“We’re used to always feeling like tomorrow’s going to be the last day, so it hasn’t felt too different.”
30 Rock, a critical and cultural hit that nobody thought would make it, will take its final curtain call at the end of this season, after seven years on the air. There have been ups (three Outstanding Comedy Series wins, numerous acting awards, “best of” lists) and downs (three seasons ranking out of the top 100 for ratings, shut-outs at the Emmys), yet the quirky comedy persevered through all of it to become one of the most loved shows of the new millennium.
Executive producer Robert Carlock truly believes this season is just another go-around and says that they’re “trying to sort of do just normal 30 Rock stories and while at the same time driving towards endings for everybody.”
Jack McBrayer, who plays a fan favorite, the lovably naïve Kenneth Parcell, admits that there is a slight difference this season.
“But it is weird like knowing that there are finite episodes and stuff,” he says. “To me it kind of feels like your senior year of high school where you’re having fun and, ‘Oh it doesn’t matter, I already got into college and just things don’t matter.’ But you know that there on graduation day, you’re going to be choking back tears and hugging people that you never even spoke to, but it has been great fun and business as usual so far but, you know, towards the end it’s going to get real emotional.”
For as emotional as it is going to get, both McBrayer and Carlock admit the show wouldn’t be anything without the creative genius behind it and that Tina Fey will dictate how everyone acts—not only on screen, but the demeanor behind the scenes as well. Over the course of the past six years, anyone attached to the show would speak of Fey as if she were a goddess. Even as the show is coming to an end, Fey still won’t quit giving it her all every second of the day.
“Boy, she kind of does everything well.” Carlock isn’t exaggerating: “But one of the best things that she does or sort of the thing that she has a sixth sense for is just her kind of initial reaction to an idea or to a joke.”
Maybe that’s why the show has been such a darling for so many years. The jokes never seem to miss. Not even after 125 episodes. But now that there are only 13 episodes left, it’s really time to balance telling jokes and trying to pick an end game.
“We don’t quite know what the ending is,” Carlock divulges. “We have kind of a shorter runway than usual to do a lot of stuff, and we do want to give everyone closure, even if it’s in our own weird way.”
Sticking with what has worked so far is a necessity. There will be numerous guest spots, including Bryan Cranston and Catherine O’Hara, who will play Kenneth’s stepfather and mother. Jack and Liz’s relationship will also be strengthened, but don’t think they’re going to become a romantic couple.
“They’re the core of the show, the spine of the show, the reason the show has worked has always been the chemistry between the two of them,” Carlock reassures. “The idea of them getting together always feels a little like an uncle and a niece to me.”
Liz and Jack may not get together, but McBrayer jokes that he wants Kenneth to go to Hawaii.
“The Bradys did it, you know, Modern Family did it—I even think The Jeffersons did it, like send Kenneth to Hawaii.” He laughs when giving a reason why his character would go there: “To get married, to blow up something—I don’t even care why. Just send Kenneth to Hawaii.”
While that may not happen, this seventh and final season will certainly be one to remember.