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Parting With a TV Show Is Such Sweet Sorrow

"Seinfeld" broke every sitcom convention, including the series finale. Can "30 Rock" and "The Office" do the same?

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Liz Lemon gets married. This felt like an unnecessarily forced and rushed concession to fans, but it did so in a wonderful episode that encapsulated everything great about “30 Rock.” We can argue about the consistency of Lemon getting married, but when it comes down to it “30 Rock” remembers it’s still a TV show, and while it destroys tropes it also just engages with them in a playful manner. I found the episode’s exploration of a strong, independent, career-driven woman’s ambivalence toward marriage smart and delightful. In a sense, the Lemon marriage feels like something the show needed to do before its final bow. The next episode continued in its precarious approach to balance tying up loose ends while staying true to its absurdity. Jack’s mother dies and he gains a modicum of comfort, Lemon congregates a roomful of women to unnaturally ask self-referential questions about feminism, Lemon and Jenna come close to a heart to heart with the requisite flashback, Jenna marries, and the show hints numerous times toward its end. That “30 Rock” continues to wrap things up while it make meta comments about the difficulty of ending TV shows leaves me feeling uncertain, yet still hopeful that the finale can live up to the boundary-shattering nature of the show itself. We still don’t know if Liz gets pregnant or will adopt, or if Jack will settle down, or what will happen to “TGS.” I, for one, hope the show takes a cue from “Seinfeld” and remains true to its artistic integrity, and yet, “30 Rock” never exhibited as much bite as “Seinfeld.” While “Seinfeld” feigned toward closure, “30 Rock” has already given us so much, but the show can still redeem itself with a finale that focuses on the show itself, that just allows the show to continue without the need for melodramatic goodbyes, or weddings, or deaths, just “30 Rock” doing its absurd thing, like “Seinfeld .” I could see “TGS” ending, which would allow “30 Rock” to end as “TGS” ends, but that still leaves open the question of closure or integrity.

Regardless, we know for sure that no matter what, some will remain unhappy, others will argue about the ending. Our emotional attachment to these series, our separation anxiety, places too much emphasis on endings that rarely, if ever, could live up to our impossible expectations. Seeing the difficulty of ending series like these, I don’t hope for anything better than just a great episode, and I expect a motley mix of trying to balance all of culture’s strange desires and expectations. I know that I will miss Liz, Jack, Jenna, Tracy and perhaps Dennis Duffy, Beeper King, most of all. We will say goodbye to something that has not only influenced the conversation, paved the way for countless shows and strong women characters, but has given us joy on a weekly basis. Now, we must resign ourselves to revisiting our past in the nostalgic world of syndication.

 

Joe Winkler is a staff writer for Vol.1Brooklyn, and a contributor to theRumpus.net, HtmlGiant, and Tablet Magazine, among other online publications. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephWinkler.

 
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