By CLAIRE WINKLER
The kickoff to NBC’s Comedy Night Thursday was a bittersweet one for those who have stuck with Liz Lemon, played by Tina Fey, and the deliciously mismatched cast of “30 Rock” from the first episode. A critical darling since the pilot aired, “30 Rock” premiered its eighth and final season.
“30 Rock” is at its best when it is sharply self-aware, and the season premiere held true to this tradition.
The opening scene showcased Liz holding a baby and declaring, “I finally have it all!” Moments later, she tosses the baby to someone off-camera.
The main arc of the episode, and most likely the season as a whole, is introduced minutes later. Convinced that Kabletown president Hank Hooper, played by Ken Howard, will never retire and thus promote him, Jack Donaghy, played by Alec Baldwin, decides to tank the network, thereby forcing Hank to sell it to someone who will.
This particular plot line is nothing new. Jack has attempted takeovers and schemes very similar to this one throughout the series.
However, this specific plot line did give the writers a fantastic opportunity to get creative with the shows that Jack gives the green light to in order to destroy NBC.
One of the hilarious fake shows was God Cop, in which Jack cast himself as the title character. An obvious, but nonetheless clever, commentary on the direction sitcoms are heading, the fake ads were that special blend of sharp and silly that works so well for “30 Rock.”
Several subplots were featured throughout the episode as well. The first, and funnier of the two, involves Jenna Maroney, played by Jane Krakowski, appointing Liz as her maid of honor for her “wedding year.”
Liz reluctantly agrees, only to realize that it is going to be a lot of work with very little payoff. After Liz decides to ruin the bachelorette party, Jenna, in a rage, pays a hilarious homage to “The Exorcist,” and flies towards the ceiling.
Though lacking in some of the social commentary that usually makes “30 Rock” so clever, the scene worked on a level of sheer ridiculousness.
The second subplot involved long-time NBC page, Kenneth Parcell, played by Jack McBrayer, and his scheming girlfriend, Hazel Whassername’s, played by the ever-dependable Kristen Schaal, attempts to throw a dinner party. With Tracey Jordan’s, played by Tracey Morgan, assistance, they threw a fake one for practice.
While it was inventive, this part of the episode was a bit too strange to be truly funny.
As a whole, the episode was fairly breezy. While it was nothing groundbreaking, “30 Rock” no longer has to be.
With enough Emmy awards to fill up an SUV, it has proved time and time again to be one of the cleverest sitcoms currently airing. It will be exciting to see where this final season takes us.