Over the next few weeks, I’ll be summarizing my thoughts on many of the series that ended just as the “official” television season came to a close recently.
Overview: After a hotly uneven third season that was overwhelmed by guest stars and a lack of narrative through-line, season four of 30 Rock was somewhat of a return to form. Though not as hilarious as the series’ highpoint in season two, this season was consistently enjoyable, especially in the second half. The real-life Comcast-NBCU deal allowed the series to get back to what it does best — riffing on the media.
Pros: Unlike Selma Hayek’s character from S3, I actually enjoyed Jack’s two high-profile love interests played by Elizabeth Banks and Julianne Moore. Instead of using the guest star love interest as a simple, “hey, famous people!” the polar opposites that were Avery Jessup and Nancy Donovan helped tell an at least somewhat interesting story about Jack dealing with his future while still trying to hold on to his present. Michael Sheen’s Wesley Snipes was a great combination of annoying and funny and also helped convey the idea that Liz will never fine the perfect man she’s looking for. In short, I’m all for guest stars if they work out like this.
As I mentioned above, the Comcast-NBCU deal gave the series some quality material to work with, as the Kabletown with a K company came into the fold. Though it wasn’t explored as much as I thought it might be, the episodes that did cover the topic where season highlights and with the deal still not complete in the real world, there’s always opportunities to come back to it.
The early part of the season’s arcs — Liz’s book and the subsequent aftermath and the search for a new cast member — also gave the season a nice narrative drive that it was definitely missing in season three. 30 Rock doesn’t need a whole lot of set-up for its zany jokes and broad characters, but it is much better when there is some connecting tissue to a real, you know, “story.” Oddly, all three of these mini-arcs could have sustained more of the season if the writers had wanted to.
Cons: My issues with this season are ones that have continued since season three: no one aside from Jack and Liz are actual people. Tracy was sketched out a bit better this season and I get that with him, Jenna and Kenneth, the broad-ness is supposed to be the point, but gosh, sometimes it’s hard to deal with. The latter two are cringe worthy too often and it’s obvious that Kenneth is much better when presented in small, small doses instead of being the main part of an episode. Cut that stuff out, 30 Rock.
And as I write this, I’m discovering that I liked this season much more than I thought I did when watching it. I don’t have much else to add to this section of the post, which obviously means that I liked it a lot. Or I simply lowered my expectations.
Best storyline: The aftermath of Liz’s Dealbreakers book and the subsequent TV pilot.
Worst storyline: Not really a full story, but nearly every thing with Kenneth. Less Kenneth please.
Best performer: Tina Fey — It’s the same shtick and performance she’s been doing for four years, but I love it.
Best single moment: The montage of Liz’s Dealbreakers talk show performances. Money in the bank.
Three best episodes: “Dealbreakers Talk Show #0001,” “Anna Howard Shaw Day,” “Don Geiss, America and Hope”
Worst episode: “Stone Mountain”
Where does it fit within the context of the series as a whole: It’s nowhere near as bad as S3, but not good as S2. It could be as good as S1, but I’ll need a re-watch to determine that. It feels like the series might be “back” if you’re one of those people who thought it lost something last year like I did.
Final grade: B+
Past days of the wrap