5. Mazel Tov, Dummies! (Season 7, Episode 7)
Dir. Beth McCarthy-Miller
Writer: Tracey Wigfield
Ain’t no party like a Liz Lemon party because a Liz Lemon party MEANS SHE FINALLY GETS MARRIED! But only on her terms, natch, so she eschews all the basics of marriage (from proposal to ceremony) to get married in the most no fuss way possible: at city hall. But as she gets ready she realizes that it’s ok to want a story book wedding, she won’t lose her feminist street creed if she indulges in something stereotypically femme. With Jacks help they pull off the best justice of the peace wedding you’ve ever seen, including Grooms Grills and Tony Bennett in a cameo! Also, in a tiny Easter egg, Jack slips Criss a small note at the end of the episode. This is his gold star if accepts e that he didn’t receive when he first met Jack. It’s a nice full circle moment on a show that never forgot its past.
4. Respawn (Season 5, Episode 23)
Dir. Don Scardino
Writer: Hannibal Buress, Ron Weiner
Look, we all want to run away to The Hamptons and eat crudite and bruschetta with the Barefoot Contessa but if you are work in the fast paced world of anywhere in New York City, it’s tough to escape! Which is exactly how Liz feels when her vacation is ruined by Tracy. But blah blah blah we’re not here for Liz this time. This time we’re her for Jenna, Paul, legend of the game Victor Garber, a terrifying mascot for the wool industry named Wooly, and a life size puppet of a sheep that is on the board of directors for the Wool Council. Take the weird, subversive humor of Paul and Jenna, throw it through a “wholesome” blender, and you have the tip of the iceberg as to why this episode is one of 30 Rocks all time classics.
3. Dance Like Nobody’s Watching (Season 6, Episode 1)
Dir. John Riggi
Writer: Tina Fey, Tracey Wigfield
Why can’t Liz Lemon be happy? Relatively speaking she has an incredible job, her own creation on national television starring her best friend, a boss as a mentor who does actually care (even if it is a little too much sometimes) and has had the luck to date men with the face of Jon Hamm (not to mention The Hair!). But the puzzle piece to find isn’t the acclaim or the hotties, it’s the understanding and the connection. Having someone to connect to in a way that feels wholly You is what we are looking for in a partner right? We’re told to strive to unabashedly be our true selves, and there is nothing greater than when you can do that with someone else. And for Liz that someone else is Criss Chros (James Marsden), clearly named after 80s Yacht Rock legend Christopher Cross (who won an Oscar for the theme to the Dudley Moore Film Arthur). He had a doofy sensibility, loves everything that Liz loves, sells hot dogs for a living (the same food we first see Liz getting in the first episode of 30 Rock), and as the cherry on top: the dude is a FOX. In a show where you are rooting for your lead character to find someone, 30 Rock exceeds expectations. This is all on top of an episode that features public domain songs on America’s Kidz Got Singing (including a rendition of Camp Town Races that will forever be lodged in the space at the very back of your brain), the WNBA senior dance team, the timeless torches (they are very much real, and very much adorable) that Liz joins, and a uncharacteristically touching moment between Pete, Toofer, Frank, Lutz, and Kenneth on Coney Island. This is the type of 30 Rock that brings you back again and again to why the show defined almost a decade of prime time comedy.
2. Queen of Jordan (Season 5, Episode 17)
Dir. Ken Whittingham
Writer: Tracey Wigfield
Ah, the OG episode featuring The Queen Of Jordan devotes 30 minutes to Angie and the bonkers entourage on her show. From Angie’s single “My Single Is Dropping” that is dropping, to Jack’s insistence that not only is he not gay, but he didn’t fart on camera, and that he can actually dance, to Jenna trying to claw her way to airtime by acting increasingly more drunk (leading her to host her own intervention, which has repercussions she hadn’t fully thought through) but this above all else is Sherri Shepherd’s episode. The actress has a bright light that you absolutely can’t look away from. She embues Angie with all of the trappings of the stereotypical Bravo crazy housewife, but she is so utterly affable that it doesn’t matter. It’s Angies way, till pay day. The joke of the episode though? Jenna’s website: www.Jennas-side.com. “I don’t hear it.” Jenna says bemused. Moral of the episode: let’s all hope we can find the weird love that Tracy and Angie have.
1. Leap Day (Season 6, Episode 8)
Dir. Steve Buscemi
Writer: Luke Del Tredici
And here we are. Is this the best episode of 30 Rock? Yes. Why? Because it encompasses everything that works in the show by pushing its weirdness to the foreground by creating a fake holiday with fake traditions that are as hilarious as they are Lovecraftian. Ok, let’s break down the day of leap: every four years Leap Day William emerges from the Mariana Trench, a gill man emerges from the water wearing a gold and blue suit, dispensing candy in exchange for the tears of children. He also happens to eat rhubarb, has different traditions across the country (including pinching people, kicking them in the shins, or poking out their eyes if they aren’t wearing blue and gold), and even has its own movie, Leap Dave Williams, starring Jim Carrey and Andi McDowell that runs in a 24 hour marathon on USA. But the most important tradition of all? To take a chance, a leap! Real life is for March! So when Liz gets indecent proposal’d by Sad Thad The Skin Tag Lad, who did an Internet to the tune of billions of dollars, she considers it. Especially if he’s willing to pay millions for a chance to lose his virginity to the star of his schools production of The Sound Of Music (“not many think of the little nazi boy as the star, but thank you!”). But Liz has Criss to think about now, and a ticking clock: at any moment the supermodels from Jenna’s billionaires message boards will wake up from their coke binges to try and bag Thad for themselves.
Meanwhile Tracy has discovered a gift card for $50,000 to Benihana (that he was paid in exchange for doing a series of commercials) that any other year would have already expired, but because it’s Leap Day he has 24 hours to eat $50,000. Try as Tracy and his entourage might, they will never eat this alone, so with the slight encouragement of Hannibal Burress’ resident homeless guy, Tracy invites a soup kitchen to Benihana to feast.
But this episode is really about the lunacy of a Leap Day Holiday. The Jim Carrey movie looks way too real to not be real. Let’s face it: we all deserve a Jim Carrey holiday movie where he turns into a gill monster! And while he may not turn into one, that doesn’t mean the episode doesn’t allow you to glimpse Leap Day William. Appearing to Tracy, and later in the episodes button, Broadway star and resident bartender of Cicely Alaska John Cullum appears as Leap Day Willem, clad in blue and gold with a straw hat and cane. But as he explains at the end, “We should live every day as if it was leap day, and every leap day as if it’s your last. Oh, and if you should you ever see an old man in a blue suit bustin’ out of the middle of the ocean, take the time to say howdy. It just might be worth your while.” Then with a guttural roar, he tilts back his head, flares his gills and bares his fangs as the episode cuts to black. It’s the perfect fusion of everything I love about this series in one startling, hilarious moment.