The final season of "30 Rock," which begins Thursday night, will last only 13 episodes, which seems oddly appropriate for a show that runs on fast-forward.
"30 Rock," rarely stops for a breath, forget about a coffee break – even if Liz Lemon is prone to binging on Sabor de Soledad chips (let the false pregnancy results the cheesy snack causes be damned). As we've noted, we're not as sad about the show’s impending end as much as happily amazed that a sitcom with rapid-fire banter out of "His Girl Friday" and a "Mary-Tyler-Moore-Show"-on-speed approach has barreled through six seasons with plenty of steam left for a grand finale.
Slowing down to think about “30 Rock” is probably folly when assessing a show that never stopped long enough to make the mistake of taking itself too seriously – or seriously at all. But we’ll pause to observe that in its six years – covering one appearance by Leap Day William – “30 Rock” pulled off the rare feat of making up for a general lack of character development by giving us some great characters.
Alec Baldwin, as blustery boss Jack Donaghy, fulfilled the potential as a comic actor he showed in his many hosting stints on "Saturday Night Live." Tracy Morgan oozed alternately low-and-high-energy comic absurdity as man-child comedic force Tracy Jordan. Jane Krakowski's ego-driven delusion case Jenna Maroney emerged as the funniest self-awareness-free sitcom figure since Steve Carell's Michael Scott of "The Office," another NBC Thursday night comedy staple headed for a series finale.
The nominal star of a show packed with them, of course, is Tina Fey, who put together the best sitcom of any former "SNL" player – perhaps because “30 Rock” is the primetime comedy closest in pace and spirit to NBC’s long-running late-night hit. Fey learned on “SNL” to keep things fast, funny and fresh. The one time "30 Rock" repeated itself – with a live broadcast – the second go proved better than the fine first offering 18 months earlier.
The one semi-serious thread throughout the series – Liz’s on-and-off desire for a child – appears set to be woven into a baby blanket this season. While introducing a kid is often a sign of a show on the way out, well, it is the last season for “30 Rock.” Plus, we can expect any Liz Lemon-generated baby talk to be more snappy than sappy. We’ll see if she can keep away from the Sabor de Soledad chips long enough to get a true reading on her home pregnancy test.
So enjoy "30 Rock" while you can – it will be over before you know it. In the meantime, check out a preview of the season premiere, appropriately titled, "The Beginning of the End":
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.