the five best episodes of 30 Rock…and two honorable mentions

With the premiere of 30 Rock’s sixth season coming January 12, it seemed fitting to look back at some of the most entertaining episodes from the past five seasons.

top five…in no particular order…except chronological order:

black tie season 1, episode 12

Tracy decides to teach Pete how to cheat on his wife, and Kenneth is appalled by their antics. Liz accompanies Jack to the birthday party of Gerhardt Habsburg (played by Pee Wee Herman Paul Reubens), the last living male descendant of the Austro-Hungarian dynasty. At Gerhardt’s party, Liz embarrasses herself, Jenna sneaks in, and Prince Gerhardt is disfigured and likely hemophilic. It is also revealed that Jack was formerly married to a woman he is still currently into. So, in an effort to make his ex jealous, Jack uses Liz to pose as his fake girlfriend, which doesn’t go over so well. Prince Gerhardt takes a liking to Jenna, but then suffers an unfortunate grape-related accident.

rosemary’s baby season 2, episode 4

Jenna sets Kenneth’s page jacket on fire and must replace it to save Kenneth’s job. However, when Jenna fails, Kenneth is forced to compete in a Page-Off. Tracy completely goes against Jack’s orders, forcing Jack to set up a group therapy session to help Tracy tackle his issues with authority. After Liz receives a non-leadership award from GE, she worries that her show’s sole purpose is to showcase GE products. Therefore, in an effort make her show edgier, Liz hires her comedic idol Rosemary Howard (Carrie Fisher) as a guest writer, much to the chagrin of Jack Donaghy. But when Jack fires both women, Liz starts to realize that she and her idol have very different priorities.

believe in the stars season 3, episode 2

Jenna and Tracy argue over whether white women or black men have it harder, and decide to take part in a Freaky Friday-esque “social experiment” to solve the dispute. Jack deals with an angry athlete who threatens to go public about fake Olympic events that NBC created to boost ratings. When Kenneth learns of the fake events, he loses all respect for Jack. On a flight back from Chicago, Liz decides to take some powerful sleeping pills, then finds herself sitting next to Oprah, and starts spilling all of her deepest, darkest secrets to the star. Oprah is quite willing to talk to Liz, and even offers to help Liz deal with the Jenna/Tracy situation. Liz is so excited that she tells everyone at about Oprah’s impending arrival. And when Oprah does visit the studio, everyone is shocked.

the bubble season 3, episode 15

Tracy’s contract is up, and Jack has taken it upon himself to personally negotiate the terms of Tracy’s new deal. Negotiations break down, and Tracy quits the show, forcing Jack to figure out the one thing that will bring Tracy back. Jenna decides to donate her hair to charity because she feels as though Tracy is hogging all the publicity. Liz is incredibly content in her new relationship with a handsome doctor named Drew (played by Jon Hamm). But then she starts to realize that he consistently receives preferential treatment, simply because he is good-looking.

klaus and greta season 4, episode 9

Jenna is asked to participate in a fake relationship with James Franco (played by…James Franco) in order to quash rumors that the actor is intimately involved with a Japanese body pillow. Liz outs her cousin Randy over the holidays, and when Randy comes to New York to stay with Liz, she tries to babysit her newly-liberated relative. Jack remembers that he left a drunken message on an old flame’s voicemail on New Year’s. But when he and Kenneth travel to Boston to erase it, Jack has second thoughts about hiding his true feelings.

honorable mentions

generalissimo season 3, episode 10

Tracy parties with the interns, but he quickly gets in over his head. Jack tries to impress his girlfriend Elisa’s (Salma Hayek) grandmother, but, despite his best efforts, she continues to dislike him because he resembles an evil character from her favorite telenovela. In a desperate attempt to control the show’s production, Jack buys the telenovela’s network and decides to kill off El Generalissimo. But getting rid of El Generalissimo proves harder than Jack anticipated. When Liz receives her neighbor’s (Jon Hamm) mail, she goes to his apartment to return it and seems to find her perfect man. Liz then decides to use El Generalissimo’s tactics to snare the man of her dreams.

gavin volure season 3, episode 4

Tracy is convinced that his children are going to kill him, so he obtains a Tracy Jordan sex doll from Japan to trick them. Jack and Liz attend a party at the home of Gavin Volure (Steve Martin), a wealthy businessman and presumed agorophobe. Gavin presents Jack with a new business venture, and Jack, in an effort to help Kenneth’s family, invests Kenneth’s entire savings into the business. Gavin also takes an extreme liking to Liz, but when Liz gets invited back to Gavin’s house, she finds out that things are not quite as they seem.

Yes, the list is heavy on the Season 3 episodes. Because those episodes are awesome. You may also see a theme here, so let me just beat you to the punch. Much like the Academy rewards actors for playing handicapped people, I reward episodes of 30 Rock for using Japanese sex toys as plot devices. I find them classy because they’re foreign.

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