Goodbye to 30 Rock, and MILF Island, Queen of Jordan, and all its faux reality

NBC’s 30 Rock aired its final episode last night, and while the hour-long episode did not feature any reality TV parodies, it did reference Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio, who Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon referred to as “that bald salad-ruiner.”

Over its seven years, 30 Rock used its absurd, over-the-top characters for everything from incisive social commentary to jokes at its corporate parents’ expense. But I’ll remember it most for its great references to reality television, whether they were just titles or full-blown parody episodes: MILF Island, America’s Next Top Pirate, America’s Next Top Black Guy, I’m a Celebrity Dog: Get Me Out Arf Here, or Are You Stronger Than a Dog?.

Here’s America’s Kidz Got Singing, which is so close to being a clip of America’s Got Talent it’s disturbing:

Along with 30 Rock’s many references to NBC and Bravo’s reality TV shows and strategy, the sitcom also gave us two full episodes of The Real Housewives parody Queen of Jordan. Even if the parody couldn’t quite match the original, the episodes offered a lot of wit and intelligence (“My single ‘My Single is Dropping’ is dropping”).

30 Rock lost me in its middle years, and I never loved it like I loved The Office in its early years or love Parks and Recreation now. It was funny and smart and well-acted, but kept me at arm’s length with its knowing jokes and frequent breaking of the fourth wall. Its universe was intentionally more cartoonish than authentic, and I never bought into the world as something grounded in any kind of reality.

Still, 30 Rock–and its commentary on reality television, never mind great ideas for shows–will be missed. Perhaps NBC will let the show’s memory live on by greenlighting MILF Island as a summer series.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.