The cult of TV brilliance, like a runner on third with less than two outs, demands sacrifice. What unites classic, obsessed-over shows like Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, and Arrested Development isn't just their sparkling dialogue; it's their martyrdom. All three were shows that had plenty of time to be great but not nearly enough to disappoint. The unrealized promise of all the jokes and seasons we, as fans, were denied helps prop up the legend and maintain the purity of the sect. It's not enough to love the episodes we did get; one must also burn with resentment for all the ones we were denied. Like James Dean, Kurt Cobain, or Four Loko, the most fiercely beloved TV shows tend to be the ones that died too soon.
But not 30 Rock. Despite ticking all the boxes for early cancellation — too smart, too funny, too New York (at least it wasn't burdened with Justin Bartha) — 30 Rock is the rare cult show that survived. No — it thrived. For seven seasons it churned out brilliant jokes with the efficacy and precision of a finely calibrated fart machine. It invented holidays and catchphrases. It tangled bravely with race and ludicrously with celebrity. Snakes were tamed and sharks were loosed. Ghostface Killah rapped about muffins. Muppets sang at a funeral. At its worst it was good. At its best it was transcendent. It's not enough to say that 30 Rock didn't die. Its whole life was thunder.