Saturday, February 2, 2013

Shut it Down!

30 Rock is not the show it once was.  In fact, it hasn't even been a ghost of the show it was.  Season six was downright cringe-worthy, and while season seven has been slightly better, it's still only provided a few weak smiles instead of the belly laughs of old.

But I have to admit.  That finale.  It blew me out of the water, sucking me into the Rock hilarity of olden days.  

For the first time in a while, it didn't feel forced.  The show didn't feel like they were trying to betray characters, or build up to something, or change focus.  It felt honest.  They touched on all the greats--the crazy catch phrases, the dynamic in the writer's room (something I have sorely missed over the past couple of seasons), Jenna's insecurity and Tracy's insanity, the sudden reappearance of Pete (PETE!  How I've missed thee), and a return to NBC power dynamics, this time with Kenneth in a new role.  30 Rock was always at it's finest when it was grounded in reality, and somehow, inconceivably, it regained that dynamic in this last episode.  Whether it was dealing with the difficulties in negotiating with networks or the struggles in producing a workable show, Fey was at her best when the madcap moments had a logical jumping off point.  But that same madcappery took over the show as of late, making it almost a chore to watch.

And I felt that way through most of this last, fateful season.  I could not have cared less about Jenna's unwindulaxing, or if Jack was going to tank NBC.  There was no reality in it, so there was no investment.  And of all the insane plot devices, nothing was more irksome than Liz's relationship with Criss.  As played by James Marsden, Criss came off as a completely false character.  It was difficult to believe that his relationship with Liz even happened, and not only because Tina Fey and Marsden had absolutely no chemistry.

And then they got married.  And for the first 75% of the episode, I was a seething ball of rage.  This made no sense!  What a lazy way to get a point across!  What betrayal, to take the depth that was once Liz Lemon and make her into this harp-tastic poster model for the worst kind of feminist, the kind who kicked against all typical gender roles in an attempt to make the playing field more even.  And as I rolled my own eyes at her sweatshirt wedding, with it's overly-conscientious rebuttal against tradition, something unexpected happened. 

Liz softened, bending to the fairy tale, but wishing to make it uniquely hers.  She realized that she wanted something that spoke to her, that didn't celebrate her as a bride, but her as a wonderful beautiful person that was making a significant change in her life.  She looked at Criss with questioning in her eyes, until he said, “Liz, it’s okay to be a human woman!”  I cheered.  I might have teared up a little bit.  I definitely was won back over to the 30 Rock side of life.  Finally, after too long in the world of the bizarre, it was back with some truth.  Some plain, unforced truth that made me fall in love with Tina Fey all over again.

After that, it was easier to say goodbye.  There was no longer bitterness about the show that had once been, but only fond memories of what it was and how it ended.  Perfectly, drifting on a boat to find itself, but back again in those last few moments.  Wrapped up neatly, but with loving nods to what came before.  Just like Fey herself, the finale carved out it's own niche while retaining a respect for the medium, but all while acknowledging the things that made it great--both in the greater TV sphere (snow globe, anyone?) and in it's own unique mythology (Rural Juror!).  Well done, 30 Rock.  I'll slow clap that ending out.