When Michael Jordan retired from basketball for the second time in 1998, he went out as a winner. He left sports fans with the lasting image of him hitting a jump shot to give the Chicago Bulls their sixth championship in eight years. Along comparable lines, as an avid television viewer, there is nothing worse than watching a show labor on longer than its expiration date. Seinfeld knew when to call it a day, but How I Met Your Mother is veering awfully close to stale territory and Law and Order: SVU passed that point years ago. After watching the season premiere of 30 Rock, I’m happy to report that, if this is indeed the last season as the promos claim, they are going out at just the right moment.

The interplay between Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) and Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) is always good for laughs; Kenneth’s (Jack McBrayer) sweet and silly nature continues to provide a welcome contrast to the cynical world around him; Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) and her endless quest to get off the B-List (or probably, in her mind, stay on the A-list) is still entertaining; and, as for Tracy Morgan, err, Jordan, it has never been uninteresting to watch him pursue his shenanigans. Yet, while those elements are still at the core of the show, there is, of course, Hazel (Kristen Schaal). She is the least likeable character on the show and possibly on television. She is grating, over the top and crazy — without being funny. In the first episode, Hazel, who is living with Kenneth now, has Tracy over for dinner and uses the opportunity to seduce him into giving her a role. The character is completely without charm, warmth or humor. Her storyline detracts from the main arc of the episode, which sees Jack tank NBC by enlisting bad shows — so much so that Kabletown is going to sell the network.

The shots 30 Rock have gotten in on NBC for the last seven years have provided great comedic moments, and this episode has more than its fair share. As a longtime viewer of this show, I always felt that, underneath the comedy, there is also a commentary (even a self-commentary) about the show itself. Maybe that comes from doing a sitcom about a sitcom, but that layer of truth and criticism has added another dimension to the show. The episode may very well have been talking about 30 Rock itself: If this is the last season, they are going out on their terms and that’s much better than going out on someone else’s.

Read more about:

Leave a comment