throws the worst parties and the only person who ever had the stomach to go, is Liz.  But all of a sudden this huge rumor starts floating around about who will be there (from rappers to foxy boxing) and it gets out hand.  It gets to the point that the people who started the rumors (I think it was Grizz and Dot Com) start believing it’s true when they hear how it has spun.  It’s insane!!!!  And after watching that, I was hooked.   My husband and I put it on the Netflix season pass, or whatever you call it, and watched it from beginning to end.  It became our Scrubs.  So when we’d have a bad day or just are exhausted from everything, we’d pop in some 30 Rock, and all would be right with the world.

I’m a huge Tina Fey fan.  And no, it’s not just because she’s a local Philly girl who grew up 10 minute from me, and constantly put Philly sports teams in her episodes.  Ok, so that’s part of it.  But it’s because she’s so smart, witty, funny, and fearless.  She created and performed one of the most layered and interesting characters of all time.  Liz Lemon is a mess but yet so together at the same time.  While her love life was a disaster and she always had some sort of food in her hair, she was anything but a ditz.  It would be so easy to set up the funny for the ditzy leading lady who can’t get out of her own way.  Instead, you have a woman who’s very good at her job, incredibly talented, and in many ways, so incredibly sure of herself, and she can’t get out of her own way.  When you really break down Liz, she’s someone who knew exactly what she was good at and what she wanted to do and therefore made herself a very successful career.  She was a loyal friend to a fault (which I always admire in a person.)  She wasn’t afraid to be the geek that she was.  She never tried to hide it or apologize for it.  It’s why her relationship with Jack worked so well.  It’s why her friendship with Jenna lasted as long as it has.  It’s why she could handle that crazy group of misfits she called a writing staff.   Liz was very well aware of who she was.  And even though there were times where certain parts of her life confused and scared her, at her core, she was still the sharp and sassy girl who just really loved Cheesy Blasters.   I’ll really miss seeing her on my screen.  Liz Lemon showed that even though you’re the tops in your field, you don’t always have it together and it’s good to have people you can count on to get you through those tough times.

Speaking of layered characters, one of my husband’s all time favorites in history is Jack Donaghy.  When we first meet him, you think he’s going to be one thing.  But over the course of the series you realize he’s not just the stiff, one-dimensional, pompous ass you expected.  Like Liz, he’s very layered with his own demons that he fights, just like everyone else.   And the more you learn about Jack and the more he opens up to us, the more you completely get him and is some ways, admire him.  Talk about fierce and determined.  But when it came down to it, in many ways, he was just like Liz…a strong, smart, successful career man, who’s strong in his convictions,  with a screwed up love life/personal life.   But how he handled it and approached it was so different from Liz.  And it was this approach to life that made his business and personal relationship with Liz so amazing and wonderful to watch.   Plus, he had the best lines on the show.

If I go through every character on this show, I’ll be here until Community premieres next week (side note….yeah!!)  So I’m not going to do that but I had to talk about Liz and Jack. As for the episode itself, as I mentioned in the beginning, it had some good moments and some not so good moments. The fact that The Rural Juror was brought back into the mix, was fantastic. And not only did Jenna get to sing one more time, but she did a song about the Rural Juror that no one could understand. It was awesome!!!! And by the way, you could tell that Jane Krakowski was crying during that entire episode. Even in the scenes where she wasn’t actually crying, you could see that her eyes were completely bloodshot and puffy. Don’t get me wrong. She still looked amazing. You could just tell this was really emotional for her. Especially in the scene where they take her mirror away from her. Classic Jenna! And the small montage of Jenna through the years looking at herself in that mirror was a fitting recap for her character. I like that they got to do one more show of TGS before shutting everything down, to keep Tracy from getting $30 million dollars. The best part was at the end of the show (meaning TGS) all the people who worked on the show, were brought out on stage for the curtain call. I can only assume that was all the crew for 30 Rock. While I haven’t been on board with Criss as Liz’s man, the best part of the whole storyline was when the newly adopted kids arrived and they were basically a mini Jenna and mini Tracy. How perfect was that!! Probably one of my favorite moments was Liz’s scene with Tracy (which had come full circle back to where it all started with them…the strip club.) Liz gives Tracy the “hardcore truth good-bye.” She tells him what most people don’t have the guts to say. That they were only friends because they worked together and that they probably won’t stay in touch. That she won’t call on his birthday and he’ll invite her over but not really mean it. But the best line was when Liz said to Tra “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.” That one line perfectly sums up what this series was about. People who would NEVER be friends outside of the environment they were forced to be connected by, grew to love and care about one another. I loved it and it was a fantastic moment for those two characters. And I just have to say, I love that they poked fun at the worst series finale in TV history (that just so happened to be on NBC) when the last scene was Kenneth with the snow globe making it seem like it was all in his head (or the head of the writer sitting in front of him.) Please look up St. Elsewhere finale to get the reference.

While there were those moments I loved, a few things bothered me. First, I hated the way they used Salma Hayek and Julianne Moore. What a waste of returning characters. I read they weren’t going to do much of that because they wanted to keep it about the core cast, and that’s fine. But if you’re going to bring someone back, I would much rather have seen Dennis Duffy or Devon Banks. But Moore and Hayek were not used well at all. Also, I hated the “Kenneth is President of NBC” story. I know that was really from the previous episode but it certainly carried over and it’s absurd. I would rather have seen Kenneth being a NBC page forever, because that’s what he loved to do. Finally, I hated Jack leaving NBC, once he finally gotten what he had always wanted, to be CEO, because he wasn’t happy and he needed to find his bliss. What? The man who has been nothing but ambitious and ruthless about getting to the top now doesn’t want it? What? This seemed so out of character. I hated it. However there were two saving graces. One, that he discovered the idea for the clear dishwasher and promptly turned his boat right back around. And two, his moment with Liz. He was trying so hard to find the words to let her know how he felt about her and used so many ancient anecdotes that she finally cut him off and said “I love you too Jack.” And he smiled that awesome Donaghy smile at her. It’s just a shame they wasted the entire finale episode having Jack Donaghy not be Jack Donaghy.

In the end, I liked the finale and thought it was a great sendoff for what was, in its prime, the best comedy on TV. It was certainly time for 30 Rock to go. It just hasn’t been the same the last season and a half. But I’m glad, like Liz Lemon, it went out on its own terms.

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