Is 30 Rock Aging Well?

The one great thing about having to wait so long for 30 Rock is that from now until May, we get new episodes of the show every single week.

The one downside about having to wait so long for 30 Rock to return is that we're getting a lot of 30 Rock all at once, and let's face it, that show isn't exactly in its prime. We're a third of the way into Season Six; how is the show holding up?

There's been a lot of talk lately about Liz Lemon's character. She's always been on the hapless and awkward side--that's just who she is. She's nowhere near the level of competency of her Thursday night counterpart, Leslie Knope. (My fangirl-self would love to see a crossover with Parks and Rec just to see Tina Fey and Amy Poehler join forces as Liz and Leslie, even though I know that's a terrible idea.) While Leslie Knope is currently trying--and for the most part succeeding--to have a satisfying job, political campaign, and adorable boyfriend, Liz Lemon can barely keep her longest friendship intact. Any small victory that 30 Rock gives Liz (like her negotiation with Jack, for instance) is undercut by something even worse, like last night when she realized that she was the "female Lutz." Ouch. And while there have always been references to Liz's age, I've noticed it even more this season.

Her mentor/mentee relationship with Jack has routinely been one of the show's strongest assets, but after six years, she shouldn't need to have Jack hold her hand every step of the way. There have been signs of Liz moving away from that dependency, but it remains to be seen if she'll keep her ground or if she'll come inching back to Jack's side where he can solve all of her major and minor life issues. Linda Holmes said of the show in her article, The Incredible Shrinking Liz Lemon, that "at its core, initially, was a likable, smart, profoundly flawed woman trying her hardest to navigate all manner of show-business nuttiness that surrounded her. Now, she just seems flattened and robbed of everything that made her relatable." Strong words, but there's a lot of truth to them.

Alec Baldwin once firmly asserted that he would only stay with the show for six seasons, but he has since agreed to stick around for a seventh if the show gets renewed. The odds are in its favor, even if the ratings this season have been on par with Community. (Hey, NBC, remember that show? All we want is a return date!) Baldwin's Jack Donaghy may not always be the funniest thing about the show, but it is certainly the most consistent. He's still the same fiend for business that he always was, but these days he also fulfills the role of a devoted father and husband. Without Jack as the lynchpin at 30 Rock, the show would probably crumble. Liz Lemon, in a winky nudge to the audience, said to Jack recently, "There's still room for growth in this relationship."

While I hate to be one of those writers that claims that the supporting characters have turned into caricatures of themselves, it's not far off. There are characters that are created to be caricatures, like Frank, and I have no problem with that. It's the supporting characters that once had potential that have gone awry. I absolutely hate what the show has done to Pete. He used to be one of my favorites and now I cringe every time he's on screen. Kenneth is basically a lost cause. I will, however, reluctantly defend the actions of Tracy and Jenna because so much of the show revolves around putting out the fires that they start.

Season Six is equipped with the usual spade of guest stars--some that work and some that haven't. I can't really complain about this because 30 Rock has always had an uneasy reputation with guest stars. (Remember David Schwimmer's Greenzo? Blerg.) I thought that Mary Steenburgen as Charlotte Jessup was a fantastic piece of casting. Her rapport with Jack Donaghy was really quite wonderful. On the other hand, we have these crazy pictures of Jim Carrey's upcoming turn. In the words of Tim Gunn, I'm a little concerned. James Marsden, playing Liz's boyfriend Criss Chros, hasn't been the most natural fit, but I can't say anything bad because he's like a puppy dog. Just look at that cute little face! We've also got Steve Buscemi returning as Private Investigator Lenny Wosniak and I'm very excited for that.

I'm not ready to say "Shut it down!" just yet. There's enough life left in 30 Rock that I'd rather have a diminished Season Seven than none at all. I'd love to hear how everybody feels about this season.