Tonight is the series finale of 30 Rock, a once truly great sitcom. Of course, you won’t hear that from all of the critical obits for the show these days. For the critical fans, the show ends as well as it started. But that’s ridiculous. The first season of 30 Rock was absolutely brilliant (largely thanks to Alec Baldwin, I have to admit), and the second season was really very good. The third was just good. And then, after that, the quality just varied wildly. There were great moments or even great episodes. But there was also a lot of dreck (the “Kenneth” character in particular ceased being funny about five years ago). The brilliantly ridiculous was too often replaced by the just plain ridiculous. The smart and edgy political satire was replaced with the sort of stuff you’d expect in the last half-hour of SNL at its worst.
But don’t tell that to the Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin fan club. For instance, on NPR this morning, critic Eric Deggans lamented that the public wasn’t good enough for 30 Rock. The show spelled the dawn of smart sitcoms that aren’t “broad” enough for a mass audience (and hence the downfall of NBC’s “must-see TV”). He uncritically notes that the show’s ratings started high but are now roughly a third of what they once were. Usually, when TV shows bleed audiences it has to do with the fact that the show has — wait for it — gotten worse. Deggans laments the fact that the “nerd humor” of Big Bang Theory is more popular than the sophisticated fare in 30 Rock (because there’s no nerd humor in 30 Rock, right?). I’m agnostic about whether BBT is “smarter” than seventh season 30 Rock, but it’s simply obvious that it is funnier.