To say Liz Lemon and Jenna Maroney of 30 Rock are the picture of an ideal friendship would be an exaggeration. In fact, Liz and Jenna are, in many ways, terrible friends to each other. Liz lies to Jenna to make her happy, and then talks about Jenna behind her back, while Jenna often makes Liz’s life as a television producer way more difficult by refusing to come out of her dressing room or work with another blonde actress. Liz and Jenna are actually the picture of a utilitarian friendship. Liz Lemon is a workaholic, Jenna a self-centered diva. They’re both so absorbed in their own lives that they don’t have time for any sort of healthy relationship, but they have each other, goddammit.
Behind all of their workplace drama, there is a kernel of caring in the Liz-Jenna dynamic. They’re both successful now, but they’ve been there for each other since the beginning, as roommates trying to make it in the Chicago comedy scene. Liz in the audience for all of Jenna’s terrible plays, and Jenna was there for the disastrous end of Liz’s relationship with the head instructor of a clowning academy.
Once they make it in the entertainment business, it’s clear that they don’t always fit together perfectly. Like a lot of people who meet in their 20s, their interests have diverged. When they go to their girls’ lunches, their conversations tend to be one-sided. But despite all this, they still watch out for each other. Jenna is still trying to help Liz out of dead-end relationships, and Liz does what she can to nudge Jenna’s career along, supporting her through obvious losers like Mystic Pizza: The Musical.
The reason I like Liz and Jenna’s relationship so much is that it acknowledges that as a grown-up, sometimes being a good friend is hard. You’ll make a lot of missteps, including letting your friend fall out of a Peter Pan harness or tricking them into walking into PETA’s red paint throwers. Occasionally, you’ll prioritize your career over your friend. With their demanding careers, Liz and Jenna have to have a different kind of friendship, but with understanding and a sense of humor, it works.