Review: ’30 Rock’ – ‘A Goon’s Deed in a Weary World’

A review of last night’s “30 Rock” coming up just as soon as I’ve seen the porn version of “Transformers”…

We still have an hour of “30 Rock” to go, and I will treasure every last minute we have remaining with this great show. But “A Goon’s Deed in a Weary World”(*) would have functioned quite well as a series finale.

(*) The title is a play on a line from “The Merchant of Venice,” which Gene Wilder recites in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” right as he’s decided that Charlie has won the contest and will run the factory.

It’s not that it was the funniest episode of this victory lap season (though pretty much anything involving the show’s new sponsor was gold, as were Tracy and Jenna referencing Clooney’s role as “Dumb Gay Batman”), but that it brought very satisfying closure to the stories of Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy. As great as the “30 Rock” supporting cast and recurring players have been, this has always been a show about the two of them, and here they got what amounted to the perfect happy endings for their characters.

Jack has spent seven years learning enough about the network TV business to realize he knows absolutely nothing about it, and now that he has the CEO job he always wanted, why not take a gamble on putting TV-lover Kenneth in charge of the network?(**) The show’s love of television, as well as its sense of regret over what the medium is becoming, has been a running theme all this time, and nicely culminated in that Wonka parody. (My only regret is that Augustus Gloop, Violet and the others didn’t get anything to do, but the sight gag worked well enough in a busy episode.)

(**) Of course, the one time one of Kenneth’s program ideas got made, it was the disastrous “Gold Case.”

Liz, meanwhile, has spent seven years playing mom to all the temperamental, erratic, overgrown children on “TGS,” and it was nice to see they had learned just enough from her to free her from the prison the show had become. And all that experience should make her ideally suited to raising Tracy and Jenna’s young doppelgangers. (Liz, upon hearing Janet say “CAM-uh-ruh” like Jenna always does: “That seems about right.”)

I expect lots of craziness to come in the finale, and ultimately “30 Rock” will be better remembered for the ruth-filled joke delivery system that it was. But some of the series best moments managed to ground the insanity in some kind of human emotion involving Liz and/or Jack. So this final season, and this episode in particular, have been satisfying for how often Tina Fey and the other writers have remembered to pay tribute to that part of the show in addition to all the running gags.

Some other thoughts:

* Yes, Liz Lemon, “Tremé” does indeed get good if you stick with it.

* “And that boy’s name… was Marshall Mathers.”

* Was anyone disappointed that we didn’t get an entire subplot about Tracy and Jenna having switched brains?

* Whose movie career would be more interesting: Senor Spielbergo (Steven Spielberg’s non-union Mexican equivalent from “The Simpsons”/”Critic” crossover episode), or Michael Baio, Scott Baio’s uncle?

* “30 Rock” composer (and Fey’s husband) Jeff Richmond gets to make one more on-camera appearance as the one-man band performing with Kenneth’s Wonka-esque song about the magic of television, accompanied by slideshow of great NBC past hits, plus a few fake ones like Bob Uecker in a TV version of “Willy Wonka.”

What did everybody else think?