Ever since Tina Fey entered the minds of television viewers, she has been associated with a type of comedy that is biting, fearless, and often sharper than many of her counterparts in the medium. Her capacity for self-deprecation has humanized her while her joke rate has made her show iconic to television critics. Her crowning achievement, 30 Rock, is a joke machine that attacks anything and everything, but manages to smile at its targets while it twists the knife. Fey is lauded for all of these qualities in her comedy, but no one has ever accused her of creating a show that is a heartfelt as it is humorous. It’s not a criticism considering that Fey hasn’t seemed to have much interest in interjecting heart into the proceedings on 30 Rock. Though it rarely shows it, it would be a disservice to the show to say that 30 Rock doesn’t have a heart. Furthermore, it would be a disservice to Fey to say that she can’t write heart into her show. Episodes like tonight prove that she can interject heart into her series without sacrificing a ton of the humor.
With the show winding down, Fey clearly felt it was time to put the show’s heart on full display. After Hank Hooper decided to cancel TGS last week, one assumed that Liz and Jack would team together to find a way to rescue the show. We’ve been hoping for Liz Lemon to truly have it all. After marrying Criss Cross and preparing to adopt a very familiar pair of children, it seemed like Liz was planning to embody all the parts of a successful, career-oriented mom. Surprisingly, the ultimate gift the crew at TGS could give Liz was the gift of letting her go. Even though it appears she’ll never be able to rid herself of Tracy (and his troublesome lizard) and Jenna, at least Liz has unburdened herself from the thing that has long prevented her from the happiness she has desired for so long. It was predictably silly, but unmistakably sweet, to watch the TGS gang finally free Liz from the one thing she couldn’t let go of herself.
The sweetness didn’t end with Liz Lemon. Jack’s Wonka-esque design to find the next President of NBC reached a touching conclusion. Given Wonka’s place as “the ultimate capitalist”, it makes perfect sense that Jack would construct such an interview. However, I didn’t expect him to go the full Wonka by giving the company to Kenneth in a scene that probably made the caretakers of the Wonka name call their lawyers to see if they could sue. Though it seems like a surprise to promote Kenneth, a guy who doesn’t know fancy business terms like “meeting” and “envelope”, to President of NBC, Jack’s speech about television being essentially a crapshoot probably had a lot of TV executives nodding while they sobbed into their pillows. It wasn’t a particularly earned scene, but it was impossible to not be touched by the effort. When you spend 7 seasons with a group of lovable buffoons, it’s not to feel happy for even the Kenneth Parcells of the world.