marla pachter wants to go there…
In early 2009 I watched 30 Rock for the first time. I don’t remember how many days it took me (probably not many), or at what point I realized it was brilliant (probably around the time the Tracy Jordan Meat Machine was invented), but I do remember that as soon as I finished, I immediately started from the beginning and watched it all over again. At that time it was only in the middle of Season Three, but still – how many shows can you honestly say you’ve done that with?
I’ll bet your number is low. Mine is, too. What makes a show so good that it can compel a person to not only waste* fifteen plus hours of their life watching it, but to then finish and think to themselves, “Woah. I need to waste another fifteen hours on that!”? I’ll tell you what does. 30 Rock is different than most shows out there, and always has been. One thing I like to point out is that in order for a show to be believable, it doesn’t necessarily have to exist in reality, but it does have to create its own sense of reality and stick to it. 30 Rock has created this reality with some of the strangest rules, where the beautiful and by all human standards thin Tina Fey plays the gross, disgusting, food-a-holic Liz Lemon, where all the characters regularly go to a doctor who probably (definitely) never went to med school, and where a delightful hick from Georgia can turn out to have basically been alive for forever.
I will never forget the episode where they had an HD screen and throughout we saw different characters for what they would look like in “HD.” Liz was a witch, Jack was a younger, more handsome Alec Baldwin, and Kenneth was a puppet. And it worked and it was absolutely brilliant, because every character in this show at times could be thought of as a caricature. But even with their caricature-like characteristics (try saying that five times fast!), they are also real, believable people with layers. Each character has his or her own brand of crazy, but at the same time many things that make them human. And they work together, butting heads or escalating to new lengths of crazy together, making you laugh with every second.
You can watch 30 Rock over and over again because there are so many laughs, you couldn’t possibly have caught them all on the first watch-through. In fact, after I caught up the second time, I got into the habit of watching every episode of 30 Rock twice every week. And I often find that the show is funnier on the second watch. This show is smart, witty, original, complex, and at times ridiculously weird. It’s one of my greatest inspirations to this day in my dreams of becoming a sitcom writer. And that’s why its ridiculously worth watching.
So now that 30 Rock is coming to a close, with only two more episodes to go, am I sad to see it go? I’m not, honestly. 30 Rock was one of the best written shows on television, an inspiration to funny women everywhere, and generally just a non-stop laugh fest. But like all good shows, I feel it has run its course. I’m glad to see it go while it still has its dignity. At this point in time, I still watch 30 Rock every week, but I just don’t feel invested in the characters the way that I used to. And the format of the show has shifted a little, becoming less of an ensemble piece than it used to be. And that’s okay. Every good show has its bad moments. I’m sure if Firefly was still on TV they would have run out of ideas by now.
And hey, no show is perfect. Often 30 Rock would go for the joke over character development, which can leave where the character stands unclear. And we all remember that time they hired a new cast member (Cheyenne Jackson) for TGS (The fake SNL-type show-within-30 Rock) then a few episodes later just kind of forgot about him. But 30 Rock brought to television a level of brilliance I had never seen before, and few things come close to. It was damn near perfect, as far as I’m concerned. So as it ends, I do highly recommend you go back and watch it all over again from the beginning. Whether you’ve seen them all a million times, never seen it before, or are somewhere in between those two extremes. I garantee you will find yourself saying phrases like, “Blerg,” “What the what, “Shut it down,” and, “I want to go to there,” for the rest of your life. And maybe, just maybe, the second you’re finished you will pause for a second and think to yourself, “Woah. I need to watch all of that again.”
*In society, it is generally assumed that if you are watching hours and hours of television, you are wasting your life. I used “waste” as a turn of phrase, but I don’t believe watching a smart, witty show like 30 Rock remotely resembles my time being wasted.