'30 Rock' returns tonight: Sex! Ann Romney's Horse! And... Voltron?! A preview of the sitcom's last season
The election is about to take an outrageously absurd turn. No, we’re not talking about the ramifications of last night’s presidential debate — we’re talking about the final season of 30 Rock, premiering tonight on NBC, which will tackle the race for the White House in its own uniquely absurd way. Don’t like teases? Can’t handle spoilers? Hate geeky references to Voltron? Then good lord, man, stop reading! SPOILER WARNING!
In the sitcom’s second episode, Kabletown bigwig and Republican loyalist Jack (Alec Baldwin) will grieve the news that Governor Mitt Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, has dropped out after it’s revealed that he was actually born in Kenya. (The scene in which this info is shared with the audience involves Jack Skyping with… Ann Romney’s horse, Rafalca.) Romney’s replacement VP pick: One Gov. Bob Dunston of South Carolina – a dead ringer for Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan). Things get more silly-trippy when Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) decides to skewer the sitch on TGS, despite Jack’s prohibition against political sketches. “Tracy’s actually been very, very funny—this is his Emmy episode for sure,” Fey tells EW. “He plays Tracy Jordan, and he plays the real Gov. Bob Dunston, and he plays Tracy playing the sketch version Gov. Bob Dunston, which he’s delineated nicely. He’s doing a very good job. It’s some meta-business.” Look for the storyline to culminate with a two-parter heading into the election. (The real one, that is.)
Also on tap for 30 Rock’s swan song season:
Jack tries to take down NBC. Sort of. In a separate storyline linked to the Dunston drama, Jack tries to ruin NBC in a bid to manipulate the CEO of Kabletown (Ken Howard) into selling the network to another company, where there might be more opportunity for advancement. “But then TGS starts having success because of the Governor Dunston thing,” says Fey. “He’s torn, because it’s helping Romney, but it’s foiling his plan to get rid of Kabletown. Liz has the opposite dilemma. Everything else would be too much of a spoiler.”
Crazy Stupid Love. Liz ramps up the lovemaking with Criss Cross (James Marsden) as she commences Project: Motherhood, which leads to a “sexual awakening” for the often sex-averse Liz. “James Marsden and I just shot a ridiculously stupid sexy montage in a Staples,” says Fey. “The montage is, like, me tilting my head back and him dumping a whole barrel of paperclips on his face; me pouring white-out on his shirtless body. God bless him.” Meanwhile, Jenna (Jane Krakowski) will be planning her wedding to Jenna fanboy/imitator Paul L’Astname (Will Forte) and asks Liz to be her maid of honor – an honor that Liz does not want. “Liz is trying to figure out a way to get out of that without making Jenna explode or hurting her feelings,” reports exec producer Robert Carlock. And Jack will try to replace Avery Jessup (Elizabeth Banks) by dating five women at once. Carlock goes geeky to set this one up: “No one woman can satisfy all of his requirements, so he builds what he calls ‘a great escape,’ but what Liz describes, distastefully, as a Voltron — five different women, each combining to form a super robot to defend the universe of his heart. And of course, that goes sideways for him.”
Tracy Jordan: The Mature One Of The Bunch?! In the season 6 finale, the controversial TGS star decided to become less of an embarrassment to African-Americans and resolved to begin emulating the example of cultural icon Tyler Perry. “We want to follow that through,” says Carlock, “because it would fun to see the 20 movies he’s made in the last three months.” Also? “Tracy has a realization early in the season. He’s running this company, he has a son at Stanford, he’s been married for two decades – he’s the most stable adult at TGS! That’s frightening for him.”
Wither Kenneth? Last seen smooching with the conniving colleague Hazel Whassername (Kristen Schaal), who sabotaged his re-application to the NBC page program, Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) will continue to be victimized by the loony femme fatale. “He thinks they’re dating, but there’s nothing sexual between them, because he wants to wait and she’s not interested,” says Carlock. “She’ll have her downfall. Hopefully.” The producer also wishes to remind us of Jack’s prophecy. “In season 1, Jack said that at the end of all this, they’d either all be working for Kenneth, or dead by his own hand. We’re hoping one of those two things will be how the season will end.”
How To End Strong? That’s the question Fey and Carlock are trying to figure out, at this very moment: The 30 Rock brain trust is currently plotting the last thee episodes of the series, which concludes with a one hour finale . Says Carlock: “It’s an unlikely thing we’ve managed to get away with here, to write for Alec and do the kind of jokes and stories we’ve gotten to do and create this little world. We’re every lucky. So it’s with a tinge melancholy that we accept the challenge of trying to wrap it up.” Fey would like to see Lemon find fulfillment in the areas of love and family, “but without romanticizing them,” she says, “and keeping her who she’s been this entire time.” A tease for Jack’s final fate? “I think we want to land him somewhere where it’s like, ‘YES! That’s where that guy should be!’” says Fey. “That comforts me.” Asked if those who dream of a Liz-Jack romance will get their wish, Carlock says with a laugh: “It’s not going to happen. But don’t tell them that! We want them to keep watching.” Still, he offers a glimmer of hope – literally, a glimmer. “They should watch the last episode, frame by frame, because maybe the last frame will be them making out…”
Bonus! The Liz Lemon Adoption Story That Never Happened. When we asked Carlock if Liz will finally become a mom in 30 Rock’s last season, he recalled how this ongoing tension began at the end of season 2, at a time when the sitcom’s writers weren’t really sure about the future of the series, and “we were just trying to put all of our cards on the table as quickly as we could.” And so the season ended with a cliffhanger in which Lemon decided to adopt a child after a “pregnancy scare” made her realize she wanted one. In the season 3 premiere, Liz bombed an adoption agency evaluation (the first of several snags that derailed and delayed her ambition), but that wasn’t the first story the writers came up with. “We had an outlandish way that would have played out, which we convinced ourselves to back away from,” says Carlock. “We wanted her to come home from Eastern Europe with a pretty suspicious 17-year-old boy. He was going to rob her or something, and it was going to put a pin in that journey for her. … One of the nice things about knowing we were going into the final season is that we could pick up that thread again. Hopefully, it will end in as odd yet satisfying way as it can.” (Additional reporting by Kristen Baldwin)
Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan star in the Emmy-winning comedy. You want to go to there.