30 Rock went out last night the same way it came in: deliriously.
Tina Fey’s surreal sitcom had “quick cancellation” written all over it. So we all owe NBC a huge debt of thanks for keeping it on the air for seven years. Especially since 30 Rock made a point of mercilessly mocking the network at least once in every episode.
Last night was no exception. Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), recently ascended to head of NBC’s corporate owner Kabletown, took a homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk and installed him as Savannah Guthrie’s new Today co-host.
Kabletown of course was a diaphanously disguised rendering of NBC’s actual parent company, Comcast. You can bet the cable executives really got a kick out of it when Jack announced, “Gentlemen, today I moved Kabletown’s Customer Service to a part of India that has no phones. We’re now providing the same level of service to our subscribers at zero the cost.”
But 30 Rock didn’t just bite the hand that fed it; it gnawed on every appendage it could reach. The show was like a live-action version of The Simpsons – riffing at ferocious speed on every imaginable topic. 30 Rock turned the world on its head and shook it until all the funny money fell out of its pockets.
How about when Liz Lemon (Fey) went into the office of NBC’s newly installed president, the unhinged hayseed Kenneth (Jack McBrayer). “Can I get you anything?,” he asked. “Chickpeas? Moonshine? Turtle meat?”
You never knew from moment to moment what was on the menu for 30 Rock. Its humor was volatile, by turns arch, acidic and absurdist. It combined trenchant satire with sheer looniness, specializing in off-the-wall pop culture references.
Last night, a bereft Jack confessed, “I spent Christmas alone in the Hamptons, drinking scotch and throwing firecrackers at Billy Joel’s dog.”
High and low comedy, it all got thrown in the blender. Take Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) asserting, “I saw Kenneth’s schedule on his assistant’s pornography box.” “You mean computer?” replied Dot Com.
Each episode was an exhilarating ride of chutes and ladders. Did you notice the list of Kenneth’s TV No-No Words? There, nestled in between taboos like “complex”, “shows about shows” and “quality”, was the name Justin Bartha. Why this completely random slap at the actor from the Hangover movies? 30 Rock never needed a reason for its punchdrunk punchlines.
There was no way to tie up a show this crazy in a neat bow. And 30 Rock, bless its dark, twisted heart, didn’t even try. Instead it gave us a lunatic, non-linear coda (and still managed to get in a last shot at NBC).
There was Kenneth still running the network 50 years from now and freakishly unchanged. He played with a snow globe (a sly dig at the finale of NBC’s St. Elsewhere?) as he was being pitched a sitcom by Liz Lemon’s great great granddaughter. Outside his window little rocket ships whiz through the Manhattan sky, a la The Jetsons.
Say goodnight, Tina. But before you go, could you please answer Kenneth’s koan: “Where are all the baby pigeons?”