On Thursday January 31st, NBC will air the last 30 Rock episode ever. In many ways, the Tina Fey/Alec Baldwin comedy has become easy to take for granted. What was once an edgy and trendy, albeit niche, show has, over seven seasons, evolved into as much of a sturdy, comforting bedrock for NBC as its more awkward and popular cousin, The Office; no matter what else was going on, you could count on seeing the show somewhere in NBC’s Thursday night comedy lineup. This isn’t to say that 30 Rock has lost its edge. Though it has undoubtedly passed its peak (which occurred during seasons two and three) and is much more hit-and-miss than it used to be, it still produces laughs at a reliable rate. However, with more and more quirky sitcoms – from Parks and Rec and Community to Happy Endings and the experimental Louie – picking up audiences and cultural cachet, it’s easy to forget just how damn good 30 Rock is.
As the end nears, I’ve begun to realize – to remember – how much I truly love this show and how much I’ll miss it when it’s gone. Unlike for most of my other favorite shows, I can’t quite recall when I first started watching it. My parents followed it, so between that and reruns that popped up on various channels, I saw more than a handful of episodes every now and then before I finally became a regular viewer at some point during the fourth season. As often seems to happen with me, this was just past when the show was at its best, though I only really noticed the difference in quality after running through the first three seasons on Netflix last year. Still, back then, I wasn’t nearly as immersed in the communal aspect of entertainment – the blogs, social network sites, Internet message boards and all that – and couldn’t care less that 30 Rock was starting to get that weird, groupthink backlash (the result of a slight dip in excellence and people tired of it winning so many Emmys) that every show experiences if it runs for long enough. All I knew was that I really enjoyed watching it and looked forward to a new episode each week.