30 Rock is one of the most popular sitcoms of all time. The series aired for seven seasons on NBC and accumulated numerous awards throughout the entirety of its run. The show was created by Tina Fey, best known for her work on Saturday Night Live.
30 Rock was inspired by the backstage hijinks from Fey's time on SNL and heavily satirized the sketch comedy in addition to making other meta and fourth-wall-breaking jokes throughout its run. In addition to Fey, the show also starred Tracey Morgan, Jane Krakowski, and Alec Baldwin. This list highlights the five best and five worst episodes of 30 Rock.
In this season one episode, one of Liz's writers, Lutz, calls her the dreaded c-word. The backlash is immediate, with Liz wanting to fire Lutz. But after talking this over with some of the other staff members, Liz decides against it because Lutz was dealing with his grandmother's passing.
Then the writers essentially blame her for Lutz's overt act of sexism and Liz feels like she has to change her behavior to pacify him. Even if Liz was acting like a mean boss, that kind of language comes from a discriminatory place. It's sad that 30 Rock thought the right message to convey was making Liz think it was her fault.
Jack throws a benefit concert with a bunch of famous musicians to try to raise money for his (recently discovered) dad's kidney transplant. What was so fun about this episode, which was the season three finale, was obviously its litany of special guest stars including Clay Aiken, Wyclef Jean, Moby, Mary J. Blige, Sheryl Crow, Norah Jones, and more.
The episode featured several musical numbers and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy. The ending had a collaborative song between the guests and the perfect amount of pizazz to send off the third season.
This was a very early episode in the series so it can be given some leniency for being bad. 30 Rock took a little while to gain its footing and become the award-winning series it is known as today. In this episode, Liz suddenly becomes fearful she might someday die alone after she almost chokes to death while eating in her apartment.
That, coupled with Jack's insistence that she go on dates, encourages her to go on a blind date. Perhaps the worst part about this episode are the homophobic jokes. Although this episode is only the beginning of a running gag about Liz's sexuality, it is one of the worst offenders.
This is an underrated episode of 30 Rock from the show's fifth season. Angie gets to try her hand at reality television. If you're a fan of reality television in general, particularly of the Real Housewives franchise, then you'll be super entertained by many of the gags and shoutouts shoved into this episode.
There are the typical fights (complete with drink throwing) and the characters get labels too. Beyond that, this episode explores the relationship between Tracy and Angie. Despite all the ways Tracy has messed up over the years, they're still going strong.
This episode started the strange plot of Jack's wife, Avery (played by Elizabeth Banks), being kidnapped by Kim Jong-il. This was a plot that would probably not make it to air nowadays. It was a weird storyline at the time and comes across even worse when watching it today.
This season five episode was uninspired and fell flat. Tracy's subplot (he feels left out by his entourage after something amusing happens between them and Kenneth, and Tracy wants to recreate it to see what happened) simply isn't all that funny. And Liz's tree battle is downright weird.
This episode was a surprisingly poignant season three episode that saw Jack grappling with his failure to achieve the happiness he once felt as a child. Despite all his money and success, Jack hasn't ever been truly happy... at least not in the carefree way he was when he was a kid.
If you were a fan of Liz and Jack moments, there were some great ones in this episode. Plus, Liz and Jenna get in a fight because Liz finds out Jenna once slept with her ex-boyfriend, Dennis. Remember him? The beeper salesman? It's crazy that two women as successful as Liz and Jenna would fight over a guy like Dennis.
It's hard to do an episode that features ventriloquism without it coming off as corny or creepy. Even by enlisting popular comedian, Jeff Dunham, "Stone Mountain" never found its stride. Instead, the episode felt uninspired and at worst, boring. Plus there were some shoehorned advertising for NBC with the inclusion of Jimmy Fallon that felt against everything 30 Rock typically satirizes.
Like the second "Queen of Jordan" episode, "Stone Mountain" didn't do anything we hadn't seen before on the sitcom. Perhaps if you're a big fan of Dunham, you might have been more entertained by this episode but if not, then it's better to just skip it altogether.
This was an early episode in 30 Rock's run. The first season episode featured Jenna trying to seduce an inbred prince so she could channel her inner Grace Kelly. This episode is so hilarious because of the subplots and hijinks.
Many episodes of 30 Rock have hit or miss moments, this one where every gag worked. This episode also played up the great relationship between Kenneth and Tracy which has been mined for comedic gold over the course of the entire show. The two of them playing the angel and devil to Pete was particularly entertaining.
Putting the first Queen of Jordan episode on this list was a risk because it is a controversial episode and people either love it or hate it. However, most can agree that the second episode was nowhere near as charming as the first was. The main problem? This episode doesn't introduce anything new.
The gags are stale and feel lazy, especially the ones about Angie and Tracy's relationship. It wasn't anything we hadn't seen done before the show (and better). Also, Jack's storyline where he has to rescue Avery after she's been imprisoned in North Korea is tone-deaf and strange.
This was the second live show 30 Rock did and it was far more lively than its first outing. 30 Rock is a single-camera comedy so typically it wasn't filmed in front of a live studio audience. Since it's a show that specializes in being meta and breaking the fourth wall, 30 Rock made an exception with special live episodes.
This one works because 30 Rock has a show-within-a-show with TGS. Fans loved this episode for all its references to other series too, such as Saturday Night Live and other late-night television shows.