What 30 Rock can teach us about love.

imagesWhile our pre-marital counseling was superb, there are some things it didn’t teach us. It didn’t teach us that my tears would double if confronted with logic and cold hard facts; it didn’t explain the mathematical mystery that is the amount of laundry James makes; it didn’t resolve our irreconcilable differences when it comes to cheese (me – stinky or from a goat, James — orange and solid). And it did not inform us the incalculable benefit of Netflix.

Listen up couples, or anyone who has to live with someone else, here is some advice of pure gold: find a TV show you like watching together. Because sometimes you are too tired to talk about your day but still want to hang out together. Sometimes it is cold and dreary outside and you are broke and there is nothing else to do. Sometimes you can really bond over long debates about which character is the best and how they would respond in hypothetical situations in the real world. Sometimes watching all of the seasons of a show in the rapid succession that is the miracle of Netflix will just make you get all weepy and know you married a winner.

Currently, we are at a loss and accepting new recommendations, because on Sunday we finished the final episode of 30 Rock, after which I stretched out on the couch and sobbed. There is so much to love about this show, from its quirky humor and perfectly quotable one-liners, to its utter devotion to repeat a joke throughout all 7 seasons, to its perfect character development and the wonder that is Liz and Jack’s relationship.

[Spoiler alert: Endings of several shows and movies might be ruined if you keep reading. Consider yourself warned.]

I will admit, the first couple seasons I was hardcore hoping for Jack and Liz to fall in love. I have been conditioned by every aspect of our society to root for a love story, the love story, the one where friends wake up one day and realize that they are in head-over heels, forever kind of love. I, like all of us, have learned that romantic love is the ultimate love, the one that trumps all other kinds.

But somewhere around season 4, I stopped wanting that, maybe because I realized that it really wasn’t there. The question that When Harry Met Sally taught us all to ask – can a man and a woman actually be friends? – was ignored as irrelevant and replaced by a better question: can a platonic friendship be so deep and wonderful that it sustains 7 series of television?

Yes, yes it can.

And when Jack told Liz he loved her in those final moments, I cried. I cried because that ending eclipsed her recent marriage and adoption of Tracey and Jenna twins. I cried because it was a beautiful declaration of deep and abiding love that hadn’t the slightest twinge of sexuality or romance. I cried because that’s a love our culture needs to talk more about.

I felt the same way when we finished 24, when you realize that the relationship you were pushing for wasn’t the one between Jack and whatever women he loved at the moment (and who would shortly be killed or maimed), but the totally platonic love between him and Chloe, two friends never dreaming of more. If the producers sully this beautiful bond in the new season, it will ruin it for me.

And I cheered at the end of Frozen, when the true love that could save wasn’t the love between Anna and the man she has known for all of an adventurous hiking trip, but that of her love for her sister. True love doesn’t have to be romantic, doesn’t have to be sexual, doesn’t have to be a married couple. I know that Frozen has gotten some backlash for supposedly pushing various liberal agendas, but I would like it to get a little more attention for pushing one very important agenda: there are valuable types of loves outside of romance, and they are not second rate.

When I look around our culture, I think this is a message we need to hear. We often glorify marriage and somehow manage to devalue all other sorts of love. Don’t get me wrong, I love being married and I have learned a lot about love from marriage. But this egocentric notion that claims that you only understand love when you are married, or only understand love when you are a parent, sure explains why we have such a screwed up cultural view of love. We should all be learning how better to love from whatever position we are at in life. I have single friends, or childless friends, or single mother friends, who are loving others around them in a rich and full way. As my friend Bethany quipped, “Good thing Jesus managed to love people unselfishly without getting married and having a baby. There’s hope for the singles out there. We’re not doomed to a life of selfishness.”

And that’s why I found 30 Rock so valuable. The final season builds to a couple episodes where Liz Lemon sees what love really looks like. Sometimes it looks like getting married to your hot-dog truck driving boyfriend. Sometimes it looks like him selling his hot-dog truck so you can adopt and be a parent. But sometimes it looks like your best friend yelling he loves you from the boat he just bought after quitting his dream job.

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40 Responses to What 30 Rock can teach us about love.

  1. Abigail says:

    Try “Parks & Rec.” That’s what I watched after finishing 30 Rock. Stick with it, all the way. Season 1 they are getting their footing, but by 2 it’s hit it’s stride, and Season 3-now are amazing. One thing I really appreciate about the show is that, for most of the characters, their love life isn’t a game of “will-they-won’t-they,” but they just… get together. And they stay together. And it portrays their relationships and marriages as real, perfect, flawed, beautiful.

  2. Sharalyn says:

    Bones, Once Upon a Time (we just had a twist like what you’re talking about), Frasier

  3. Nicki says:

    The Office! I had never seen it and Mike owned the first four seasons or so on DVD, so we started with the first season and watched all nine of them over our first year of dating. I think we watched the finale over our anniversary weekend and I bawled like a big baby (for both the ending and how meaningful watching it together had been for us). For lighthearted relaxation, we watch Modern Family. Mike has always been a big fan of Parks & Rec, and I’ve never watched, so I think that might be next for us.

    • Hannah says:

      I watched Season 3 devotedly and sporadically from then on out, but I should probably just go back and watch it all from the beginning. Thank you Netflix for making these binges possible!

  4. Bekah says:

    What a great post! Such truth.
    Be wary of Parks and Rec. I speak from being the biggest and most dedicated Parks and Rec fan out there- one of my bachelorette parties was spent visiting different places they’ve filmed the show. No lie. So: you can ignore season one (or go back to it once you know the characters). Halfway through season 2 and all of season 3 are some of the best television out there. It remains its grasp of being a fantastic show in season 4 but starts to lose its footing, making season 5 and the most recent season 6 just not good. Sure there are moments and just maybe a full episode or two that are great, but as a whole, they were better at the beginning. (This isn’t to say I won’t continue to watch it until its last days. I am, after all, the biggest and most dedicated Parks and Rec fan out there.) You will probably like Amy Poehler’s character quite a bit once you get to know her.
    Now, Modern Family has been great since the beginning and is still great now, 5 seasons in. The characters are very well defined, it makes me laugh out loud almost every episode (a difficult feat, I am really not one for humor), and it has those fun jokes that they keep around every season.
    Also, Jeremy and I have been watching Friends straight through and it has been SO much fun, “because sometimes you are too tired to talk about your day but still want to hang out together.” We’ve been spending many a night on the couch with all of the Friends.

    • Hannah says:

      We just started Parks and Rec and I love it!

      And would you judge me for saying that I have only ever seen one episode of Friends??? Must correct this.

  5. Susannah says:

    Definitely Parks and Rec. Leslie and Ron have that excellent platonic relationship that Liz and Jack have. It’s just perfect.

  6. Lauren says:

    AH! Parks and Rec FOREVER! Amy Poehler said that her friendship with Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) was the true love story of the show. I just love that! And this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsABTmT1_M0

    And this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OhJJR8nBl4

    Oh Tom. I love your ridiculousness.
    Don’t even get me started on The Office. 🙂

    Also LOVE: Felicity, Alias, Lost. Really any J.J. Abrams…
    and New Girl is best when binge-watched.

  7. Lauren says:

    AH! And Friday Night Lights! Texas Forever.

  8. redhairedrebel says:

    This great. I especially loved the paragraph of reasons for watching through a TV show together–all so very true. Especially the long debates about characters; having someone who will talk about fictional characters as if they are real is awesome. You kind of made my day with this; I am so glad other couples bond over shows, because we certainly have (that and reading together), but so often it seems ridiculous when you try to explain that to other people.

  9. Now I think I’m going to need to watch 30 Rock…. Sold.
    I love the line about “sometimes you are too tired to talk about your day but still want to hang out together”. That is K and I to a T. We’ve watched Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Breaking Bad… All beginning to end. We’re currently making our way through Curb Your Enthusiasm, Mad Men which is currently in its final season, and we catch Big Bang Theory reruns and new episodes whenever possible. We’ve watched a few seasons of 24 but I got kinda tired of it. K liked it though, so I should be a good wife and pick it back up.

    • Hannah says:

      I loved it so much!

      Ok, so we tried to start Breaking Bad this past weekend and I was just so stressed out I could barely handle it. I think I’m going to have to wait until summer mellows me to give it another shot. SO STRESSFUL.

  10. bkjergaard says:

    Love this! That was my favorite night in DC: watching my favorite show with two of my favorite people. Also, watch Hannibal. Also features an unconventional friendship, and if you think of Hannibal like Milton’s Lucifer it bumps it up a notch.

  11. savjarratt says:

    rules of engagement and how I met your mother are both great additions to the list, too!

  12. Stephanie says:

    Well said girl! The hubby and I recently watched all of Lost (cause I’d never seen it), we also like Parks and Rec, and Big Bang Theory, and we’re currently trying to finish up Psych. Also, Orange is the New Black is a must-see if you haven’t, as well as Firefly.

    • Hannah says:

      James insists that he never watched Lost because “all my favorite people died in the plane crash.” AND THEN THE LAST SEASON CAME OUT AND I WAS ALL — “THEY ARE ALL BACK NOW!!!”

  13. beckydancer says:

    Great post! I completely agree that non-romantic love relationships are completely undervalued. In movies, especially, there are so many times that the movie throws in a love interest when it’s just a secondary thing with no real purpose. Most recently I remember thinking that Matt Damon’s love interest in “We Bought a Zoo” was totally moot. The movie was not at all about romance. It would have been just as good without it (or better).

    My favorite series: The Wire and 6 Feet Under – both dramas and amazing shows.

  14. Gretchen says:

    Psych and White Collar! Two of the best shows ever………

  15. I absolutely love this post, and I one thousand percent agree that romantic/sexual or parent/child/family love are NOT the only types out there, and, perhaps, not even the most common types. My BFF and I met in 8th grade and have loved and cared for each other for more than half of our lives, we never dated, never snuggled, held hands, nada. And so many people are shocked that we have created and maintained a lasting, caring, intimate male-female relationships for so long…but I guess I just don’t really understand why you wouldn’t WANT to maintain that kind of friendship, ya know?

    Lots to think about here, thank you for this!

  16. Katie says:

    Try Psych or Scrubs (I’m half convinced they’re the same show, just one’s about a hospital and the other’s about a detective. Note: oddball guy with great hair protagonist, relatively normal best pal/sidekick getting dragged into the middle, cold/tough supervisor-figure, smart and witty blonde love interest…) My husband and I also went on a spree with Rules of Engagement and then Malcolm in the Middle. Totally different shows, all totally funny. And I thoroughly agree: sometimes watching a show and laughing for twenty-two minutes is the best thing for a marriage, when you want to be together but are all out of conversational energy.

    • Hannah says:

      I’m pretty sure that bonding over mutual love and Scrubs accounts for 50% of how James and I got together. I LOVE it. That final episode ever KILLED ME.

  17. Callie Troyer says:

    Since we got married, Brian and I have watched every episode of Friends straight through, then the Office, then Sherlock, and then How I Met Your Mother (except season 9 because we finished the first 8 seasons juuuust too late to watch season 9 in “real time”…maybe we are taking this “find a show together” thing a little too seriously? haha). We recently tried Parks and Rec but it was, to us, merely a terrible spin-off of the Office. We also tried Arrested Development, but it was literally more boring than watching a minute-by-minute account of our own normal life, which meant we didn’t even make it through the first episode. Our new trial show is Parenthood, which is apparently amazing, and after the first episode it is at least better than most. However, I would definitely recommend any of the series we have finished so far. Although I’m still struggling to deal with the fact that no show will ever be as good as Friends…

    • Hannah says:

      We LOVE Parenthood! Or at least, I do. James loved the first 3 seasons and then it got too dramatic and angsty for him.

      I really have go to try out Friends!

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  19. Haylie says:

    Favorite 30 Rock quote, “I’m gonna go talk to some food about this…” – Liz Lemon (of course)

  20. Haylie says:

    Um. SCRUBS is essential to your life and you must go watch it now. (Sorry for posting twice… but I had to tell you about Scrubs.) Also, I had a baby and am inadmissibly behind on my fav blogs, which is the other reason I’m just now commenting on this…………. in case you wondered. ;D

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