When Tina Fey’s “30 Rock” debuted on NBC, Oct. 11, 2006, expectations were none too high for the TV satire based on the writer’s own experiences at “Saturday Night Live.” In fact, the network was more committed to Aaron Sorkin’s “Studio 60 on Sunset Strip,” another series which went behind the scenes on a late-night “SNL”-styled comedy series with an all-star cast featuring Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, Bradley Whitford, Steven Weber, D.L. Hughley and Sarah Paulson, which had premiered just a few weeks before, on Sept. 18.
By June, 2007, “Studio 60” was off the air, while “30 Rock” went on for seven seasons until last January, when it finished its run in high style. While never a true ratings juggernaut, “30 Rock” built a loyal following, earning critical plaudits, and a total of 11 Prime-Time Emmy Awards, including three consecutive honors for Outstanding Comedy Series in its first three seasons. Alec Baldwin took home two for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, while creator Fey garnered one for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and two for writing. In addition, the show collected six Golden Globes, including one for Best Series Musical or Comedy, with Baldwin nabbing three for Best Actor Musical or Comedy Series and Fey two for Best Actress.
Over seven seasons, all of which will be available on Streampix, there were many highlights.
Here are 10 of our favorites:
Season One, Episode 2: “The Aftermath”: Baldwin’s Jack retitles the program, after hiring Tracy Morgan’s Tracy Jordan, adding his name to “The Girly Show,” which gets Jane Krakowski’s paranoid Jenna Maroney even more reason to freak out, as Tina’s Liz Lemon tries to keep everybody calm. The highlight, though, is Tracy’s private yacht party for the entire cast and crew, which saves the day.
Season One, Episode 6, “Jack Meets Dennis”: Liz’s sleazy boyfriend, Dean Winters’ Dennis Duffy, makes his first appearance on the show, as Jack convinces her she’s on the road to mediocrity. Meanwhile, Tracy takes umbrage to being referred to as “normal” in a magazine profile, so he gets a facial tattoo, while Jenna takes Botox injections after Jack asks how old she is. Lonny Ross’ staff writer/cast member Josh has a confrontation with Regis Philbin that results in two black eyes.
Season Two, Episode 2, “Jack Gets in the Game”: Will Arnett earned a Prime Time Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his recurring role as Jack Donaghy’s arch nemesis Devin Banks as both compete for the job of Rip Torn’s retiring GE chief Don Geiss. Jenna’s new-found plus figure brings her fame, while Jack McBrayer’s page Kenneth tries to reconcile Tracy with his wife (Sherri Shepherd).
Season Two, Episode 12, “Subway Hero”: Tim Conway took home the Prime Time Emmy Award as Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his role in this episode as ‘40s TV star Bucky Bright, who emerges as the only celebrity that Jack can recruit to endorse the Republican party, leading him to approach Tracy for the job. Meanwhile, when Jack tries to book a local hero who prevented a terrible subway accident, it turns out to be none other than Liz’s ex Dennis, who tries to parlay the recognition into winning back her heart.
Season 3, Episode 3, “The One with the Cast of ‘Night Court’”: Jennifer Aniston received a Prime Time Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her role in this “Friends” spoof in which she stars as a romantic prowler and old friend of Liz and Jenna who sets her sites on seducing Jack Donaghy. Kenneth doesn’t like the new page uniforms, so Tracy cheers him up with an impromptu reunion of “Night Court” featuring appearances by Harry Anderson, Markie Post and Charlie Robinson.
Season 3, Episode 10, “Generalissimo”: Alex Baldwin earned his second consecutive Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy series for this episode, which finds Liz discovering her fetching new neighbor (“Mad Men” star Jon Hamm) is an eligible single doctor. Jack continues to woo Selma Hayek’s Elisa by charming her mother, but his resemblance to the titular Spanish soap opera star doesn’t help matters. Tracy parties hard with the interns, who proceed to drink him under the table.
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Season 4, Episode 17, “Lee Marvin vs. Derek Jeter”: Tina Fey and co-writer Kay Cannon were nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series on the strength of this episode, in which Jack must make a romantic choice between Elizabeth Banks’ volatile anchorwoman Avery Jessup and his old Boston flame, Julianne Moore’s Nancy Donovan. Liz attends a singles event at the local YMCA with Nancy, who tells her to focus on what she wants in a man. The next day, during a dodge ball game, she does just that, telling a guy exactly what she’s looking for, except he doesn’t speak English. Finally, a casual bigoted remark sends shock waves through the writers’ room.
Season 4, Episode 20, “The Moms”: Frequent guest Elaine Stritch picked up a Prime Time Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Jack’s mom, who gets mixed up in his messy love life in this Mother’s Day themed episode. Meanwhile, Liz’s mom (Anne Donovan) reconnects with an old flame, who turns out to be astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Jenna’s oddball parent (Jan Hooks) arrives and Tracy, who doesn’t know where his real mother is, gets a new “mom” when Scott Adsit’s “TGS” producer Pete Hornberger casts Novella Nelson to play the part. Cheyenne Jackson, Buck Henry (as Liz’s dad) and Patti LuPone also guest star.
Season 5, Episode 14, “Double-Edged Sword”: Tina Fey, Matt Damon and Elizabeth Banks all received Prime Time Emmy nominations for their roles in this classic episode in which Jack and a very pregnant Avery take a romantic break in Canada, where she does into labor and sets off a frenzied scramble not to have the child born north of the border. Liz’s attempted getaway with Damon’s airline pilot Carol gets grounded when the plane collects dust on the tarmac. Tracy finally earns his coveted EGOT (Emmy/Grammy/Oscar/Tony), but is overwhelmed by the responsibilities it entails.
Season 6, Episode 21, “The Return of Avery Jessup”: Elizabeth Banks and Margaret Cho both earned Prime Time Emmy nominations as Guest Actresses for their role in this episode, with Avery finally returning home from her North Korean kidnapping, which prompts Jack to wonder if she was faithful while away. Liz’s new boyfriend, James Marsden’s Criss sees his manhood threatened by his girlfriend out-earning him, while Jenna seeks a sponsor for her upcoming nuptials to Will Forte’s cross-dressing Paul Lastname.