The Ten Best 30 Rock Episodes Ever

This week Matt Zoller Seitz pre-eulogized 30 Rock as the NBC comedy’s Jan. 31 finale sadly approaches. “30 Rock has evolved from an inside-showbiz farce with sporadic fourth-wall-breaking sight gags and meta dialogue to a weekly cyclone of surreal tomfoolery,” he writes. And yet, as a compulsively outlandish parody of the business of television and sitcoms themselves, “there’s no earthly reason why we should feel for any of its characters; and yet we do, because the very tropes that 30 Rock loves to mock are embedded in our TV-watching subconscious. The show says, ‘Look at how shamelessly television pushes your buttons!’ while hammering on those very same buttons.” To further celebrate its passing, Seitz picked his ten favorite episodes of the show’s run.

10. “100”
Season 5, Episodes 20 and 21
Jack’s boss announces that he’s canceling The Girlie Show. The greatest self-aware, self-congratulatory flashback party this side of a classic Simpsons episode.

“Succession” Photo: NBC/2012 NBCUniversal, Inc.

9. “Succession”
Season 2, Episode 13
Jack is passed over for promotion to CEO, and Tracy decides to produce the world’s first pornographic video game. A mix of ongoing plotlines with a one-off weekly clownfest.

8. “Dance Like Nobody’s Watching”
Season 6, Episode 1
Jenna judges America’s Kidz Got Singing; Tracy is convinced Liz is a “crack whore”; Kenneth prepares for the Rapture. A great example of the show’s kookiness and warmth.

7. “Dealbreakers Talk Show #0001”
Season 4, Episode 7
Frank replaces Liz as head writer of TGS; Tracy becomes obsessed with winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. The show’s matter-of-fact lunacy really shines here.

6. “Gavin Volure”
Season 3, Episode 4
Liz spends a weekend with the title character, a fraud and arsonist (Steve Martin). Martin’s discomfiting performance is one of the show’s richest star cameos.

5. “Ludachristmas”
Season 2, Episode 9
The titular holiday climaxes with the staff tearing down the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. A classic bizarro episode that builds and crests like a wave.

“Live From Studio 6H” Photo: NBC/2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

4. “Live From Studio 6H”
Season 6, Episode 19
The better of 30 Rock’s two live episodes; includes clever allusions to Laugh-In, Amos & Andy, and The Honeymooners.

3. “When It Rains, It Pours”
Season 5, Episode 2
Jack is obsessed with mortality and records a video for his unborn son; Tracy races to the hospital for his daughter’s birth. A great mix of goofiness and sentiment.

2. “My Whole Life Is Thunder”
Season 7, Episode 8
Jenna plots revenge on Liz for upstaging her own nuptials by getting married; Jack delivers a eulogy for his mother so stirring it’d make Mark Antony weep.

“Tracy Does Conan” Photo: NBC/NBC

1. “Tracy Does Conan”
Season 1, Episode 7
Prescription pills make Tracy hallucinate on the day of an appearance on Late Night. A brilliantly structured episode with a classic 30 Rock race-to-the-finish.

*This article originally appeared in the February 4, 2013 issue of New York Magazine.

The Ten Best 30 Rock Episodes Ever