(published February 8, 2013)
Warning: This piece contains final-episode spoilers.
Tina Fey’s magnum opus 30 Rock, which aired seven seasons, came to a close last Thursday in a two-part episode. The finale perfectly concluded the series by coming full circle from the pilot, which introduced the hopelessly nerdy, single, feminist Liz Lemon, a head writer for her own TV show. In the final episode, the now-married Liz and her husband Criss Chros meet their two adopted children, and TGS with Tracy Jordan is finally canceled. The lasting legacy of 30 Rock, however, is not the plot, nor the true back-office turmoil of producing network television. It is the insightful wit of Tina Fey, in the way she gently pokes fun at herself and at popular culture that allows us to be so fond of the show. But above all, Fey’s character demonstrates the challenge of trying to have it all — a successful career and a perfect home life.
Fey’s comedic style of insightful satirization of many parts of American culture is prevalent in 30 Rock. Fey exaggerates herself as a self-proclaimed lonely geek. Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of Jack Donaghy fits many aspects of a stereotypical, fiscally conservative alcoholic executive with an Ivy League education. Many of the characters, upon first glance, appear very archetypal, but 30 Rock is unique in that it constantly makes fun of itself and its own characters, making it more relatable. We can laugh at Liz and Jack because they have realistic relationships with others that are far from perfect, but certainly do sympathize with them and their actions.
Fey has said that the character Liz Lemon is loosely based on herself after becoming head writer at Saturday Night Live, and the challenges Liz tackles are ones that many women face, particularly finding fulfillment in one’s personal life and career. What we can learn from Liz, especially in the last episode, is that it is possible to have it all, but having it all requires some flexibility. Fortunately for Liz, she has a husband who can stay at home with her children while she leads a fulfilling career. Through Liz’s many struggles to achieve balance in both her personal and professional lives, we have watched her learn that it requires constant effort, time and occasionally the burden of very difficult decisions.
Finding balance between different important parts of your life is a constant battle, but it is one worth fighting. As college students, we learn from every experience, from every friendship, failed relationship and life- changing class.
So, so long 30 Rock. Thank you for poking fun at the world around us. Thank you for continuing to show us that sometimes the most exaggerated moments we see on television can also be some of the most revealing, and thanks for doing this in ways that make us laugh.
For the 30 Rock cast and crew, I’m high-fiving a million angels, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.