Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Ending With Evolution 30 Rock Season Seven!

The Good: Character development, Very funny
The Bad: Unremarkable plots and performances, Shortened season
The Basics: For 30 Rock’s final season, Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy evolving beyond their prior characters to end in an enjoyable, if understated, way.

As the year winds to an end, I find myself catching up on television shows that I missed over the last year. I actually have found myself watching and reviewing a number of shows that had series finales and the only one I actually caught when it aired was 30 Rock. Now out on DVD, 30 Rock Season Seven is the climax to the comedy by Tina Fey that was a satirical look at the behind-the-scenes life of a writer on a sketch comedy show. By the seventh season, as with virtually every television series that has longevity, the character development truly hinges on the understanding of who the characters have been in the prior seasons. In order to truly appreciate the final season of 30 Rock, one has to have seen some of the earlier seasons (though, ironically, given the character resets, Season Six – reviewed here! – is not vital to understanding who everyone is at the outset of Season Seven).

30 Rock returned for its final season knowing that it would be the end of the series and, as such, the entire season was moving toward the end. Lacking much in the way of network support, 30 Rock poked more fun at NBC and corporate America than it had in prior seasons. Seeming to realize how little the show was being promoted and how few people might be watching, Tina Fey and the other writers and executive producers quietly pushed the envelope of what kind of jokes they could make. The result is quite a bit more in the way of political humor and economic humor (poking fun at how networks make money off television) and while some of it is repetitive on the plot front, the characters do actually evolve. The thirteen episode season is good, but it lacks jokes that have a memorable quality (like “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah . . . spooky scary!”). Still it is well worth watching, if not picking up on its own.

Returning from their usual summer hiatus, Liz Lemon and the staff of TGS With Tracy Jordan are back to work. Liz Lemon quickly realizes that Jack is trying to tank NBC; he has loaded NBC up with terrible programming – like Thursday night being hotel menu night on the network – in order to devalue the company so he might buy NBC from Kabletown. Confronting Jack about his plan, Liz is soon distracted by Jenna, who ropes her into being her maid of honor, so Liz tries to tank as maid of honor. With Hazel using Kenneth to try to get onto TGS, Liz agrees to help Jack . . . until Paul Ryan drops out as Mitt Romey’s running mate. Ryan’s replacement is Alabama’s Governor Dunston. Dunston is a spitting image of Tracy Jordan and when Liz starts having Tracy do sketches as Dunston, TGS becomes hugely popular again.

With everyone’s lives suddenly turned around, Liz and Criss decide to push forward with having children and – failing that – adoption. Kenneth and Hazel break up, with Hazel suing NBC and bringing an abrupt end to TGS. At the same time, Jenna tries to arrange a surprise wedding, jealously getting revenge on Liz and Jack is surprised when his mother visits . . . only to tell him the least likely thing he could imagine. As TGS comes to an end, Liz and Jack try to find their work/life balance.

30 Rock Season Seven is a season of cycles; Liz revolves from obsessed with work to unsatisfied with a family back to happily working. Tracy evolves into Liz and Jack manages to live up to his mother’s challenge of being happy while finding success in a way that he did not predict. The season is truly about character evolutions and moving the characters to a final point; as such, the season gets rid of Hazel, allows a sense of closure for Jack and his family, and pushes Liz in a seemingly different direction.

The essential characters in season seven of 30 Rock are:

Liz Lemon – The hard-working Executive Producer and head writer of TGS With Tracy Jordan, she is frustrated by trying to have children with Criss. To push forward the adoption they settle on, they marry, which makes her best friend Jenna super-jealous. She puts the show ahead of her personal life when she has Tracy make a parody of Governor Dunston,

Tracy Jordan – The high-maintenance star of TGS, he is suddenly relied upon for advice and realizes he is the most stable person working at the show. As a result – and as a result of getting hit by a car and having a near-death experience – he realizes he needs to make responsible movie choices for his new production company. In working with Olivia Spencer, he has to transform into Liz Lemon order to get Toofer’s Harriet Tubman movie made,

Jenna Maroney – She is obsessed with making her wedding a surprise wedding. She, as always, is self-centered and loves performing. She has a big break when she makes an album (in the style of Jimmy Buffett) for slackers and she becomes the focal point for the 2012 Presidential Election when both Jack and Liz realize her fans in Northern Florida are the key to winning the election,

Pete Hornberger – In an attempt to escape his unsatisfying family life, he fakes his own death as TGS comes to an end,

Kenneth Parcell – Now a janitor at NBC, he is used by Hazel for information on NBC. When Jack uses him to help vet the new President of NBC, he is restored to being a page and then promoted beyond his wildest television dreams,

And Jack Donaghy – After all the years of scheming and politics, he helps the Republican Party try to win the election by having Tracy impersonate Governor Dunston. When he is visited by his mother, she challenges him to be happy and in trying to live up to that, he delivers the greatest eulogy of all time and struggles to find professional satisfaction. After defeating Hank Hooper’s granddaughter and Devin Banks to take over the corporate side of NBC (Kabletown), he wrestles with being actually happy.

The final season of 30 Rock has all of the main cast members perfectly attuned to their characters and the result is a show that has a wonderful sense of flow. The humor, while occasionally predictable, is delivered by each of the performers perfectly. Unfortunately, none of the performers are truly given much in the way of demands that push them to give viewers anything really new, but the refreshingly familiar nature of the characters is enjoyable to watch.

The final season of 30 Rock is fun and good, but because the entire series is strong enough to pick up, it is hard to encourage viewers to invest in the single season set for just this final season.

For other shows from the 2012 – 2013 season, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Revolution Season 1
Parenthood - Season 4
Veep - Season 1
Game Of Thrones - Season 3
New Girl - Season 2
Happy Endings - Season 3
The Walking Dead - Season 3
Arrested Development - Season 4
House Of Cards - Season 1
True Blood - Season 5


For other television and film reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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