When Tina Fey and Robert Carlock first came up with “30 Rock,” Fey writes in her memoir “Bossypants,” they “weren’t trying to make a low-rated critical darling.” They just botched their version of “a hit show” like “Home Improvement.” Looking back at the series, their failure to recreate sitcom normalcy is absolutely for the better.
While it began as a loose take on Fey’s experience running the writers’ room of “Saturday Night Live,” “30 Rock” became a gloriously strange beast all its own throughout its 2006-2013 run, using the loose framework of a television show within a television show to create an unforgettable, unhinged version of a workplace comedy. It had a strong core pairing in Fey’s Liz Lemon and Alec Baldwin as her boss Jack
Donaghy; their relationship evolved over the years into a unique blend of mentor/mentee, brother/sister, and above all, fierce and honest friends. (“30 Rock,” thankfully, never gave in to the idea that Jack and Liz might have a romantic connection, which other shows might have been tempted to try at some point for the hell of it.) It had brilliant supporting players in Tracy Morgan as uninhibited star Tracy Jordan, Jane Krakowski as the eternally jealous Jenna and Jack McBrayer as earnest hard worker Kenneth. It featured dozens of guest stars turning in their some of their wildest performances, ranging from Salma Hayek as a stubborn nurse, to David Schwimmer as a humorless sustainable living advocate, to Paul Reubens as an inbred Austrian heir. It had so many jokes that re-watching the series is often an exercise in realizing you missed half of them the first time around.
But if you don’t have time to watch all 138 episodes, here are the top 30 of “30 Rock” — ranked.