Last Thursday, 30 Rock aired its final episode, closing its seventh season with an emotional send-off to Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) that paid homage to the show’s humor and heart. It was a bittersweet day for fans—especially for those of us eagerly awaiting the return of Community, which will take over 30 Rock’s timeslot on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. 30 Rock had been declining in the ratings, and with a small audience to begin with, it couldn’t generate enough ad support to stay afloat. Even the finale couldn’t stand up to juggernaut The Big Bang Theory, which pulled 17.76 million viewers and even beat ratings giant American Idol. Even beyond logistics, though, it was time. After seven seasons of shenanigans, the show had completed its run, making way for Community in its wake.
The hour-long finale of 30 Rock, “Hogcock!/Last Lunch,” was a solid end to the series and provided necessary closure for our favorite characters. The episode opens on recently instated stay-at-home mom Liz Lemon (at this point, practically one and the same with actress and mother-of-two Fey), uncomfortable with her newfound freedom. She ultimately decides to return to work and let her husband stay home with the kids—an unsurprising decision, but a comfort to those who worried about possible restrictive implications of Liz’s motherhood. Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), now CEO of KableTown, goes through more dramatic turmoil in the finale, realizing he’s unfulfilled by work and threatening to commit suicide. It all seems a bit out of character, but 30 Rock brings it home in the end. The mentor-mentee relationship between Liz and Jack has always been the foundation of the show, and their final scene together is heartwarming and beautiful. In true 30 Rock fashion, the drama is interrupted by humor: Jack’s epiphany (“Clear dishwashers!”) brings him back to work, and we’re more or less back to where we started.
Meanwhile, the cast and crew of TGS prepare for one final episode. As usual, Tracy tries to sabotage it, but only because he’s unable to say goodbye. Jenna worries about her future prospects; after realizing Los Angeles is filled with hotter, younger blondes, she turns to Broadway. Kenneth, now President of NBC, plans for new programming, shooting down Liz’s idea for a show about her life. It would be business as usual in the world of 30 Rock if not for the air of finality. Thankfully, “Hogcock!/Last Lunch” does the series justice. It shows us the characters in their natural habitats and allows us to spend a little more time with them before bidding a final goodbye. The tag takes us a year into the future (a move few shows can get away with), and finally delivers on the question of Kenneth’s immortality. Although the penultimate “A Goon’s Deed in a Weary World” was a stronger episode, the finale ends the show on a high note.
While certainly not a replacement for 30 Rock, Community took over the veteran show’s timeslot this week with the long-awaited premiere of its fourth season. Due to the complicated ball of timey-wimey stuff that is the TSL publishing schedule, I can’t review that premiere in this article because I haven’t seen it yet. Alas, Community has had its fair share of behind-the-scenes drama since “Introduction to Finality” aired last May. Just days after the finale, creator Dan Harmon announced on his Tumblr that Sony had replaced him as showrunner and that he would no longer be involved with the show. To add insult to injury, NBC pushed back the fourth-season premiere less than two weeks before it was scheduled to air Oct. 19, setting the new premiere date to Feb. 7. Harmon’s firing hit the fandom hard, and many fans remain skeptical about whether Community can maintain the same quality and tone in a post-Harmon world.
Nevertheless, I am optimistic. New showrunners David Guarascio and Moses Port appeared at San Diego Comic-Con last July and assured fans that they, too, were fans of the show and promised to “not screw it up.” Promotional material also shows potential, teasing “The Hunger Deans” (a parody of The Hunger Games), an Inspector Spacetime convention, and the return of Jeff’s father. “History 101” may not be as good as “Remedial Chaos Theory” or “Modern Warfare,” but I have faith in Community. It deserves better treatment than what NBC has been giving it; it needs viewers (especially live viewers) who obsess over it and pressure their friends into watching it. Although Community is still up against The Big Bang Theory, at least it’s now on the air.
So what’s next for 30 Rock fans? After reminding us that 30 Rock still lives in syndication, Fey suggests Parks and Recreation, led by Golden Globes co-host and longtime friend Amy Poehler. Fey herself plans to catch up on everything she’s missed while working on 30 Rock, including Breaking Bad, Homeland, and Match Game ’72. While I do love Match Game, I cannot recommend Community enough. It’s not necessarily thematically similar to 30 Rock, but it’s quirky and delivers a lot of laughs alongside plenty of heartfelt character moments. “History 101” may not be the best introduction to Community (the series has a certain feel that resists starting in the middle), but try it out. Community airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on NBC, and for the nostalgic among us, the first six seasons of 30 Rock are available on Netflix.