Picking favorites when it comes to “30 Rock” is an awful proposition because the whole series, barring a handful of exceptions, remains an extremely watchable and fascinating comedic journey. But with the show leaving Netflix at the beginning of October (and thus becoming completely unstreamable), we find ourselves in the unfortunate position of having to choose favorites.
Twenty-five episodes equates to less than 10 hours, so you should be able to make the time before September 30. And the adventures of Liz Lemon, Tracy Jordan, Jenna Maroney, Jack Donaghy, and beyond are worth it.
“Tracy Does Conan”
Season 1, Episode 7
The first season of “30 Rock” was a bit rocky, but “Tracy Does Conan” does a few important things: It introduces Dr. Leo Spaceman (Chris Parnell), casts Conan O’Brien as himself, and features Aubrey Plaza as an NBC page (a job she actually held in real life). More importantly, it features a breathless sense of anarchy, especially in the later acts, which became a true hallmark of the series. “Tracy Does Conan” gave us our first real glimpse of the brilliance in store.
Season 1, Episode 20
“30 Rock’s” complicated relationship with New York really got showcased here, as Liz Lemon confronts the idea that maybe life outside the Big Apple could be a whole lot better. It’s also a great episode featuring Floyd (Jason Sudeikis), one of Liz’s better boyfriends.
Season 2, Episode 1
Not just a brilliant bit of stunt-casting, but a brilliant commentary on stunt-casting, “Seinfeld Vision” brought Jerry Seinfeld back to NBC with “Bee Movie” jabs and some pretty killer in-jokes.
Season 2, Episode 4
An Emmy-nominated episode paired with an amazing Carrie Fisher performance makes this one of the indelible episodes of the series. An installment rich with valuable life advice like “Never go with a hippie to a second location,” it’s also an episode that really defines Liz as both a woman and a writer — the combination of which was always one of the show’s strongest themes.
Season 2, Episode 11
For a show that loved to riff on pop culture, “MILF Island” was one of “30 Rock’s” most brilliant early inventions, and its showcase here (including the appearance of Rob Huebel as the pitch-perfect host) was brilliant in how it blends the season finale of NBC’s latest reality TV hit with a crazy night in the “TGS” offices.
Season 2, Episode 13
It’s the rare broadcast sitcom that will indulge an extended “Amadeus” homage, but “30 Rock” was always the rarest of broadcast sitcoms. Invoking the parody in multiple storylines, plus the classic Liz Lemon declaration of “SUCK IT MONKEYS, I’M GOING CORPORATE” makes this episode truly unforgettable.
Season 2, Episode 14
Subverting cliches and celebrating great sandwiches, this episode is a perennial favorite. Never forget:
Season 3, Episode 10
Jack’s ill-fated romance with Elisa Pedrera (Salma Hayek) features plenty of comedic highs, but the discovery that the star of Elisa’s grandmother’s favorite telenovela was his doppleganger made this episode unforgettable, in part because Alec Baldwin truly transforms himself to play Hector Moreda. Elements of the telenovela parody invoke “Jane the Virgin” at its best, years before its premiere, while Liz’s blossoming romance with Dr. Drew Baird (Jon Hamm) gets the spotlight.
Season 3, Episode 15
The concept introduced here — that a person might be too attractive to actually behave like a decent human being — is genuinely fascinating, and Jon Hamm turns in one of the decade’s great comedic performances. You truly end up emphasizing with him, even while totally understanding Liz’s choices. So beautiful. So dumb.
Season 4, Episode 4
One of “30 Rock’s” most meta installments acknowledges a recent casting shift while also showcasing the show’s talented ensemble and finding some hilarious opportunities for cameos.
“Dealbreakers Talk Show #0001”
Season 4, Episode 7
Worth it just for Tina Fey’s Smeagol/Gollum impression, though the way it tackles how the industry can tear apart female talent is equally laudable. Also, Tracy Jordan begins his quest to EGOT, one of his best storylines.
“Anna Howard Shaw Day”
Season 4, Episode 13
It’s Liz Lemon versus Valentine’s Day, and Valentine’s Day wins. But Liz Lemon puts up a good fight, especially when confronted by hallucinations of her former lovers.
“Lee Marvin vs. Derek Jeter”
Season 4, Episode 17
Beyond a heartfelt confession from Liz Lemon that truly defined her inner passion for romance, this episode also showcases the season-long love triangle between Jack, Avery (Elizabeth Banks), and Nancy (Julianne Moore), one which was series-defining.