30 Rock returned for one night of cheese, reunions, and A-list cameos
Never follow a hippie to a second location, but NBC is hoping 30 Rock fans will follow the comedy to a second platform.
In an effort to promote NBCUniversal and the launch of its new streaming platform Peacock, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, and company returned in character for one night only (yes, there was obviously some night cheese involved). And the show that always leaned into the joke of product placement and cross promotion went all in here, in what was half reunion, half star-studded commercial.
The 30 Rock special opened in the streets of New York City with Liz Lemon (Fey) accosting a man for not wearing a mask (she was outside because "my family has asked for some alone time from me"). Upon returning home to her kids, "who kind of hate me," she got a call from her retired mentor Jack Donaghy (Baldwin) with news of NBC-page-turned-NBCUniversal-chairman Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) wanting to reboot TGS for Peacock (don't ask if Friends is streaming on there unless you want to be slapped through the iPhone 40). With Kenneth presenting new content to advertisers the next day, Jack needed Liz to get the band back together.
And let's see where everyone picked up seven years after the last episode: Liz was struggling to home-school her kids and deal with a husband who wants to kiss her all the time; Jack wanted to get back to work; Tracy (Morgan) was living in Canada and retired from acting — except for his four movies coming out this summer ("I read the whole dictionary in front of a green screen, now a computer can make any movie it wants."); Jenna (Krakowski) was being blacklisted after pooping in Mandy Moore's thermos; Frank (Judah Friedlander) was consulting at Peppa Pig; Toofer (Keith Powell), or James, as he demands to be called, wrote A Prince for Christmas, A Christmas Prince, and Two Princes, One Christmas; Lutz (John Lutz) and Sue (Sue Galloway) were living together and being very "tender with each other"; Jonathan (Maulik Pancholy) was a producer at Blumhouse; and Pete was "living his truth," a.k.a. going through a mid-life crisis.
With Jenna canceled, Liz was on the hunt for a new female star, reaching out to people like Sofia Vergara and "funniest person in your family" Khloe Kardashian, who wanted to write her own material. Liz lost out on amateur impressionist Khloe when Jenna Zoom-bombed them. "I need to perform, Liz," Jenna declared. "Science has shown that quarantine is hardest on hot extroverts. Every night at 7 I open my window and pretend they're clapping for me." Liz eventually agreed to keep Jenna, who was cut from the disastrous "Imagine" video, and she convinced Tracy to unretire by threatening to go after Kevin Hart. Although Tracy did warn: "Due to pending lawsuits, I can't open my eyes on TV."
Meanwhile, Kenneth was living a lavish life in Los Angeles, which included his assistant Vivica (also played by McBrayer), clearly in love with him. He joined the TGS crew for a Zoom and revealed that this was just a way for him to get them online after they kept ignoring his party invites. "This was a test, and congratulations, you all tested negative… for friendship," he told them. There was no reboot, as Kenneth already had tons of great shows for Peacock, and he proved it by adding his "cool new NBC friends" Dwayne Johnson and "Alfredo" Roker to the call. Said Johnson: "Damn, Kenneth, look at you — you trying to beat me for Sexiest Man Alive?"
Later, Kenneth kept hanging with famous NBCUniversal talent when he played a game of virtual charades with Andy Samberg, Andy Cohen, Hoda Kotb, Mario Lopez, Ted Danson, and more, with them all blatantly sucking up to their boss. "You should have played Sam Malone," gushed Cheers alum Danson.
Despite all the love, Kenneth was stressing over what shows he'd ordered. And as he began his big presentation for advertisers, Liz, Jack, Tracy, and Jenna interrupted the meeting in song. The former punching bag of TGS soon realized that what he really needed and missed was his old friends being mean to him. That inspired Tracy to volunteer to take over hosting duties with Jenna. “People need to be reminded that you're not just some horrible white lady that everyone hates — you also sing sometimes," he boasted of his problem-solving partner. While The Voice coach Gwen Stefani was supposed to wrap things up with "Sweet Escape," Jenna improvised an NBCUniversal anthem, which included the lyrics "Mandy Moore forgives me," a line that Tracy ordered Moore herself to sing or This Is Us would be canceled.
In the end, Jack and Liz reunited for one of their traditional episode-closing drinks. Kenneth hired Jack to run the female-centered streaming service Peahen and Liz to write a Tracy and Jenna-led pilot about "two sexy teen basketball coaches who cause crimes." Considering how they'd just helped Kenneth, Jack asked his protégé to write his remarks for a meeting next week. "No, I'm an artist, not a shill for the network," Liz said as she turns and winked at the camera, only to hurt herself and call Criss (James Marsden) to come kiss her eye.
Then, in a post-credits treat, viewers got both an adorable behind-the-scenes look at how this special was put together and a first look at Tracy in Jurassic Green Book.
That has be his biggest role since Hamilton before Hamilton.
Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan star in the Emmy-winning comedy. You want to go to there.