30 Rock returned for its seventh and final season premiere last night, and it might have been the most self-referential episode in the show’s history. That says a lot. That’s like if I said Glee had just aired its preachiest episode yet. It was quite a difficult feat.
The episode begins with the image of Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) holding a baby and talking about how she really can have it all. But any seasoned 30 Rock viewer knows that’s too good to be true, and the show is just commenting on fans’ speculation that Liz will finally get herself a baby this season. Indeed, it’s just a baby doll, and it turns out she’s just dictating how a sketch should be performed.
Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin, who appears to have caught whatever Benjamin Button had, because he looks ten years younger than last season) pulls up in his limo and initiates a walk-and-talk with Liz, who makes a comment about New York City being a character on their show. The two make faces at the clichéd idea.
That’s pretty self-referential so far, but that’s just the start. While 30 Rock has made self-referential jokes about pretty much everything, its favorite victim for the meta treatment is its home network NBC. Since 30 Rock is about a sketch comedy show on NBC, it’s an easy target. Last night was no different.
Liz and Jack discuss NBC‘s new fall line-up which includes shows like Homonym, where contestants are told such a word and must guess which spelling/meaning is intended (au pair or oh pear!), Mandela starring Joe Rogan, and God Cop, starring none other than Jack Donaghy as God. 30 Rock likes to make fun of NBC, and the network is a good sport for putting up with it.
The funniest part of this NBC conversation is Jack’s reference to the network’s choice to promote their fall comedies with the phrase “We Peacock Comedy,” like “I Heart NY.” He concludes that Liz doesn’t “peacock” the new shows, then makes the new verb even more confusing by telling her “Good peacock” and walking away.
Liz soon realizes that Jack is “tanking” NBC, purposely making it fail to force boss Hank Hooper to sell the network, stopping him from promoting from inside his family and making Jack more likely to move up. I predict that instead of saying shows have “jumped the shark,” in the future people will start conspiracy theories that network execs are “tanking” their channels for their own ulterior motives. Yes, I believe 30 Rock has that much of an impact on pop culture.
Lest the self-referential humor get too repetitive, the show made sure to include plenty of other jokes which didn’t directly refer to the show, NBC or the TV medium. Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) and Hazel (Kristen Schaal) are shacking up now, and they invite Tracy (Tracy Morgan) over for dinner, where Hazel tries to seduce Tracy to get a part in one of his production company’s projects. The best moment of the trio’s strange evening is when Kenneth holds up his “government ice cream,” which sports a DHARMA logo. Lost, anyone?
Meanwhile, Jenna (Jane Krakowski) picks Liz to be her maid of honor. Liz initially objects but eventually agrees due to Jenna’s agonizingly tight grip on her hand. Liz soon decides to take a page from Jack’s playbook and “tank” Jenna’s bachelorette party by throwing the tamest affair anyone could imagine, complete with old women from Liz’s apartment building. What’s tame to the average human is absolutely unacceptable to Jenna, who literally levitates off the ground in her rage and proceeds to trash Liz’s apartment. Liz suggests that Jenna be her own maid of honor, which works, because the only thing Jenna likes more than one spotlight is two.
This makes Liz want a part in Jack’s “tanking” plan, and the pair ends the show with their signature toast, this time in honor of scheming their way to the top. Who doesn’t love those two?
I think the night’s best joke has to be Liz’s remark, upon seeing Jenna’s suggested bridesmaid outfit (a lime green bathing suit), that she can’t wear green because the Clinique lady said she has “witch undertones.” The already hilarious joke is made even funnier when Liz holds the garment to her face and her skin turns a witchy green.
While the season premiere wasn’t 30 Rock‘s best episode, the concluding set-up promises quite a few crazy happenings in the season ahead. It’s honestly hard not to love this show and its characters, no matter how few spot-on jokes there are.