Alec Baldwin’s recent comments about the end of 30 Rock were quickly rebutted and walked back. Initially promising one more season, Baldwin changed his tune to five more, placating fans still shell-shocked by Arrested Development. But as the critical darling nears the 100 episode mark, would ending it be such a bad thing?
After four seasons of rewriting the book on the TV sitcom, the fifth season has been mixed, at best. Story lines have been underdeveloped and quickly discarded. After making Jack’s struggle to balance work and romance a focal point for several seasons, he finally married alpha-female Avery (Elizabeth Banks) and had a child. But with Banks’ limited availability, the “Jack as husband and father” story line has been kiboshed. The same can be said about Tracy’s newest child and Jenna’s romance with the crossdressing Paul (Will Forte). Instead of continuing to mine new material, the writers have fallen back on “Tracy/Jenna as diva” gags that have been run into the ground.
Story lines are driven by character interactions, and while we have seen most combinations multiple times, new characters (and new angles) have been neglected. While writing-out dimwit cast member Josh (Lonny Ross) wasn’t a big loss, abandoning his replacement Danny (Cheyenne Jackson) has been. The show rehashed a gag about forgetting about Danny this season, but scripting around his character would give the show a much needed infusion of new blood.
However, the most significant problem is the amped up writing. Compared to the earliest seasons, the latest episodes are too frenetic, the jokes too contrived. Going for the cheap joke and the throwaway reference makes the show resemble Family Guy. As South Park deftly satirized:
30 Rock is still fantastic TV, but it no longer lingers in the collective consciousness or holds up on repeat viewings. The problem is magnified by a show that manages to out-30 Rock 30 Rock: Community. Community has taken the reins on the Thursday night block, playing to the strengths of a talented ensemble. The show is “meta” at its finest, even topping 30 Rock‘s forays into the examination of the sitcom medium.
Ending 30 Rock now would preserve the show’s reputation as a television classic, while letting Community shine. While NBC probably won’t do it, it should. Making way for new classics keeps the Peacock vibrant… even if this topic will pop up again after about 50 episodes of Community.