Classy show ends with irony (spoiler)

HANK STUEVER
Last updated 05:00 03/03/2013
30 rock
Tidy irony: Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon gives us the straight dope on workplace relationships.

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What more praise is there to heap upon 30 Rock, the show that was an advanced spin class for the pop-culture brain, the sitcom that was the equivalent of a whole platter of "night cheese"?

The final episode will pretty much say it all: Tina Fey's Liz Lemon finds almost instant dissatisfaction as a stay-at-home mum; Alec Baldwin's Jack Donaghy finds similar ennui as the newly crowned chief executive of Kabletown. Neither Liz nor Jack was meant to be the things they thought they most wanted.

But why even bother with plots, wrap-ups or potential spoiler alerts? The real joy in 30 Rock was never in its linear storytelling; it was in its complete absurdity. In all that chaos brought about by Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) and Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski), there was a show that offered some of the sharpest, up-to-the-minute cultural criticism around.

30 Rock demanded that you keep up with all the junk that infiltrates our lives, and, rather than reject it or turn a superior nose to it, you instead must come up with the most witheringly funny comment about it.

This can be exhausting for those of us who are willing (or required) to play that game, and that was also part of 30 Rock's message - the dispiriting ubiquity of snark and egocentricity in our lives. As Liz, the showrunner of a flailing sketch comedy hour on NBC, Fey wore a world-weary look of concern on her face at all times, a semi-constant sense of being aghast at the world and the people around her.

30 Rock miraculously lasted seven seasons, gathering trophies and accolades if not ratings.

Monday night's episode finds tidy and appropriately ironic endings for nearly all of its characters. There is a particularly moving scene between Morgan and Fey, when once more Liz is forced to beg Tracy to finish his work on one last episode of TGS. The abandoned child in Tracy's psyche is afraid of empty goodbyes. So Liz lays it to him straight, the "hard-core truth" of all workplace relationships:

"We were forced to be friends because of work, and we're probably not going to hang out after this," she says.

"Working with you was hard and you frustrated me and you wore me out, but because the heart is not properly connected to the human brain, I love you and I'm going to miss you. But tonight might be it."

What I'll miss most when 30 Rock is gone is the conduit it provided into whatever was on Fey's mind. As 30 Rock found its way and sharpened its blade, Fey became the unofficial spokeswoman for a niche demographic - feminist, but also post-feminist; courageous critic, but not a scold; political pragmatist, but not a politician; Gen-X realist, unafraid of aging.

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She needs a better forum for all this than the occasional rom-com can ever provide (in her next movie Admission, she plays a college-admissions officer opposite Paul Rudd) and I'm not alone in hoping she finds it. And by "it", I don't mean a talk show.

-The Washington Post

30 Rock Monday, 9.30pm, Four

- Sunday Star Times

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