On January 31, we’ll say goodbye to our friends Liz Lemon, Jack Donaghy and the rest of the TGS staff for the last time. 30 Rock has become a cultural touchstone over the years, and since its debut in 2006, has garnered a record breaking amount of Emmy nominations, has revitalized much of its cast’s careers, and has become known for its sometimes meta, always outlandish commentary on NBC, television, and America.
In an effort to ease the pain of losing 30 Rock – at least, in primetime, as it has recently gone into syndication – let’s look back at what made the show what it was: a weird mishmash of stuff that could’ve been terrible but was so cleverly executed and it helped the show earn its place in television history.
This article originally had a section for guest stars, but we soon realized there were simply too many names to mention and we had to dedicate a whole article to it. So we did. Even still, there are so many elements that make up the unique and quirky thing that this show is, so please understand when we say that, while we were all over the place trying to highlight the biggest aspects of 30 Rock we might not have caught them all. With that being said, on to the memories!
A term that first appeared in season 3, this is essentially a term of desire. Whether she’s talking about food, a place, or Jon Hamm (watch the clip) the phrase is applicable to just about any instance. More eloquent than saying “I want that,” “I want to go to there” is the perfect way to express your desire for something.
The equivalent of cursing, these two words are simple terms of expressing frustration. They’ve handily replaced more vulgar vernacular, as FCC law states you cannot curse on television, and because Liz I-Wore-a-Princess-Leia-Costume-To-My-Wedding Lemon doesn’t seem like the cursing type, “blerg” is one of the better (and family-friendly!) colloquialisms to come from the show.
If you find yourself exclaiming either of these terms on a daily basis, you might want to consider investing in a shirt with the phrase on it, just to save you the time.
We feel you, Liz. And while we’re staying in, we’re probably eating cheesy blasters and watching some 30 Rock on Netflix. Thank goodness for auto-play, no need to touch the computer with our cheesy hands.
Usually spoken in a hushed undertone or in a quick breath, this quickly became Jack’s go-to expression of disbelief whenever his mentee/friend did something ridiculous – which was often. It would make more sense if it were followed with a “pull yourself together,” as Liz often comes to Jack with her life in shambles. The clip below isn’t even Jack saying it, but the way Liz delivers the line at the end pretty much hits the nail on the head.
Does what it says on the label. Immediately stop whatever you are doing, mostly referred to in the show when someone is producing a particularly terrible show or sketch. This is a fantastic compilation video, showing how the term started with Jack, but its use slowly spread to the rest of the characters.
He only says it once but there’s something about this line – the comedic timing of it, the way it’s so quintessentially Jack Donaghy, makes it one of the most quotable among fans. Even if it’s completely out of the context of your conversation, it’s still fun to say.
The show was generally always aware of itself, and the constant breaking of the fourth wall never ceased to be entertaining, even if we were being told to go buy a Verizon phone.
A show within a show is not exactly a new concept, but never as well executed as TGS was on 30 Rock. This could be perhaps because as much as it was about producing and making TGS, 30 Rock was never wholly centered around the airing of an episode of TGS itself. There are, of course, exceptions, like when Hazel slowly sabotaged Liz the week leading up to an airing in an attempt to take over and become the star, but it was mostly about the antics like in any old workplace comedy.
30 Rock‘s pilot is also the start of TGS, and while the show doesn’t follow real-time 24 style, it does on a season-to-season basis. So it would stand to reasn that when TGS celebrates its 100th show, 30 Rock celebrates the milestone achievement as well. The show’s characters express their surprise, and who can blame them? Just go back to 2005 when Studio 60 was supposed to be the smash hit and 30 Rock was maybe going to get a full-season order.
For a show that’s aired on NBC and was once owned by GE, 30 Rock goes to great lengths to parody just about every aspect of it. At one point even promoting Jack to VP of East Coast & Microwave Oven Programming – what? Let’s not forget that GE is also originally just a subsidiary for Sheinhardt Wigs. And then season 4 brought the buyout from Kabletown, whose logo looked suspiciously like Comcast’s – which bought NBCUniversal around the same time. Then there was the time the head of NBC was reincarnated as an actual peacock…
Recently, GE released a commercial, thanking 30 Rock for seven years of laughs, and at the same time letting the audience know that it was in on the joke the whole time. In fact, many of the show sponsors have been parodied on the show, but advertising is advertising. GE has curated a list of clips and gathered them here, titled “GE’s Favorite Moments.”
A feat most shows would never dare attempt, and 30 Rock pulled it off twice. Major props have to go to the crews that coordinated the quick set and costume changes. In a recent interview with Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey explains the shows were done on the SNL stage and the crew was a mix of 30 Rock and SNL staff. The appearance of guest stars such as Jimmy Fallon as a young Jack or Julia Louis-Dryefus as a stand-in Liz is nothing short of pure genius and cleverly executed. And of course, no show preformed on the SNL stage is complete without Fred Armisen doing something strange in the background.
30 Rock may have been the best thing to ever happen to the one-liner type of comedy that seemed on the outs in the modern age of irony. If you poured all of 30 Rock’s scripts into a database that just fired sentences out randomly, you’d probably laugh at at least 70% of them. Choosing the best one is a tough decision but it’s truly hard to top “never follow a hippie to a second location.”
Because we live in a modern era, this has translated into thousands of reaction gifs spread out across the Internet, from “high-fiving a million angels” to express happiness and glee, to the always-applicable gif about Liz Lemon’s food addiction (which could be another post itself).
30 Rock had its typical Christmas-themed episodes like most other sitcoms, but not since Seinfeld has a show attempted to so brazenly create new holidays for us all to enjoy. If you’re not pouring over post-feminist theory on Anna Howard Shaw Day or trading your children’s tears to Leap Day William for candy on Leap Day, then you’re just not living right.
30 Rock is a lot of things, but normal isn’t one of them. This show grew from a middle-of-the-road NBC comedy into one of the most culturally relevant, funny, and entertaining shows of the decade.