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Scott D. Pierce
Scott D. Pierce writes about television for the Salt Lake Tribune. Vice president of the Television Critics Associationn, he's covered TV in Utah since 1990.

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Tina Fey as Liz Lemon in "30 Rock." -- (Photo by: Ali Goldstein/NBC)
'30 Rock' finale starts strong, grinds to a halt

The hourlong finale of "30 Rock" (7 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5) is entirely true to the spirit of the show.

It's full of inside TV jokes, including paying a whole lot of homage to series finales that have gone before. (No spoilers here. You'll have to watch.)

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It's true to the characters, weird as they are.

And ... while it starts out really funny ... it loses something along the way. The hour doesn't just wind down, it grinds to a halt.

If you haven't been watching lately - and, judging by the ratings, a lot of you have not - the fictional show-within-a-show, "TGS," has been canceled. Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) is trying to make a go of it as a stay-at-home mother of her two adopted kids while her husband, Criss (James Marsen), tries to adapt to the working world.

It's not really giving anything away to tell you that Liz was not cut out to be a fulltime mom.

Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) is the chairman of Kabletown. He's got all the money and power he ever desired, but he's just not happy. Huh.

Meanwhile, former NBC page Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) is now running the network; Jenna (Jane Krakowski) can't seem to find a way to continue her career; and Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) - in his bellicose way - can't seem to get over the fact that the show is over.

Well, not quite over. Seems 149 episodes of "TGS" have been produced, and Tracy's contract says NBC owes him $30 million if the series doesn't get to 150 episodes. So one final show - complete with a Hitler sketch - is put into production.

There are lots of farewells between the various regulars. Lots of gags, and more of them succeed than fail.

Fans of the show will like it. TV industry insiders will like it, because it's about them. TV critics will like it because it's about TV.

And that, to a large degree, explains how "30 Rock" won Emmys as best comedy series its first three years on the air.

Don't get me wrong. This was a very good TV show that was occasionally brilliant. But it was also hugely uneven, and went through long stretches when it completely lost its way.

At the end of the final episode of "TGS" - but not quite at the end of the final episode of "30 Rock" - Tracy is clearly speaking for both shows when he says, "That's our show. Not a lot of people watched it, but joke's on you. We got paid anyway."

Pretty funny ...

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