In its five seasons, 30 Rock has won more than a dozen Emmys, left critics smittened, made Tina Fey a (rare bespectacled) star, and staked out a cozy place in the pop culture canon. But Thursday's season finale — in which Jack turned to Kenneth to entertain him in lieu of Avery (still in North Korea's custody), Tracy ruined Liz's perfect Barefoot Contessa summer, and Jenna feigned wholesomeness to secure an Wool Council endorsement gig — failed to thrill many commentators. One called the episode "extremely flat." Was it really so mediocre?
Yes, it was underwhelming: "It's not that it was a particularly terrible episode, I'm just used to writers pulling out all the stops to blow us away in their [finales]," says Jason Hughes at TV Squad. The episode focused too much on Jenna, and "felt more like an afterthought to the regular season than a season finale." It did have its funny moments, especially between Jack and Kenneth, but I do hope the premiere for season six is bigger and better.
"30 Rock season 5 finale recap"
Actually, it was wonderfully weird: The first half of the finale was quite strange, "even by this show's standards," says Steve Kandell at New York. Then, the second part had "an out-of-nowhere Lost reference" and ended, inexplicably, with a "To Be Continued" card and no obvious cliffhanger. It was "mayhem, pure and simple," and wonderful as a result. The show is "doing whatever the hell it wants," and it's amazing that the network is letting that happen.
"30 Rock Recap: The season ends with a whaaaa?"
We all need to lower our expectations: 30 Rock has never enjoyed the luxury of being "merely" funny, says Nathan Rabin at The Onion's A.V. Club, long facing "incredible pressure" to justify the critical accolades and hype. It's time audiences relented. 30 Rock has been going for over 100 episodes, and it had a great fifth season after a weak fourth. At this point, we shouldn't expect to be dazzled with each new episode — leave that to younger, hotter shows like Community and Parks & Recreation. 30 Rock should get to be a "little loopy and loose" at this point. Critics should relax a little, too.