You know that Thursday-evening feeling you’ve been getting this fall? You’re tired, achy, sour, and run-down. Your jaw starts clicking again. You sneer at people with that angry little badger face of yours, especially when they say things like, “You could watch Two and a Half Men.” No! Shut that down!
Clearly, you’re suffering from 30 Rock withdrawal, and I can relate. I fear I may never be cheerful again because everything is the worst. My Lemon deficiency is growing more grave by the day, and because tooth retention is pretty important to me, Dr. Spaceman sees no possible cure. The only way I’ve discovered to manage the symptoms is by stuffing myself so full of night cheese that I just pass out by 8:30.
But maybe there’s another way. Perhaps through constant reminiscing and careful evaluation, I can gain some handle on my 30 Rock situation. Lists and ranking systems always do make me feel better, so it’s worth a shot. Sure, narrowing this pantheon of perfection down to a list of 5 top episodes may seem an impossible task, but it’s doable. I promise. I just have to summon the French fries I did not ask for, down some business juice, put on my cupcake pajamas, and head into the crevasse. Here we go.
5. Leap Day – Season 6
“Leap Day” is 30 Rock at its kooky, joyful peak, when it embraces the elastic ridiculousness of its universe to create slightly alternate, amazing realities. It’s Leap Day, the magical day when nothing counts because real life is for March. Everyone has to wear blue and yellow, and legend has it that Leap Day William will emerge from his home in the Mariana Trench to exchange the tears of children for candy. I think I speak for everyone when I say, “How is this not an actual celebration, and can I marry immediately the person who came up with it?”
As part of their Leap Day shenanigans, Liz considers prostituting herself for $20 million to a billionaire who used to have a crush on her (nothing counts on Leap Day!), Jack eats poisonous rhubarb leaves and fears his daughter might become a liberal, and Tracy has one day to spend a $50,000 Benihana gift card. Obviously.
The painfully genius Leap Day William movie, Leap Dave Williams, starring Jim Carrey and Andie MacDowell in the most spectacular parody of every movie they have ever been in. Its accuracy is so profound that it’s almost difficult to comprehend.
“You are one age, going on another age. What’s going to happen next?” –Liz, as Rolf, in the free, unlicensed version of The Sound of Music
“WHAT? How much internet did he do?” –Liz after learning Sad Thad the Skin Tag Lad is a tech billionaire. Replies Jenna: “You better get a move on. Right now, there are models waking up from their coke binges, multiethnic bartenders with daddy issues, former ballerinas who had to quit because their boobs got too big. They’re going to hear about this horny billionaire, and Thad is going to forget all about his little crush. They’re coming, Liz. Click, click. That’s their stilettos. Click, click!”
4. Dealbreakers Talk Show #0001 – Season 4
“Dealbreakers Talk Show #0001” features the culmination of Liz’s multi-episode arc as a popular relationship expert who dispenses a catalog of romantic deal breakers dripping with enough keen judgmental snark to keep us viewers feeling exuberant and understood for months. Because of her new fame, Liz gets her very own talk show, shot in the same studio as the XFL halftime show, no less.
As Jack and Liz prepare to shoot the pilot, Jack comes under pressure from Devon Banks to make the show a hit. In trying to ensure everything goes perfectly, he exposes all of Liz’s insecurities and turns her into a paranoid, deranged, and emotionally fragile actress who locks herself in her dressing room. He turns her into Jenna. Liz can’t handle all of the new scrutiny and mouth crying of being a television figure, so the show is shuttered before it even begins.
The main titles to Dealbreakers, putting Tina Fey in her awkward-physicality wheelhouse. “Are you spinning a basketball?” Pete asks after imploring her to have fun. “Wave to a friend. Wave like a human being. Do you remember waving?”
The way each of the characters appears in Hi-Def: Liz as a warty and unibrowed crone, Pete as an elderly naked man, Kenneth as a Muppet, and Jack as a young Alec Baldwin.
“I knew it! You’re blond in your fantasies. It looks terrible.” -Jack to Liz, a swarthy, big-hipped Kelly Ripa.
“That’s a good goal for a talented crazy person.” -Tracy on his new dream of winning the EGOT.
“Your hair is . . . fine.” -Jack and Dr. Spaceman to Liz
Liz: I’m going to be on TV this week. Dr. Spaceman: Really? I think you mean radio.
3. Ludachristmas – Season 2
It’s Christmas at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, and while Kenneth tries to stop the gang’s drunken debauchery by teaching them the true meaning of Christmas (giving planks of wood to Guatemalan children so they can smash their GE photo shredders), Liz is excited about an impending visit from her family.
The Lemons arrive and begin lavishing saccharine praise upon their daughter, to Jack’s abject confusion and horror. He contrasts their bewildering brightness with the blame and mockery coming from his own mother, Colleen (Elaine Stritch), a pistol of an old broad who arrives unexpectedly after escaping Hurricane Zapato and descends upon us like a cantankerous angel bestowing beautiful holiday gifts of negativity and resentment.
While Jack begins to lap up the constant approval coming from the Lemons, Colleen sees through their beaming positivity and sets her sights upon destroying it. At dinner, after a few deliciously pointed digs from Colleen, the Lemons end up in a shouting brawl, all their secrets and honesty coming out, as Jack and Colleen preside over a job well done. Merry Christmas, everyone.
“It’s only positive reinforcement when they say it to you. In my case they’re just stating the facts. I do look like the Arrow shirt man, I did lace up my skates professionally, and I did do a fabulous job finishing my muffin.” -Jack on praise from the Lemons
“You give me ten minutes with the Lemon family, and I’ll have them tearing at each other like drag queens at a wig sale.” -Colleen
“It’s so hard to choose. The photos of the food look so good.” -Colleen, looking at the Applebee’s-esque menu and oozing so much sarcasm that I might turn inside out and hug my own personality.
“Really? Life is too short? Because your life seems endless.” -Jack to Colleen