My second of my string of 30 Rock posts will deal with the question of what is the best season of 30 Rock. I have struggled to differentiate from one season to the next because I watched them all in one big block but through reading plots and synopsis and the likes, I have been able to create this list.
30 Rock is a funny show (and I don’t mean haha funny, although it is that too). If you look at the actors on the show, the guest stars and the quality of the jokes, it still struggled to receive decent ratings. It is surprising that 30 Rock made it past season 5, and the only reason it happened was that there was a love within the industry for 30 Rock. I’m glad that 30 Rock finished after 7 seasons because it could have went on and on and tarnished its legacy as a great parody on television. However it also annoys me that shows like the Big Bang Theory or How I Met Your Mother receive three (or more) times the viewership that 30 Rock received. What is wrong with the viewing public that they would rather watch an un-smart show about smart people than a smart show about stupid people? 30 Rock was that, a very smart show which was too smart for the general viewing public, and that is sad.
Anyway enough of the rant and on to the season power rankings.
7. Season 4
I dunno what happened in season 4, it just didn’t really work. The main stories centred on Jack deciding over Julianne Moore or Elizabeth Banks (tough choice), Tracy’s attempt to achieve the all elusive EGOT and Liz’s attempts to find a new cast member.
It is interesting to note that 2 out of 3 of these stories ended being totally pointless to the season. Tracy didn’t achieve EGOT until season 5, and it isn’t like you forget he is doing it by the end of the season because it isn’t brought up at all. Then the hiring of Danny was a waste of time as well; if they couldn’t find time for Josh, then why did they think that it would be a good idea to place another character in just for the sake of it? Danny by the end of the show had managed to take Josh’s place as the most pointless character on 30 Rock. The Jack storyline isn’t really a good one either; do I care that Jack can’t decide who he wants to be with between two hot women? The answer is not really.
The whole season was a bit of a damp squib, there are very few standout episodes and the story arcs are definitely the weakest for any 30 Rock season. It sounds harsh because it wasn’t an awful season; it was just the worst season of a very good TV show.
There were some high points in the season also; The Dealbreaker stuff was good whilst it lasted and Liz’s relationship with Wesley Snipes (the immense Michael Sheen) was the best part of the season. It is a shame the Sheen never re-appeared in 30 Rock (I know he was probably deported) because he was one of Liz’s funnier boyfriends (along with Dennis and Carol).
6. Season 6
Season 6 was an above average season of 30 Rock (which tells you how good a show it was that the 2nd worst season was above average) but at times struggled as it got lost in below average storylines. The main story arcs included; Liz’s relationship with Criss, Jack missing Avery, Kenneth bouncing around new jobs and Jenna becoming more famous than Tracy.
When I think of season 6, I think about Kenneth. He had the strongest story arc of all the characters, and it was interesting to see how he reacted to moving away from the page program and into a more corporate role, before selflessly throwing it all away and ending up becoming a janitor. We also saw the return of the Best Friends Gang and the introduction of Hazel. Most of what was good about this season of 30 Rock involved Kenneth.
Jenna also had a good season with America’s Kidz Got Singing (apparently Simon Cowell threw a hissy fit when he found out that 30 Rock had done this because he had planned it as his next reality TV rubbish) and her sexual walkabout from Paul.
Jack’s story was a bit up and down; he had strong performances with his relationship with Avery’s mother (especially in Kidnapped by Danger [cool appearance of a Baldwin brother that was Alec playing Jack as well] and Queen of Jordan 2), but then there were meh storylines such as his identity at Kabletown (excluding the Kaylee story). For me it was Jack’s weakest season of 30 Rock and that could be a reason why this season struggled to maintain the high quality of other seasons.
However for me the worst part of season 6 was Liz’s story and her relationship story with Criss, it just missed the ball for me. I’m all for character development, but30 Rock wasn’t really a character development based show and to be honest nothing about the Liz Criss relationship doesn’t make sense (I mean damn he’s handsome). Also was Tracy in this season? Because he didn’t seem to do anything too memorable.
5. Season 1
More than any other season, season 1 doesn’t really fit in with the rest of 30 Rock. It isn’t that it is a bad season at all, in fact it is a very good dramatization of what the process of producing a show is like, and it is funny on top of that. What it isn’t however is as funny as any of the other seasons, it is more a very funny drama rather than a very funny comedy.
In many ways I imagine that season 1 is what they planned the show to be like initially, but they moved more towards ridiculous storylines and the show became a caricature of itself (this isn’t a criticism). Season 1 is good but it struggles from the fact that it isn’t as funny as the other seasons and also from the growing pains that new shows always suffer from.
Don’t get me wrong, there are good moments in this season such as the establishment of the Jack and Liz relationship, which much of the early seasons were heavily based on. However on the counter to this you had weird stuff happen such as Jack’s extended family which we then never see again (his mass of siblings and his dad that turns out to not be his dad), Jack’s engagement to Phoebe or his ex-wife (neither of whom are seen again and are mentioned only in passing, this is especially odd with his ex-wife because they play her up as a major recurring character, only for her to never appear outside of season 1).
First seasons often struggle to have the quality of the future seasons (look at Seinfeld, it’s surprising that it got picked up after the first year because it wasn’t that good, or even more so Parks & Recreation its 1st season was awful) and that is the case with 30 Rock’s, but this season set the groundwork for the later seasons and that was of course vital.
4. Season 7
The final season of 30 Rock suffered from a lack of direction, this isn’t uncommon in a show that has run for so long but is unusual considering this was the final season. The final season also suffered from the fact that it only received 13 episodes, which I can only imagine was a cost cutting decision; however this really hurt the season and made everything feel rushed.
One of my biggest issues with the 7th season of 30 Rock is that it felt like they started story arcs and then never finished them; such as the US election which had several episodes dedicated to it and then never told us who won (I’m still waiting to hear, although I get the feeling Romney was going to win with a landslide to put a real everyday regular American back in the White House) or the Jack tanking the network storyline (which I know was mentioned later on but much like the election it felt like they got over it too quickly and you were like ‘what happened to tanking the network?’).
It isn’t that the episodes in the first half of the season are of poor quality (I don’t think they are), it is more that they have no real direction, drop story arcs at will, the election stuff probably won’t age well and there is a distinct lack of recurring and guest stars (something 30 Rock do so well).
What I did love about season 7 however was pretty much everything else. I liked the way the show ended and how it tied off all the storylines (including most of the main recurring characters). In the end you felt like all these characters got the happy endings they deserved (except for Pete, poor Pete can’t catch a break) and they did have funny nods to previous jokes and seasons.
It was also nice to see that (although fabricated) they gave a nod to Tina Fey and Sarah Palin through Tracy and Governor Dunston; it is the clever writing that 30 Rock was so good at, maybe if you weren’t a heavy TV watcher you didn’t get the nod to Palin but you could still find it funny.
3. Season 5
In the bronze medal position (there are no real medals sadly, although I guess Tina Fey would win them all) is season 5. Seasons 5 deals with Liz’s relationship with Matt Damon, the births of Jack and Tracy’s children as well as Tracy achieving his EGOT and later on in the season the kidnap of Avery.
This was a really good Jack season; he had his perfect day episode, he was excellent in Queen of Jordan, he began his rivalry with Kaylee Hooper, he had dealings with the government and he culminated his season with the kidnap of Avery by the evil yet brilliant inventor of the hamburger and record holding golf scorer Kim Jong-Il (made funnier that he was played by a woman).
It is funny that this season was as good as it was when Tracy disappeared for about 4 episodes in the middle of the season. However I was glad to see that they brought back the EGOT storyline that they had seemed to have dropped in the middle of season 4.
This season also seen the brave decision to host a live show, which didn’t really work, it isn’t that the quality was particularly poor but more that the pacing of the show was off because they had to allow for the audience reaction. I was surprised they did a second live show but they were both fun change of paces and were certainly different from what came before.
However the best part of season 5 was the guest stars; we had John Slattery as Steve Austin (not the wrestler unless you were blind, and if you are blind you probably aren’t reading this, so not the wrestler), Matt Damon as Carol (the sexy [that’s right sexy] airline pilot), Chloe Moertz as Kaylee Hooper (Jack’s new enemy for the CEO of Kabletown) and the cast of Queen of Jordan (what a show).
Although season 4 was the weakest of the 30 Rock seasons, most of the story arcs in season 5 stemmed from season 4 (EGOT, babies, Carol, Kabletown). The oddest of these however was when Kenneth got sacked at the end of season 4 and then spent the first half of season 5 attempting to get back into the page program. I’m not sure if this was what they initially meant or if they backed themselves into a corner by accident, but at least they fixed it in the end.
2. Season 2
If it were not for the writer’s strike of 2007/08 then I’m sure season 2 would have been the best season of 30 Rock, however because of the writer’s strike we got a shortened season (only 15 episodes instead of 22). Much like season 7, season 2 struggled from the shortened season and it created a number of rushed episodes towards the end (Jack’s move into government).
There were a number of strong story arcs in this season; with Jack and C.C., Jack’s power struggle with the immense Devon Banks, Liz’s struggle with her two ex-boyfriends (Dennis and Floyd) and Tracy developing the greatest computer game ever.
The only major complaint I could have about the 2nd season of 30 Rock (except for the short season, which was not their fault) was that there was an over indulgence in guest actors. This was particularly clear at the start of the season where at times it was a bit like, who’s going to be in it this week. When it works it works, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing and that was definitely the case here.
Jack and Tracy were once again the standouts of the season and Jenna probably had her best season as well. Jack’s rivalry with Devon is one of the most consistently strong parts throughout 30 Rock, and because of their power struggle we got extra doses. Jack also managed to create the world’s greatest reality TV show ‘MILF Island’. Tracy followed this up by creating the greatest computer game ever which unlike most other computer game was not a FPS, and instead was based on a porno (still waiting for it to be released). Jenna had a nice story where she got really fat after doing a spell on Broadway where she had to eat lots of pizza (sounds awesome) before getting thinner like before (damn blonde bitches get thin fast).
As I have said before this was a very strong season with lots of really good story arcs and good guest character spots (Carrie Fisher and Steve Buscemi especially) and moved away from the formula in season 1 to the formula that was used throughout the rest of the series, but it suffered from the cut in episodes because of the writer’s strike, which leads us to…..
1. Season 3
The best season of 30 Rock ever (!) is season 3. The general formula for a very good show is that around the 3rd or 4th season a show will hit its peak, and 30 Rock obliged by putting in its best season in its third year.
The third season dealt with much of the fallout from season 2 (which is probably because of the cut in episodes) including Jack’s climb back up the GE ladder and Tracy’s success from his pornographic video game. We also got new story arcs dealing with Liz trying to adopt, Jack’s relationship with Elisa and Jenna’s problems with her Janis Joplin (but not actually Janis Joplin) based lifetime story.
Possibly part of the reason that season 3 was so good was that it dealt with a lot of the stories which had been started in season 2 but they weren’t able to finish off. Season 2 also happened to have Jack and Liz’s best relationship partnerships, with Jack dating the delightful Elisa (I don’t care if she killed her last husband, I wouldn’t mind) and Liz dating a whole host of men including Jon Hamm (I don’t care if he’s stupid, I wouldn’t mind).
As always there are lots of cool and well-handled guest stars in season 3; especially Peter Dinklage as a Liz’s small boyfriend who she keeps thinking is a child but instead is just a dwarf and Oprah Winfrey as a 14 year old whom Liz sits next to on a flight from Chicago to New York. We also got Maria Thayer in funny scenes where Tracy speaks like Kenneth and John McEnroe (making his 2nd appearance) as well as the aforementioned Jon Hamm and Salma Hayek.
Liz had her strongest season of 30 Rock with really good episodes like her high school reunion and the beginning of her Dealbreakers sketch and potential show (which happened to be one of the best parts of season 4). Liz’s determination to adopt a child (even at the expense of some doughnut girl) continued throughout the season (before tailing off at the end) and gave the writers a reasonable chance to pull on the heart strings of everyone’s favourite middle aged (is late 30’s middle aged? I’ve no idea) writer of a hit TV show that is of a TV show within a TV show (confused myself).
Season 3 was the maturing of a very good TV show; season 1 laid the groundwork’s for what was to come but struggled to find its feet, season 2 the show found its feet and the characters became more comfortable in their roles and season 3 was the culmination as 30 Rock hit its peak and everything just clicked. Sadly after that it could never reach the heights again with a poor season 4, followed by a much better season 5 and then two good seasons to end the show on. 30 Rock is the best network comedy since Arrested Development, and much like Arrested Development 30 Rock never got the viewership which it deserved. However unlike Arrested Development, 30 Rock was able to fully achieve its potential before being cancelled.
So there you have it, the 30 Rock season power rankings. What do you think? Do you agree or do you think that I got the list totally wrong and have besmirched the great memory that 30 Rock has left on us? Leave a message and let me know, all comments are welcome (especially those about how handsome I am and how nice my hair is).