Wednesday, 13 February 2013

30 Rock: My 30 Favourite Memories

30 Rock is one of my favourite sitcoms ever. I've loved it ever since I picked up the first season on DVD for a mere £5 in the Christmas sales when I was at college. The show about the making of fictional show "TGS with Tracy Jordan" has made a star of creator Tina Fey and re-affirmed what a fantastic actor Alec Baldwin is.

But alas, after seven great seasons, 30 Rock was brought to a close and its final show aired a few weeks ago. Having now finally caught up with their final season, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to reflect on what I loved most about the show.

So, here are (mostly from the top of my head and in no particular order) thirty of my favourite quotes, plots, running jokes and characters. Most are just Youtube clips since I don't want this to be too long a read. I hope you enjoy.

1. Werewolf Bar Mitzvah

2. "Aw, blerg!" 

Just beat out "What the WHAT?" and "I want to go to there" for my favourite Lemon-ism.

3. Jenna lying about her age

4. "Dr." Leo Spacemen

There have been some great recurring characters on the show (Will Arnett's Devon Banks, Steve Buscemi as Jack's private investigator, Sherri Shepard as Tracy's wife Angie), but my favourite without a doubt was Dr. Spacemen, played by SNL veteran Chris Parnell. To call him a moron would be putting it lightly. He's had many great quotes, perhaps my favourite being "...we have no way of knowing where the heart is. See, every human is different."

5. "You take a hot dog, stuff it with some jack cheese, fold it in a pizza..."

*air guitar* " got Cheesy Blasters!"

6. "Where's my MAC AND CHEESE!?!"

Word of advice: don't take Liz's food.

7. Guest stars

So many great names have guest starred in the show, many have been as love interests for Liz (Jason Sudeikis, Michael Sheen, Matt freakin' Damon) and Jack (Edie Falco, Selma Hayek, Elizabeth Banks). A surprising amount of those who guest starred as themselves worked really well too, from all the musicians featured in "Kidney Now!" to Kelsey Grammer and Buzz Aldrin. A heck of a lot of star power passed through the doors at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

8. "I love this cornbread so much..."

"... I wanna take it behind a middle school and get it pregnant."

9. Tracy's films

Not only is Tracy batshit crazy and the star of TGS, he's also the star of those low-rent comedies even Eddie Murphy would turn down, such as "Who Dat Ninja?", "Black Cop White Cop" and "Honky Grandma Be Trippin' ". You can find most of the posters for these films here.
In fact, two of my favourite storylines involving Tracy in the series involved him trying to get films off the ground.
In Season 1, Tracy discovered he was a distant relative of Thomas Jefferson, which led him to pitching a biopic with him as the start entitled "Jefferson" (see the hilarious trailer below). Then in Season 5, Tracy sought the one award he had yet to earn, an Oscar, and so came up with the academy-baiting "Hard To Watch", a film loosely based on his upbringing.

10. Liz & the Co-op board

We've all been there, too much alcohol and a phone in your hand can be a dangerous mix, as Liz illustrates here: from "You know what? I'm fine." to "I AM GOING TO THE HOSPITAL! AND I HOPE YOU'RE HAPPY!" to singing Alanis Morissette to "I bought a black apartment". Fantastic.

11. Season 2, Episode 13: "Succession"

If you put a gun to my head and forced me to pick my favourite episode, I'd probably pick this one - although to be honest all of the final three episodes of Season 2 are gold. Jack finds out that Don Geiss has chosen him as his successor as head of G.E. This leads to the rise of "corporate" Liz Lemon ("Hey nerds! Guess who's got 2 thumbs, speaks limited French, and hasn't cried once today? This moi!"). Also, Tracy sets out to make a porn video game. Genius.

12. Homonym/God Cop

Some of the funniest moments have come from the shows within the show itself. These two both came from Season 7 opener "Tank It!". While God Cop was hilarious ("Why is he learning ANYTHING, he's supposed to be God?"), Homonym might have been even better, the most impossible game show ever ("It's always the other one!").

13. "Shut it down!"

From the top of my head, Jack first uttered this line when it was clear Ken's game show "Gold Case" (15 models hold cases, one contains gold) was a liability. This then became a running turn of phrase many characters would use when a venture wasn't turning out right.

14. Jenna-Mickey Rourke history

I don't know what on Earth Mickey Rourke ever did to anyone on the 30 Rock team, but for some reason it was decided Jenna should create this bizarre sexual history between the two of them when they supposedly went out. The kind people at Vulture have put some of her best tall tales into pictorial form.

15. Frank's hats

At least once an episode, Frank - one of the writers for TGS - would be wearing a new hat with a message on it in felt letters. You can view every single hat he wore at this gallery MTV have painstakingly compiled.

16. "Queen of Jordan"

Another excellent parody, this time of reality television. "Queen of Jordan" saw Tracy's wife Angie star in her own reality TV series after negotiations with Jack to keep Tracy at TGS. A spot on put down of shows like "Keeping Up With The Kardashians", two whole episodes of 30 Rock were broadcast as episodes of "Queen of Jordan". Angie's entourage (particularly D'Fwan) were all fantastic. 
My favourite plot threads over the two episodes were Jack being made out to be a clumsy gay guy who farts all the time because of the show's editing, and Liz's "feud" with Tracy's two-year-old daughter Virginia.

17. Live shows

This was such a fantastic idea. Play off the fact that the show is about making a live TV show by doing live versions of the show, and performing it inside the SNL studios in 30 Rock Plaza. They did a great job of recreating the vibe of the traditional shows by having a group of live musicians performing the score, and even managed to keep the flashbacks by having Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Amy Poehler play Liz, Donald Glover play Tracy and Jimmy Fallon play Jack.
I personally prefer Season 5's "Live Show" to "Live from Studio 6H" from Season 6, although the latter did include many spot on parodies of US TV, including this amazing "how the hell did they allow that on the air?" Afro-American sitcom featuring Jon Hamm in black face.

18. Kenneth the Page

Jack McBrayer is a fantastic comedic actor who cut his teeth on the Chicago improv circuit just like Tina Fey did. Over the course of 30 Rock's seven seasons he really made the role of Ken Parcell, a naive NBC page in love with television, his own. Hearing him remember the golden days of television through rose-tinted glasses never got old. His tales of his old life in Georgia and the running gag about his age were also frequently hilarious.
My favourite quote of his though is "I don't drink hot liquids of any kind. That's the devil's temperature."

19. MILF Island

Yet another genius parody TV show, this one a mix of "Survivor" and "America's Next Top Model".

20."Workin' on my night cheese"

21. Jenna Maroney

Or to be more specific, the things Jenna Maroney would say. This sample of quotes from Season 2 barely scratches the surface.

22. "I am a stabbing robot..."/ Season 1 Episode 7: "Tracy Does Conan"

Another of my favourite episodes, playing off Tracy Morgan's real life breakdowns on talk shows. Liz and Pete have to help Tracy successfully promote the show during his appearance on Conan O'Brien's talk show.  Only problem is Tracy is "buggin' out" after taking the meds Dr Spacemen (in his first appearance on the show) prescribed him, including seeing footless blue men ("Blue Man! Where your feet at?").
The flashback to his first appearance on Conan's show is just as funny.

23. Liz's Barbara Bush outfit

One of my favourite running visual gags. Ever since the pilot episode, if Liz needed a formal business outfit - whether she's meeting Tracy for the first time or negotiating with a network from Germany or pretending to be Jack's wife - she'd dig out this little number from the wardrobe department, which was apparently from a sketch about Barbara Bush.

24. 1-900-OK-FACE

Oh the things poor Liz Lemon did for money in Chicago...

25. Season 3, Episode 10: "Generalisimo"

The first half of Season 3 holds a dear place in my heart, as I'd watch the show in my flat at the time on Comedy Central (before our hall stopped showing non- Sky Sports Sky channels). This was possibly my favourite episode.
Jack finds himself the subject of disapproval from the grandmother of his girlfriend (Selma Hayek, whose "boobs were amazing" to quote Tina) because he resembles the villain in a Spanish language soap opera (who is also played by Baldwin, another example of his great comedic range). Hence he tries to use his political stroke to get said villain killed off.
This is also the first episode Jon Hamm guests in, as Liz's new neighbour and love interest, whom she accidentally roofies on their first date!

26. The Rural Juror ("The rher jerr")

Tracy's not the only one with a substandard acting career outside of the show. In Season 1, Jenna gets a major role in made-for-TV-movie "The Rural Juror". Only trouble is her pronunciation of the title leaves the rest of the team without any idea of what it's called.
This running joke then led to a great episode that season of the same title, where Liz & Jenna fall out because Liz hate the film and Tracy invents a George Foreman grill knock off to replace the bread in sandwiches with more meat.

27. Jack roleplays Tracy's family

Just like the Jon Hamm black face sketch, this was another "How did they get away with this?" moment. Sublime.

28. "There ain't no party like a Liz Lemon party..."

"...because a Liz Lemon party's mandatory!"

29. Liz's "assistant"

30. Jack Donaghy

Last but by no means least we have Jack, played by Alec Baldwin. Super analytical and never without a scathing put down to hand, Jack has a very warped sense of the world having spent so long in corporate America.
Nothing illustrates this better than Tina's favourite quote from the show (and to be honest it could well be mine too). If you had to pick one moment that sums up Jack's character this would be it:

Liz: Why are you wearing a tux?
Jack: ...It's after six, what am I, a farmer?

Now, repeat after me...

"Good God, Lemon!"