Lizzing to keep from crying: Reflecting on “30 Rock’s” best episodes

On Thursday we bid adieu to Liz, Jack, Tracy and Jenna after seven hilarious seasons. We don't want to go to there VIDEO SLIDE SHOW

Topics: Video, slideshow, 30 Rock, Tina Fey, Liz Lemon, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, entertainment news, TV, Television, Editor's Picks, Alec Baldwin, Jack Donaghy,

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    NBC Universal

    Lizzing to keep from crying: Reflecting on "30 Rock's" best episodes

    "Tracy Does Conan" (Season 1, Episode 7)

    By “30 Rock’s” fifth episode, the series was starting to settle into its particular brand of zany-silly-smart absurdism — the Snapple product placement and the first appearance of Dennis Duffy happened in Episodes 5 and 6. But it all crystallized in the seventh episode, “Tracy Does Conan,” which included the first mentions of “The Rural Juror,” the first appearance of Dr. Spaceman, and Liz busting her ass to get a tweaking Tracy ready for "Conan." And it’s in this episode that Liz asks Jack why he’s wearing a tuxedo and gets schooled Donaghy style: “It’s after 6. What am I, a farmer?”

    NBC Universal

    Lizzing to keep from crying: Reflecting on "30 Rock's" best episodes

    "Governor Dunston" (Season 7, Episode 2)

    This episode, a meta-riff on Tina Fey’s experience impersonating vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin that featured Tracy impersonating vice-presidential candidate and Paul Ryan replacement Gov. Dunston, aired on the same night as the real vice-presidential debate between Ryan and Joe Biden: It got a little lost in the resulting hall of mirrors. But “Governor Dunston” is a shining example of the ballsy, go-for-broke brazenness of “30 Rock’s” final season, which has taken on just about anything it wants, and gone further with it than anyone else would.

    NBC Universal

    Lizzing to keep from crying: Reflecting on "30 Rock's" best episodes

    "Subway Hero" (Season 2, Episode 12)

    “30 Rock” has probably had more hilarious recurring characters than any live-action TV show ever — and it’s probably used those recurring characters more effectively than any show ever. Dr. Spaceman, Devon Banks, Avery Banks, Carroll Carroll, Wesley Snipes, Colleen Donaghy, Phoebe with the hollow bones, it just goes on and on and on. And yet, among all this talent there is one standout, Dennis Duffy, dummy, and this episode is all about him.

    NBC Universal

    Lizzing to keep from crying: Reflecting on "30 Rock's" best episodes

    "Everything Sunny All the Time" (Season 5, Episode 21)

    “30 Rock” was at its best in Seasons 2 and 3, but later seasons had their moments and the story line in which Jack’s wife, Avery (Elizabeth Banks), gets kidnapped by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il (Margaret Cho) is one. This is the episode that kicks that story line off (and also features Liz getting really upset about a plastic bag, which I always like to think of as a shot at “American Beauty”) and finally pays off Jack’s romance with Condoleezza Rice, who appears as herself.

    NBC Universal

    Lizzing to keep from crying: Reflecting on "30 Rock's" best episodes

    "Apollo, Apollo" (Season 3, Episode 16)

    This episode is an embarrassment of silly riches: Kenneth sees everyone as a Muppet; Liz appears as a Muppet; Lizzing; Dennis and his fake sex addiction; Liz’s pre-Invisalign phone sex commercial; Jack jacking out of happiness; and the awesome efforts everyone at "TGS" will take to make sure Tracy Jordan thinks he’s in outer space. If they tried half that hard on their show, it just might be great — though not as great as this episode.

    NBC Universal

    Lizzing to keep from crying: Reflecting on "30 Rock's" best episodes

    "TGS Hates Women" (Season 5, Episode 16)

    In one of “30 Rock’s” most notorious meta episodes, “TGS Hates Women,” lady blog Joan of Snark (basically Jezebel) chastises “The Girlie Show” for being misogynist and not having enough women writers on staff. Liz goes out and hires a woman, and then becomes obsessed with proving her girlie persona is fake. Like most episodes of “30 Rock,” “TGS Hates Women” doesn’t take a position, it just fleshes everything out and then laughs at all of it. And like all great episodes of “30 Rock,” the B-story is no slouch, featuring the canny Chloe Moretz as Jack’s cutthroat teenage nemesis.

    NBC Universal

    Lizzing to keep from crying: Reflecting on "30 Rock's" best episodes

    "Dealbreakers Talk Show #0001" (Season 4, Episode 7)

    Jack wants to turn Liz’s sketch-turned-book "Dealbreakers" ("If he wears an Atlanta Falcons jersey to your sister's wedding? That's a dealbreaker, ladies!") into a TV show, turning Liz into an insecure, crazed actress, whose tears come out of her mouth in the process. It’s an episode that showcased just how good Fey got as an actress, and introduced the world to the acronym EGOT.

    NBC Universal

    Lizzing to keep from crying: Reflecting on "30 Rock's" best episodes

    "Succession" (Season 2, Episode 13)

    Otherwise known as the gorgeously structured episode that is an extended riff on “Amadeus,” with Tracy playing Mozart, a genius not at music but at pornographic video games. Just the mental image of Dr. Spaceman running slo-mo through the halls of “TGS,” his cape billowing behind him, makes me giggle. This is also the episode in which Jack taps Liz as his successor, so we get to see her in a business suit and drunkenly walk into the writer’s room to announce, “Hey, nerds, guess who's got two thumbs, speaks limited French, and hasn't cried once today? This moi."

    NBC Universal

    Lizzing to keep from crying: Reflecting on "30 Rock's" best episodes

    "Reunion" (Season 3, Episode 5)

    Prior to this episode, “30 Rock” viewers had no reason to doubt Liz Lemon’s perception of her younger self as a loser nerd. But upon attending her high-school reunion with Jack, we learn (as she does) that she was actually a big ol’ bully — an important, missing, spiky layer to Liz Lemon. This is also the episode that introduced “I want to go to there,” and yes, you should want to go to here.

    NBC Universal

    Lizzing to keep from crying: Reflecting on "30 Rock's" best episodes

    "Rosemary's Baby" (Season 2, Episode 4)

    A perfect episode from a perfect season: Liz hires Rosemary (Carrie Fisher), one of her heroes, to write for “The Girlie Show.” Rosemary agitates to do controversial material, Liz backs her, Jack fires both of them. Then, in Rosemary’s apartment in the dangerous neighborhood of Little Chechnya, Liz confronts her potential single, lonely future and flees back to Jack and accepts her Followship award. It’s a hilarious encapsulation of all of Liz’s anxieties and limitations — and then on top of that, this episode includes what is likely Alec Baldwin’s most memorable scene, as a one-man impersonation machine helping Tracy resolve his issues with his father.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Heartbreakingly, “30 Rock” will air its very last episode on Thursday. Rather than cry about it, here are 10 episodes to make you laugh — and remind you just how zany and hilarious “30 Rock” has been. It’s been so great, in fact, that it’s hard to pick just 10 episodes: Regrettably absent from this list are Jackie Jormp-Jormp, Liz’s Princess Leia impersonation, Jon Hamm and many, many other utterly delightful absurdities. But for now, dig into Dennis Duffy, Joan of Snark, Kim Jong-il — and Lizzing!!!

 

BONUS: Relive the magic of this, the perfect scene from the perfect “30 Rock” episode.


Willa Paskin
Willa Paskin is Salon's staff TV writer.

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