The end of 30 Rock tonight doesn't just mean happy endings for Jack, Liz, and all of the familiar members of the TGS crew. It also means the last we'll see from 30 Rock's vast universe of side characters, the families and girlfriends and boyfriends of our main characters as well as the random recurring roles who help make this world uniquely bizarre and fun to visit. 30 Rock's tendency to cram in jokes and flashbacks means that a ton of actors have appeared on the show, some of them as one-note jokes that grew into actual roles and some of them in short arcs that brought in famous people just long enough to advertise them and send them on their way.
But only some of those recurring characters truly made their impact. And only 20 of them have made this highly scientific (read: deeply personal) list, in which I rank the top recurring characters of 30 Rock. To qualify for the list the characters had to appear on at least two different episodes (sorry, Greenzo and Pam the Spunky Tween) and fewer than 25 (Jonathan, Dot Com and Grizz, much as I love them, were too big on the show). And the characters had to be memorable, with a single good joke you could instantly remember, or a major impact on one of the main characters that could be felt even when they were offscreen.
Obviously some excellent characters had to be left off, and some insane choices in the rankings had to be made. But this is my list, not yours. Take a look below, and let me know in the comments which of your favorite recurring 30 Rock characters you'll miss the most once the show is off the air.
#20: Bianca Donaghy (Isabella Rossellini) Because she appeared so early in the show's run, for just two episodes in the first season, it's easy to forget the amazing fact that Isabella Rossellini was on 30 Rock. But as the first of Jack's love interests that we ever met, and by far the most alluring and mysterious, Bianca established Jack as a worldly character in direct contrast to crazy Liz-- while also revealing a weird streak, what with the Arby's franchise outside Telluride. Bianca didn't get to be part of 30 Rock's golden years, but she was definitely a strong sign of the goodness to come.
#19: Verna Maroney (Jan Hooks) Jenna's trashy background, from the Royal Tampa Academy of Dramatic Tricks education to the mall Santa father who abandoned her, was so well-established by the fourth season that it seemed impossible her mom could actually live up to it. But as Verna, crashing her daughter's birthday party for her own attention and making them matching denim jackets, Jan Hooks was exactly the mom you thought Jenna grew up with-- domineering, constantly insincere, and 100% Florida. She may not have had the staying power of Jack's mom (we'll get to her later), but she and Colleen could probably take over the world if given the chance.
#18: Paula Hornberger (Paula Pell) Paula only appears in a handful of episodes, probably because Paula Pell was busy as a writer on SNL, but it's her threat that looms over Pete that makes her so funny. Pete might be more terrorized by his kids, but Paula has way more power of him, both sexually appealing and completely domineering when she was to be. And in season 2's "Greenzo," Pete's afternoon delight with his wife-- using a Pop-Tart, for some reason-- is both awkward and unforgettable.
#17: Subhas (Subhas Ramsaywack) Played by an actual janitor working at Silvercup Studios, where 30 Rock is filmed, Subhas is a minor enough character that he can be the subject of just about any joke-- a scattershot kind of character development that makes him totally bizarre and fascinating. Subhas identifies with the gay community, as we learn when the show is protested by gay rights groups, and Kenneth explains "Sex is a continuum, and he is but a voyager on a vast ocean of pleasure." He is also married to Ann Curry. In "Khonani," Subhas helped re-enact the Jay/Conan late night wars with a battle over the first janitorial shift. Subhas may not make sense as a human being, but as texture to the weird world of 30 Rock, he's perfect.