Finalewatch '07: '30 Rock'

Alecbaldwin3_tinafey_nbc_30rock_240When 30 Rock began its inaugural season last fall, about the best thing I could say about the show as a whole was that it was a lot better than its original companion, Twenty Good Years.

If ever there were a case of damning with faint praise, that was probably it. Fortunately the people at NBC had a little more faith in it than I did, and the show got a full-season pickup.

Good thing, too, because in the second half of the season 30 Rock improved exponentially, such that it has now become a show I refuse to miss. Creator/star Tina Fey really seemed to find a great balance between playing the straight woman for Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan and stepping up to nail jokes of her own (her "I'm the decider" frenzy of a few episodes back was fantastic stuff).

Thursday's season finale was not the show's absolute best this season -- that title goes either to last week's Cleveland-centric episode or the Paul Reubens episode from February -- but it continued the nearly unbroken string of DVR-worthy moments ever since Reubens showed up as an inbred-within-an-inch-of-his-life European prince in February.

The back half of Tracy's run from the Black Crusaders was a little disappointing, although knowing that Twofer is watching Tracy could set up some things for next season (this feels like a gag the show can go back to if it wants). Seeing Sean Hayes almost perfectly copy Kenneth's mannerisms, then twisting them just a little as befits a hillbilly cousin, made up for some of that, but the Misery-esque jokes felt a little too easy.

But Elaine Stritch as Jack Donaghy's mother? Brilliant. Having met a significant portion of the Donaghy family now, it's not hard to tell why Jack's biggest regret when he thought he was dying was that he didn't work enough -- even if he did personally coin the phrase "What's the upside?"

The ongoing theme of Liz-as-nerd got its due tonight as well, as Fey made not one but two semi-obscure Star Wars references: threatening Kenneth to "cut you open like a tauntaun" and, upon seeing her webcam image, asking "Are my eyes really that far apart? I look like Adm. Ackbar."

Shows will sometimes make big creative leaps from one season to another, but it's rare to see this much improvement within the course of one season. The only downside is that it might be tough for Fey and Co. to top themselves next season, but that's not a bad problem to have.

Your thoughts on the 30 Rock finale? Happy to see it coming back?

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