Feb. 1, 2013 at 1:29 AM ET
Fans of Liz Lemon, Jack Donaghy, Tracy Jordan and the rest of the "30 Rock" cast of characters found themselves in an unusual situation Thursday night. After seven seasons of yukking it up as those familiar faces goofed around on the show within a show, faithful viewers suddenly had -- sniff! -- something in their eyes.
Oh, sure, the series ender still packed plenty of zingers, but touching moments and sentimental so-longs outnumbered the laughs by the time the one-hour finale came to a close.
The penultimate episode of the season did most of the work as far as tying up loose ends went. "TGS" was over, Jack landed his CEO dream job, Kenneth Parcell Willy-Wonka'ed his way to the top of the peacock network, and Liz wrote herself a new script as a mom.
So what was left for the finale? Well, "30 Rock" was never really about all the details. It was about the relationships. So all those neatly tied ends? They unraveled so the show could end the right way.
"TGS" was back on for one more episode. Jack found being completely fulfilled was anything but fulfilling. Kenneth ... well, Kenneth was right where he belonged. But Liz wasn't so happy.
One by one, they all had to find a way to connect to their emotions, which meant finding a way to say "I love you" to each other. Or in Jack's case, when faced with leaving his best platonic pal behind, finding a way to say "a once special word that's been tragically co-opted by the romance industrial complex" to Liz.
Hilarious guest star spots from Conan O'Brien, Julianne Moore, Salma Hayek, Nancy Pelosi, Richard Belzer and Ice-T (not to mention TODAY's own Savannah Guthrie and Al "Snowicane" Roker) broke up the heavy moments, as did Jack's suggestion to go to Youtube and search for "Hamlet the mini pig goes down the stairs." (Which was totally worth it).
Still, the plot went right back to the tear-jerking material as everyone got their happily-ever-afters -- even Tracy's dad came back from his decades-long "out for a pack of cigarettes" excursion -- before wrapping it all up with a classic TV nod.
Well, there was one last lighthearted meta moment.
"Thank you, America," Tracy said from the "TGS" stage. "That's our show. Not a lot of people watched it, but the joke's on you because we got paid anyway."
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