It’s hard to single out 30 Rock’s best episodes, since the NBC comedy is recognized as one of the best of all time. The concepts, characters, and 30 Rock running jokes mean there’s rarely a dull moment, and each episode is packed with guest stars and brilliant one-liners. But, we’ve narrowed down the best episodes from 30 Rock’s seven-season run and ranked them for you. Without further ado, here they are!
10. “Governor Dunston” (Season 7, Episode 2)
The plot of the first episode on our list revolves around a bumbling new Republican vice presidential candidate who looks exactly like Tracy. The governor is the perfect topic for a TGS sketch, but Jack and Liz’s agreement to tank NBC with bad sketches puts a damper on the writers’ room.
Liz and the writers are able to work around Jack’s “no politics” rule by using Dunston’s words verbatim—unfortunately, since Tracy is a beloved comedian, his performance makes the governor seem like a lovable dummy.
It feels eerily like 30 Rock predicted the future with the Governor Dunston storyline, especially if you watch any SNL Weekend Update clips from 2016-2020, which is why this episode is always remembered as one of my favorites.
Some A-plus B-plots from this episode include Kenneth’s mom (Catherine O’Hara) coming to town with her “friend” Ron (Bryan Cranston) and Liz organizing her sex life.
9. “Mamma Mia” (Season 3, Episode 21)
After Jack finds out that his father is not actually his biological dad, he enlists the help of his personal private investigator (Steve Buscemi) to determine who his real dad might be.
The PI brings back three possible candidates, so Liz proposes a “Mamma Mia” (meaning they’ll trick all three men into coming to New York to meet Jack). Take it from Liz, the expert on familial relationships:
The first man is Korean, and the second man is infertile after being injured in the line of duty—which means Jack’s father is Milton Greene, a liberal professor who’s nothing like Jack. It’s perfect timing, too—Milton needs a kidney, and Jack just might be a match.
The episode combines Jack’s moral dilemma with the story of Tracy connecting with his long lost “son,” who’s really a 40-year old man, making for an absurd but touching episode. Plus, without "Mamma Mia," we never would have heard the star-studded charity song "Kidney NOW!"
8. “Sandwich Day” (Season 2, Episode 14)
Sandwich Day: The most special lunch of the year, where all the teamsters pick up secret subs from a secret location.
But this sandwich day Floyd is coming back to town, so Liz is preoccupied. Tracy and the writers decide what Liz doesn’t know can’t hurt her, and they eat her sandwich.
When Liz realizes her sandwich is gone, she threatens the writers and Kenneth, saying she’ll cut them all chins if they don’t find a new sandwich for her.
This episode would have made the list based on that alone, but "Sandwich Day" really cements itself as 30 Rock gold when Liz slams her entire sandwich at TSA before chasing Floyd through the airport—because we CAN have it all!!!
7. “Succession” (Season 2, Episode 13)
In Season 2, Jack is poised to take over NBC as the replacement for longtime CEO Don Geiss. He has to pick his own replacement, though—who better to pick than his own mentee?
Liz is surprised to find out she actually likes the corporate life—she’s praised for doing minimal work, and the salary is seriously slap-worthy.
However, the star of this Season 2 episode is Tracy’s quest to create a pornographic video game. Frank insists it can’t be done—if it was possible, he would have done it already.
Tracy hits a stroke of genius and is able to do what Frank couldn’t—create the perfect porn game. The episode turns into a spoof of the Mozart biopic Amadeus, with Frank representing jealous rival composer Antonio Salieri. It’s genius writing, and definitely one of the most unforgettable moments of the entire series.
6. “Reunion” (Season 3, Episode 5)
Liz is a little nervous to return home for her high school reunion, so she invites Jack to tag along as her plus one. However, when she arrives, Liz learns that she wasn’t her high school’s lovable dork—she was the heartless bully.
Jack, on the other hand, grabs a name tag and poses as “Larry Braverman,” who happened to be Mr. Popular at Liz’s high school. Jack spends the night reminiscing on the good ol’ days (that never really happened) while Liz sulks.
At the end of the event, Liz’s classmates try to Carrie her on stage and a woman comes forward to share that Larry Braverman is the father of her son. Liz and Jack make a quick escape, but not before unleashing a few last nasty comments on the crowd.
You're sure to laugh out loud when you watch this episode for the first time. “Reunion” also includes my favorite “I want to go to there” of the whole series. I’d risk getting drenched in blood for a Longhorn Steakhouse gift card, too.
5. “Dealbreakers Talk Show #0001” (Season 4, Episode 7)
Liz finds her fifteen minutes of fame with “Dealbreakers,” a sketch about red flags when dating men. Due to the success of Liz’s catchphrase, Jack decides to greenlight a “Dealbreakers” talk show starring Liz herself.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of pressure on Jack and Liz for the show to do well, and it’s a lot easier said than done to be easy, breezy, and beautiful in front of the camera. The show tanks, but Jack is able to sell the footage from the opening credits to a soap opera.
Frank also prepares to become Liz’s replacement as head writer of TGS, but by the end of the episode he’s stressed and strung out and even wears his hair like Liz. The episode is stressful and hectic, but Liz’s awkwardness on camera makes this episode ridiculously funny.
Meanwhile, in one of my personal favorite plotlines, Tracy decides to EGOT.
4. “Brooklyn Without Limits” (Season 5, Episode 7)
30 Rock is known for nabbing high-profile guest stars, one of whom was Mad Men cast member John Slattery.
While Slattery is cool and collected as Roger Sterling, he’s comically crass as presidential hopeful Steven Austin, whose political beliefs include “no paved roads” and “legal slavery.”
Jack must wrestle with the moral dilemma of supporting an insane man for president just to support his own agenda, while Liz must do the same after finding the perfect pair of jeans. They’re from a really cool shop called Brooklyn Without Limits—which Jack informs her is actually owned by Haliburton.
Ultimately, Jack gives up his political scheme and Liz gets rid of the jeans, both taking the moral high ground for once. Jenna takes the moral high ground, too, when she drops her plan to get Tracy banned from the Golden Globes (despite being banned for life herself). Any episode where Jenna has a heart is one of the best in my book, but Slattery's guest appearance is what really makes this episode shine.
3. “The Bubble” (Season 3, Episode 15)
I truly think about this episode all the time. Liz’s new boyfriend, Drew (Jon Hamm), is a successful and handsome doctor who’s good at pretty much everything—or at least that’s what people tell him.
Liz tries to explain to Drew that he lives in a “bubble,” meaning people treat him differently because he’s beautiful. Jack tells Liz to enjoy the bubble, but it starts to become clear that Drew may have achieved some of his accomplishments strictly based on his looks. For example, he can’t do the heimlich on Liz when she’s choking (reminder: he’s a DOCTOR), and he can’t play tennis for shit, despite having worked as a tennis instructor.
Liz proves her point to Drew by asking a server for the ridiculous off-menu item Drew had wanted to order. The server can’t see Drew’s beautiful face, so she basically tells Liz to eff off. It’s an episode that will hit close to home if you’re not as beautiful as Jon Hamm, and arguably one of the show's all time best.
2. “Jackie Jormp Jomp” (Season 3, Episode 18)
In one of 30 Rock’s wackier plotlines, Jenna and Jack embark on the task of creating an unauthorized Janis Joplin biopic titled “Sing Dem Blues White Girl: The Jackie Jormp Jomp Story.” There’s a mixup during the promotion though, and Jenna’s death is accidentally announced at the Kid’s Choice Awards.
Jenna is very much alive, but Jack sees Jenna’s “posthumous” performance as a genius way to stir up intrigue for the film. They decide to produce a memorial for her on the TGS stage, but Jenna can’t resist the urge to sing in front of a live audience and jumps onstage. It’s incredibly cringey, but very on-brand for Jenna.
The whole Jackie Jormp-Jomp plot is one of my all-time favorites, but Jenna's memorial service is what really sends this episode over the edge. Who knew that a slow rendition of "Muffin Top" would be one of the best moments in the show's history?
Liz also accidentally joins a fight club.
1. “The Tuxedo Begins” (Season 6, Episode 8)
Exhausted by constantly trying to be an upstanding New Yorker, Liz gives up completely and decides to lean into the filth by posing as a crazy lady. Equipped with a wig, a hunchback, and a tupperware of stinky food to bring on the subway, Liz embraces her new role as a New Yorker people cross the street to avoid.
Jack is having a rough time as a New Yorker, too—after being mugged and feeling really emasculated, he decides to run for mayor (despite the fact that he’s too afraid to leave his office).
Jack and Liz square off in a battle of right vs. wrong—should they keep trying to make their city a better place? Or should they sink down further and join in the chaos?
Not to be outdone, Jenna’s story in this episode revolves around her and her boyfriend Paul “normaling,” a depraved new fetish where couples act completely normal. It’s a ridiculous episode from beginning to end, and the Batman motifs tie it all together beautifully—making "The Tuxedo Begins" one of the funniest bits of television of all time.
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She/her. Lover of female-led comedies, Saturday Night Live, and THAT scene in Fleabag. Will probably get up halfway through the movie to add more butter to the popcorn.
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