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30 Rock scarfs down its "Last Lunch"

30 Rock poster

Written by : published Friday 1st February 2013

Last night was the one hour series finale of NBC's 30 Rock. In a double length episode entitled "Hogcock!" and "Last Lunch," the cast that works behind the scenes at a late night sketch comedy show, in which we rarely see what the sketches are about, take their final bow, bringing us a few emotional payoffs along the way.

Last week's episode, "A Goon's Deed in a Weary World," felt like a series finale. The Girlie Show is facing cancellation, and the cast and crew band together to make sure the show shuts down so that Liz (Tina Fey) could get to the airport to meet her kids. It was heartwarming, funny, and it would have been pretty darn good if 30 Rock chose to end there.

Instead, the final hour feels forced and off for much of the episode. The entire gambit to make one last episode of TGS cheapens the way the series ends, and comes across as contrived to pull all the characters back together, instead of letting them go their separate ways. Most of the staff, save the bosses, haven't even left the premises yet, taking their sweet time packing up! It doesn't make sense, and is wholly unsatisfying.

The entire premise hinges on Tracy's (Tracy Morgan) contract stipulating that he will be paid thirty million dollars if TGS doesn't film 150 episodes (30 Rock only made 139, by the way), one episode short of where they stopped. It's fine that Tracy is the one mucking things up for everyone; that makes sense, given his character. It's just a shame that this is the way the series decides to have him cause trouble.

Tracy resists doing the show because he doesn't want to say goodbye to everyone. This leads to one of the best moments in the finale, where Liz and Tracy have a heart to heart in a strip club, and Liz admits that she will miss him. This scene is fantastic, a real pay-off between the two characters, and a prime opportunity for Tracy to really open up, as he is at his best when he shows some vulnerability.

I just wish Liz's story played out a little better. Last week, she gets the escape she needs, finally getting away from the job that drives her crazy. This week, she realizes she misses the craziness and is drawn back in, even ending up directing a sitcom you just know she doesn't believe in in the "One Year Later" sequence. Where is Liz's happy ending? Why does her path to peace not stick? Are we supposed to believe she will always be so miserable? Fans don't want that for someone they've come to care about so much!

The dilemma surrounding Liz's plot is twice as bad for Jack (Alec Baldwin). We see Jack not satisfied with his achievement of his dreams, finally in charge of Kabletown. To compensate, he rounds out his life, which only makes him feel like he isn't devoting himself fully to work, keeping him from the goals he desires. His reaction is to go crazy and quit his job, heading off on a boat. This takes things a little too far, even for Jack, and makes one think that when he ends up back in the corporate world, he will still never feel good about where he is in his life and what he does.

Don't get me wrong; I love the scene at the water where Liz and Jack express their non-romantic love for one another. I also love the catalyst for that moment, when Liz and Jack bitingly rip into one another, declaring that they are nothing more than two people who worked together for a time, and don't mean anything. Dramatic, meaty stuff for a relationship that has been the driving force of the series. This story is what we need from the two leads in the final episode, and reinforces just how much they mean to one another. But why is the filler in between these two amazing bits so bad?

Other great stuff: Tracy tells Jenna (Jane Krakowski) he is going out for cigarettes, Tracy's dad finally comes home from buying cigarettes, Jenna realizes what she will miss most is her mirror, Jenna sings the "Rural Juror" song, Jenna is greeted in L.A. by beautiful young women including one that looks just like Cerie (Katrina Bowden), Jenna admitting she has never met Mickey Rourke, Jonathan (Maulik Pancholy) celebrating the dissolution of Liz and Jack's friendship, Tracy releasing Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) from his promise to always be there for Tracy, finding out that Pete's (Scott Adsit) attempt to fake his death didn't work.

Other things that didn't work: everything with Lutz (John Lutz), Jack cheapening his feelings for both Elisa (Salma Hayek) and Nancy (Julianne Moore), Kenneth running the network in such a strict way and still seemingly succeeding, Liz and Criss (James Marsden) in the chat room and park meetup, the lack of so many recurring characters who still mean something to the leads, like Paul and Angie.

I think the main problem with the 30 Rock finale is that it should have stuck to a half hour format. Seeing how the characters end up, especially in the flash forward in the tag, is wonderful, and there are several terrific connections between characters, with goodbyes that mean something. But tossing in the extra episode of TGS and the subplots for minor characters, such as the writers' story, where they battle Lutz for lunch, slows down the episode, and ruins it.

Overall, I ended up being underwhelmed and disappointed. For a series I love so much, and coming at the end of a fantastic season, I expected more depth, or at least more good jokes, and less filler.

Ah, well. It's over now. Unless somehow Tracy Morgan has a similar contract clause, and NBC is forced to make 11 more episodes?

Want to read some of my fiction? It's on my website, JeromeWetzel.com! Also, for the latest updates and article links, as well as commentary on episodes I don't fully review, please follow me on Twitter!

Watch Episode 13 - Last Lunch online

About the author JeromeWetzelTV

JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome Wetzel is a huge fan of stories, in both books and television. He writes TV reviews and fiction. He currently posts articles for TheTVKing, Seat42F, and BlogCritics, as well as his own personal blog, as well as writing fiction. His website is www.jeromewetzel.com Follow him on twitter @JeromeWetzelTV

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