The end of an era, is fastly approaching, and there's a very real, very sad possibility that few people are gonna watch it. I will be watching it. Not on the computer, but I'll be watching it live. "30 Rock"'s season finale is this Thursday. Despite setting records at Award show, and being a critical darling, the series has never been a popular show in the ratings. In fact, a little-realized fact that few people remember is that, the show actually did worse in the ratings it's first season, than Aaron Sorkin's brilliant "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip", which was the two shows NBC aired that year, about the behind-the-scenes of an "SNL"-type talk show. "30 Rock" stayed on the air, because it was cheaper to produce, and got more Awards, including it's first of three Best Comedy Series Emmys that here as well. One year, 2009, it got an unheard of 22 Emmy Nominations, destroying any other comedy series record you could come up with. (The old record was 17 nominations, set by "30 Rock," the year before)
I've spent the last hour trying to explain the greatness of "30 Rock", and the genius of Tina Fey, both of which, are undeniable facts, and yet, I can't quite find the correct words to describe either of them. In many ways, you do need to know about culture and the world of television, just to even understand some of "30 Rock", and it's absurd character, and the way they behave, but since "30 Rock" is Fey's brainchild, it must be understood that the show is really a mosaic of her mind, and thought. Symbolic representations of people that she confronts and deals with, not just in real life, but also in the world at large. The entertainment world at large in particular. Here's a woman, in Tina Fey and/or Liz Lemon, who has studied comedy intensely. Female comedy in particular, and everything else that deals with that, and who seems to be constantly searching for her ideal role model still. That's a P.O.V. I see with man females in almost art forms, but it's especially true in comedy, and television comedy in particular, everybody has this need, to find a role model to identify with, and in many ways emulate. This is why such artists like Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett, and especially Mary Tyler Moore, are held in such regard. Actually, I take that back, it's not so much the actresses, but the parts they're playing. Mary Richards is an icon. Lucy Ricardo, is an icon. June Cleaver, Roseanne Arnold, Murphy Brown. Some are better than other; some represent the past, and whether we've been in America, and why women, started rebelling against some of those stereotypes, creating new archetypes for women. It's more profound with women, but it happens with everybody. Jack Donaghy idolizes the GE founder that Rip Torn played, as well as Ronald Reagan, and some of these other pro-business ideologues, as a means towards success. The point behind the comedy in "30 Rock", is that, now there's more prevalent icons for young women, and everybody else to choose from, and never has their been, so many different people, idolizes, so many other different people, and every major character, is symbolic of who they idolize. Liz, now feeling herself a successful, albeit troubled role model in her own right, tries to deal with these contradicting people, and that's where the humor comes in. Liz is clearly a representative, of progress, while trying to live up to who came before. Perhaps the ultimate example of such a conundrum. She wants, success, career, family, and gets continually frustrated by her mostly failed attempts to get it. She also, understands the importance of rebelling against those old cliches of womanhood, but still is susceptible to them. Not so much the activities themselves, but the pressures that are inherited in her, internal and external. Jack is the talentless man in the artistic industry, who see his job as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Look at a shallow character like Suri, played by Katrina Bowden, whose looks get her through the world, and make everything disturbingly simple for her. Her idols, probably are, Barbie, or some supermodel who no one remembers. Or Tracy's wife, played by Sherri Shepherd, at over-the-top outlandish character that, she gets her own reality show, simply for being herself, and being married to a celebrity, which is actually, incidental. Tracy Jordan himself played by Tracy Morgan, is a loud, obnoxious character, who's stand-up act personality has made him a star, while Jane Krakowski's so self-obsessed with herself, and being the star that she thinks she is, she eventually marries one of her female impersonators. All these characters represent a kaleidoscope of television and cultural idols. Except for Kenneth, who represents, the hapless television lover/viewer, who loves and appreciates all of television. That's the real vision of Tina Fey's work, the absurdity in the real world, that's inspired by the world that television invented. This, on top of being a woman, in a man's world, with a female sense of humor.
This conflict is a core of "30 Rock", which has been, funny as hell, it really does, first it takes a side, on every issue, which is far more critical for every genre that people realize, it explores it to the fullest degree, and then the thing is, that it does everything. It simple to describe the dynamics of "30 Rock", but it's hard to describe the comedy, because it insists on taking a bit from everything. It's strangely classical in it's structure, but the dialogue the characters have is free-spirited and outlandish. There never seems to be any room for subtlety or hidden agendas, and characters are so crass that they simply blurt out what they're thinking. This comes from an improv background. The show itself, isn't improvised, but that method of saying what's on your mind, and saying yes, to every bizarre idea that comes out of your head, that's improv training, specifically Second City-style improv, where Fey started. This style is really what's revolutionary about the show, it's insistance on absurdity, even at the strangest of moments. It's a culmination of devouring so many pop culture influences from movies and TV, that, even the most ridiculous of statements, can seem logical in the world of "30 Rock".
But now, it's ending. Thursday night, is "30 Rock"'s final episode. It's barely getting promoted, it's part of a season that's got fewer episodes than ever before, and when Tina Fey won her SAG Awards yesterday, she pleaded in her speech for people to please, just tape "The Big Bang Theory", this one time! Honestly, as much as I do love "30 Rock", I've more of it, on my computer than I have on TV. Unfortunate and ironic, a show that so loves and is about television, finds it's audience mainly on the internet, and that's been the case since the beginning too. It's another irony, that such a great show, is rarely seen on TV. Fey has become a major cultural icon herself, but she's done as much for her Sarah Palin role on "SNL", as for this part. She's written in her book "Bossypants" about how she intended "30 Rock", to be a critics and awards darling, she wanted to create "Home Improvement", and get the biggest ratings on TV. Unfortunately, Tina Fey is too special, and too unique and too smart for mass broad appeal. I can explain, how her show is basically a retread of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", and how she's borrowing from classic influences and newer influences of comedy all I want, but basically, they see the show, and it's single-camera look, (Which Fey never wanted) and the rapid-fire absurd dialogue and characters, seem so far from such classic shows, that most people dismiss it, and can barely grasp it. An TV insider show, that seems to have less to do about making television than any other show that was about that. The show comes up with such great moments and lines, that it's hard to pick favorites, but to celebrate, the end of this magnificent sitcom, I think my favorite quote, was when Carrie Fisher guessed starred, as the old-time "Laugh-In",-style comic writer, and Liz goes to her apartment and which is like, the worst possible place anyone can live, and when she tells Jack about her adventures, he turns back with the warning, "Never go with a hippie to a second location." Well, that's a favorite moment of mine, there's dozens of others.
Think back to your favorite moments this week, as we celebrate, and cry at the end of "30 Rock", one of the greatest TV shows, of our lifetime, and because, dammit, somebody has to, so dance like nobody's watching!