Cultural Commentator

Goodbye, Liz Lemon—Hello, Television Wasteland

Cultural Commentator

Goodbye, Liz Lemon—Hello, Television Wasteland

Liz Lemon
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2007 was a good year for TV. Battlestar was in its heyday. 30 Rock had found its footing. Mad Men and Breaking Bad blew my mind every week. Even better, the scheduling of those four shows meant that one of them was airing new episodes at any given time. There was always something to look forward to, and for two years, there were no dead spots.

Watching television week-to-week is more important to me than it is to most people. I have never gone in for binge-watching. It’s so rare to find a show to love—I don’t see the point in burning through it in in a weekend. Two days of pleasure is nothing compared to the anticipation that comes when a show is red-hot, and you have to wait for it to air. That’s seven days of impatience, anxiety and joy—all from 22 or 44 minutes of programming. I call that getting your money’s worth.

In 2007, those four shows were red-hot. I should have known it couldn’t last. Battlestar went first, self-immolating with a series finale that everyone besides me hated. Mad Men never delivered on the promise of its brilliant season three finale, plodding through a fourth season before disappearing for eighteen months—an absence that frittered away the last of its critical good will. Breaking Bad stayed strong the longest, peaking roughly here, and is currently in a Mad Men style netherzone. Splitting the final season over two years has flabbified the storytelling and disenchanted the audience. At this point, it’s my favorite TV show, and I wish it weren’t coming back. How sad is that?

And so, 30 Rock stands alone. Liz Lemon and co. haven’t been at the top of their game for years now—I think the “Queen of Jordan” episode was the official shark-jumper, don’t you?—but the show never stopped being comforting. It’s like The Simpsons, which I won’t quit no matter how bad it gets. I could watch another ten years of second-rate 30 Rock, but NBC, in their infinite wisdom, has decided to spare us that delight. The show dies on January 31st. Cherish it while you can. After 30 Rock lies only the waste.

Last summer, I charged through the first season of Homeland just in time for season two. Here, I thought, was a new standard to bear. Here is a show to look forward to. But season two fizzled, and I was left where I was before. There’s nothing on TV to look forward to. There’s only Netflix, which is as warm, cozy and exciting as freezing to death. Oh! And Louie. Almost forgot about Louie. When’s that coming back?