Maybe it was the fact it has been a most stressful week, or maybe it was watching online on the smaller screen, but either way, the finale of 30 Rock just didn’t seem funny.
It reminded me somewhat of the last episode of Seinfeld, where the characters all end up on trial for violating a specific ordinance and yet equally on trial for the totality of their character. I remember watching that episode and thinking that for all the humorous situations and new phrases the series introduced into the language, basically these were not nice people.
A similar moment occurs in 30 Rock where Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) tells Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) that he is essentially “an alcoholic with a great voice.” The show just seemed sad. Egotistical hedonism and materialism are the religions of choice. A better ending might have been last week’s program, where Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer) is named President of NBC. For that and other reasons, that episode had a better ‘ending’ feel to it.
So much of today’s popular television fare continues to strive to push the envelope. Laughter is a surprise reaction, so the more outrageous a character or plot development, the more potential success in terms of critics’ reviews and viewer ratings. If the story line and characters become predictable, the show’s edge is lost. Furthermore, most programs overstay their welcome and we would all be better served if North American networks followed the BBC model where shows have much more limited runs, but last longer in the public consciousness.
You can only exploit a premise so long and so far.
At the end of the day, shows like 30 Rock are more about the depravity of man than anything else. Tina Fey is a naturally funny actor and producer and I would certainly give any future projects she created a chance. But the best American television has to offer does not necessarily reflect the best to be found in individuals. The show doesn’t reflect well on U.S. culture; or then again, maybe it does, and that’s the center of the problem.