According to Jack Donaghy himself, NBC's veteran comedy 30 Rock will end after season 6. Alec Baldwin dropped the bomb at a fundraiser last night.
30 Rock is wrapping up its fifth season this month. NBC has renewed the show for a sixth season, which is set to begin in fall 2011 and end around the same time next year - which is also when the contracts for the show's stars (including creator Tina Fey) are set to expire.
The show had remained consistent until this season. The fifth year saw a dramatic drop in first-time viewership, dropping to an average of 4.4 million viewers. The fourth season averaged almost 6 million.
Speaking to an interviewer at the National Dance Institute's fundraiser, Baldwin left little room for interpretation:
"I will tell you one thing and that is next year is our last year of the show. Our contracts are expired [in 2012]."
He went on to say that Tina Fey had a bright future in writing and directing. Her modern work certainly seems to suggest that: in addition to hundreds of episodes of 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live, Fey wrote the script for the well-received teen dramady Mean Girls in 2004. She's also been expanding into movies like Baby Momma and Date Night.
Baldwin isn't without his own drama when it comes to 30 Rock. After an extremely public family squabble in 2007, the actor tried to leave the show to spend time with his daughter. According to Baldwin, NBC refused to release him from his contractual obligations.
It's worth noting that Baldwin has had a producer credit on 30 Rock since 2008. While the title is sometimes more of an honorific than an actual job (especially for major actors in long-running series) it's hard to imagine that he doesn't have at least some information on what's going on.
The show isn't the only NBC comedy on the rocks. Many doubt the The Office will last more than one season after Steve Carrel's last episode (not for lack of trying) and the network cancelled Perfect Couples earlier this year.
No TV show can last forever, and a six-season run is more than most hope for. As a fan of 30 Rock's earlier seasons, I'm pleased to hear that it won't be stretched out long past its shelf life like Friends or Scrubs. The last couple of seasons have seen the show circling familiar themes far too much - how often can they make fun of Liz's single status or Frank's hats before it gets old?
But a lot can change in a year. We'll have to wait and see if NBC tries to keep its self-referential staple alive - or not.
30 Rock airs Thursday night @ 10PM on NBC. The hour-long season 5 finale airs on April 21st.