As Season Five comes to an end tonight, so should our favorite comedy itself.
30 Rock is rounding out its fifth season this year, which is something of a miracle for a show that entered the TV landscape without much promise. (On the business side, that is.) And while the series has been on a hot streak of late, I find myself thinking that perhaps it's time for Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy to leave our prime-time lineups for the seas of syndication. So, keeping in mind my deep love of the show, here are the five reasons I think that tonight's episode should be the last episode of 30 Rock.
1. The characters are growing up.
As much as characters on a zany sitcom like 30 Rock ever do, that is. But there's no denying that the fifth season has allowed Jack, Liz, Tracy, and the rest to make some actual life changes. In earlier seasons, such momentous strides forward were always thwarted or abandoned at the last minute — think of Liz's attempts to adopt, or Jack's ill-fated engagement to Phoebe, the woman with bird bones. But now Jack is in a committed relationship with the mother of his child, Tracy's got his EGOT and his daughter, and Liz… well, Liz is still working through her issues with men, food, children, and work. But it feels like she's getting ever so slightly closer to finding a balance that works for her. And I couldn't be happier. I'm a bit of a sap, but even in a sitcom — unless it's something truly insane and nihilistic like It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia — I want to see some growth in my characters. For me, a satisfying end to 30 Rock would close up this chapter of Liz's life as it opens up a new one, and this season seems primed to do just that, if the writers desire it.
2. We might need Tina Fey free in 2012.
I'm just going to say it: if Sarah Palin runs for president in 2012, I am going to need Tina Fey to drop everything (including that new baby) and be this country's designated Palin parodist. I don't care if there are other people who pull off an amazing Sarah; I don't want those people. And if Palin actually makes it past the primaries and actually ends up on a ballot? I think Tina Fey's impressions might be the only thing that will keep me out of the deep end of a whiskey bottle.
3. We should be more like the British anyway.
In the U.S., a show tends to go on until it runs out of steam, and often well beyond that. Never mind that the original conceit is long since forgotten, or that half the cast has been replaced. But wouldn't "The Gift" have been a superb ending for Buffy the Vampire Slayer? And what a jewel the first, incredibly tight season of Veronica Mars would be if the series hadn't sputtered out with a tangled second season and a disjointed third.
In the U.K., many shows are created with a specific timeline, whether that's five episodes or five seasons, and when the story is done, the story is done. (Compare the U.K. The Office to its slowly fading U.S. counterpart.) It's painful to let go of a show you love — especially if you feel like the writers and actors have more to give — but marching ever onwards is, to me, the lesser option. To me, "because it doesn't suck yet" is not a reason to continue in and of itself. True, this show was not conceived with a specific length in mind, but if 30 Rock bows out at a solid five seasons, I'll be more than satisfied, and it will leave room for new and hopefully just as enjoyable TV to enter our lives. There's a reason books don't go on forever. And look what happened to The Simpsons.
4. It's good to go out on top.
30 Rock had a rough fourth season. Even at its worst it was still amusing, but sometimes it felt like the writers were on autopilot, rehashing old plot lines and recycling jokes that were brilliant the first time around but didn't push the show forward. The writers almost ruined Kenneth forever, Jenna turned into a true psychotic (and not even a fun one!), and we'll just ignore Julianne Moore's Boston accent. But the fifth season has been great! The Kabletown takeover and Tracy's escape to "Africa" have given 30 Rock the jolt it needed. Even the guest stars have been used to sublime effect, like Matt Damon's dorky and sincere Carol Burnett, and Chloë Grace Moretz's frighteningly cunning Kabletown heiress. The fourth season proved that the writers weren't infallible, and I'd hate to see the show limp to the finish line with a weak sixth. When this show goes, I want people to remember its final moments as gut-busting, whip-smart comedy.
5. These actors and writers have more to give.
Remember when 30 Rock premiered, and Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, and Jane Krakowski had decent but middling careers? And Tina Fey was still seen as something of an underdog, especially when compared to Studio 60's Aaron Sorkin? This show reminded us, or let us know for the first time, just how talented these people are. And yet, many of them have not done a great deal of work outside of the show. Being a regular on a TV series can be a punishing job, full of long hours and hectic schedules; sometimes people just don't have the time to branch out too far. But I want to see these people work, damn it! I want them starring in movies and writing their own shows! I want them to have guest-starring roles pouring out of their ears. This is clearly a group of people who are incredibly smart and funny. I think it's time we got to see what other projects they're hiding under their hats.