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Lessons Other Shows Can Learn From the <i>30 Rock</i> Finale

Rather than write a second long piece in praise of 30 Rock, add yet another blog post to the world about how Tina Fey changed television (though, she did) or try to convince you how much the series transformed TV while glazing over the fact that the show was almost unwatchable for two seasons, let's just focus on the finale... the very satisfying and heartfelt finale.

There's always two big surges of emotion I get when a show with a legacy like 30 Rock's ends -- first, that this is the end of an era that I'm not entirely sure I'm ready to let go of, and second, I really hope the finale doesn't suck and thus retroactively invalidate what I once loved the series. Fortunately, "Hogcock!/Last Lunch" was great, and can teach future sitcoms -- specifically, the ones that it helped pave the way for, like Parks and Recreation, The New Normal and The Mindy Project -- how to end their streak on a high note.

Show the Future
And I don't mean eight, 30 or 100 years from now (though I'll get to that in a second) but rather, instead of closing the series on last week's "A Goon's Deed in a Weary World," where Liz Lemon finally becomes a parent, TGS gets cancelled and Jack becomes CEO, 30 Rock let us see Liz, Jack and the whole cast of characters immediately trying to pick up the pieces and figure out what will be next for them, and showing us that though things will obviously change, our TV friends will be all right and can finally have it all.

Say Goodbye
Just like Tracy Jordan didn't like having to say goodbye to his friends, TV audiences can be afraid of their show leaving -- and though it's super conventional to use a character (and also in this case, the show within the show) as a pawn for the show bidding farewell to each other and the viewers, no one is going to complain about getting some actual closure, so long as it's still in rhythm with the series as a whole; and here, that's dark, meta, bizarre and impossibly sweet. 30 Rock has always been comfortable getting sappy every now and then, making Jack and Liz's "I love you" exchange perfectly acceptable... but then having Jack quickly discover that he no longer needed time to discover himself but instead start making clear dishwashers was downright genius. Same goes for Jenna's career grappling, Lutz's Blimpie saga, Pete faking his own death (which was possibly my favorite storyline in the entire finale) and Grizz getting a new show developed by Kenneth, all pretty brilliant and more funny than sad.

Give Us a Full Hour
Simply put, it's unacceptable to be anything less than twice what your normal episode length is... but go too long and you'll start to lose your audience. I loved that when "Hogcock!" ended, we got a brief glimpse of the credits screen before Liz screamed at the show that we still had another installment left. Obviously this is more of a network decision than one from the writers, but it's absolutely necessary.

Be Meta
This especially works for 30 Rock's comedic style, but was just as special in a decidedly non-meta show like Gossip Girl, too: This is your final moment in the sun and the perfect opportunity to wink at your audience. If people are infuriated or think that lines like Jenna's "Okay, I can't do this anymore. I've never met Mickey Rourke," are invalidating and stupid, then they probably were never real fans, anyway. Also, a few old favorite guest stars are always welcome, but the quality of what happens to the core characters is far more important than the quantity of former ones.

Leave Us Wanting More
The classic Seinfeldian stance is to go out while you're still on top, though the Seinfeld finale was so terrible that it made viewers happy to see the show go. 30 Rock instead left its characters on such high notes that when we realized that Grizz & Herz wasn't actually a real show and that, though Kenneth may never age, we won't be around to see flying cars and Liz's great-granddaughter give us her version of Liz's time working for NBC, we were just a little bit sad. I mean, a show where a guy gets a drink thrown in his face and then he turns to his dog and says, "Don't even say it!" was pretty damn fantastic. To his dog!

Want to relive the finale? Watch it here!

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