If precedent is any indicator, the final episode of 30 Rock will begin with Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon psyching herself up for the final episode of TGS with Tracy Jordan, the series’ central show within a show. 30 Rock is nothing if not self-referential, with season premiere plots often hinging on TGS’s return from summer hiatus. But the scope of parody in Fey’s zany-smart workplace comedy reaches far beyond its own navel; the series has long made ruthless fun of television as a whole.
When it debuted in 2006, 30 Rock was presented to baffled viewers as a show about Saturday Night Live, It was an idea that didn’t seem to have legs, especially with Aaron Sorkin’s dramatized version of same guaranteeing that at least one such show would be canceled imminently. Of course, the SNL-esque TGS gradually became less the subject of the show than merely its setting–and often just a flitting presence in the background. While the satirical focus on television was often dropped in favor of Liz Lemon’s mostly doomed attempts to lead a balanced life without compromising, it still hung around–often in the form of fake TV.
Ridiculous reality competitions, sexy vampire counter programming, even the supposed golden age of TV–it’s all fair game for Fey and her tremendous writing staff. Over the course of seven seasons, 30 Rock has racked up enough fake shows to adequately populate a network’s fall lineup. As the show takes its final bow on January 31, look through the slide show above for an overview of what TV might look like in an alternate universe. (Hint: an only slightly exaggerated version of this universe.)JB