Universal // 2008 // 486 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // September 22nd, 2009
"There are only two things I love in this world: everybody and television." -- Kenneth Parcell
The third season of one the funniest, fastest shows ever created for TV is now out on DVD? I want to go to there.
Here are the episodes that make up 30 Rock's third season:
Liz (Tina Fey, Mean Girls) tries to stop the cast and crew of The Girly Show from screwing up her interview with a woman from an adoption agency (guest star Megan Mullaly, Will & Grace); Jack (Alec Baldwin, The Cooler) struggles with a moral question while working his way back up from the mail room.
* "Believe in the Stars" Liz is starstruck when she's seated next to Oprah Winfrey on a flight; Jenna (Jane Krakowski, Alfie) and Tracy (Tracy Morgan, Superhero Movie) conduct a social experiment to see who's more discriminated against; Jack tries to break Kenneth's (Jack McBrayer, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) moral resolve.
* "The One with the Cast of Night Court"
Liz's old college friend (Jennifer Aniston, Along Came Polly) comes for a visit and hits it off with Jack, against Liz's advice; Tracy helps Jack fulfill a lifelong dream -- to finally see the finale of Night Court that never was. Harry Anderson, Charles Robinson and Markie Post (who looks awesome, by the way) all appear.
* "Gavin Volure"
Liz begins dating an eccentric agoraphobe (Steve Martin, Shopgirl); Tracy thinks his kids are trying to kill him; Jack presents Kenneth with an investment opportunity.
Liz brings Jack to her high school reunion; Don Geiss (Rip Torn, Trial & Error) finally wakes from his coma and announces the new CEO of GE.
* "Christmas Special"
Jack's mother (Elaine Stritch, Small Time Crooks) comes for a visit and brings her usual brand of holiday cheer; the staff of TGS prepares a holiday show; Liz sets out to do charity work.
* "Senor Macho Solo"
Liz takes interest in a new man (guest star Peter Dinklage, The Station Agent); Jack falls in love with his mother's nurse, Elisa (Salma Hayek, Desperado); Jenna prepares to audition for a Janis Joplin biopic.
* "Flu Shot"
Liz tries to get the staff of TGS to take flu shots; Jack tries to find creative ways to spend time with Elisa.
* "Retreat to Move Forward"
Jack brings Liz along to a corporate retreat; Kenneth tries to keep a newly-diagnosed-as-diabetic Tracy away from sugar.
Jack works overtime to win over Elisa's grandmother; Liz has eyes for a new neighbor, Dr. Drew (Jon Hamm, Madmen); laid-off Wall Street brokers get jobs as interns at TGS.
* "St. Valentine's Day"
Liz and Dr. Drew have their first date with the added pressure of Valentine's Day; Jack and Elisa spend time in church; Tracy plays Cyrano when Kenneth falls for a new staff member; everyone enjoys a McFlurry.
* "Larry King"
Liz and Kenneth make a pilgrimage to Queens to retrieve her stolen cell phone; Jack considers his future with Elisa; Tracy makes a series of outrageous proclamations on Larry King Live.
* "Goodbye, My Friend"
Liz tries to win over a teenager to adopt her baby; Jack helps to reinvent Frank (Judah Friedlander, Feast) as a slick lawyer.
* "The Funcooker"
Liz is called away to jury duty, leaving the staff of The Girly Show to fend for themselves; Jack searches for a name for GE's tiny microwave.
* "The Bubble"
Liz realizes that Dr. Drew's looks may have warped reality for him; Jack renegotiates Tracy's contract.
* "Apollo, Apollo"
Liz's ex-boyfriend Dennis (Dean Winters, Love Rome) confesses a transgression in his past involving Jenna; Jack sets out to recreate his happiest childhood memory.
The entire staff of TGS in on edge after learning about potential layoffs, so Liz takes matters into her own hands.
* "Jackie Jormp-Jomp"
Suspended from TGS, Liz begins hanging out with a group of socialite women; the entertainment world is abuzz with the news of Jenna's death -- even though she's alive.
* "The Ones"
Jack goes to Tracy for marriage advice after deciding to pop the question to Elisa; Elisa confesses to Liz that she's harboring a secret.
* "The Natural Order"
After being disciplined at work, Tracy becomes determined to begin acting more professionally and insists that Liz do the same; Jack's mother drops a bombshell about his real father.
* "Mamma Mia"
Jack searches for his real father; Tracy's illegitimate son shows up, but may be a fraud; Jenna and Liz fight when Jenna takes credit for Liz's work. Guest starring Alan Alda (Everyone Says I Love You).
* "Kidney Now!"
Jack organizes a benefit for his dad, featuring Sheryl Crow, Adam Levine, Clay Aiken, Norah Jones, Elvis Costello, Cyndi Lauper and others; Liz becomes a relationship expert; Tracy is invited to speak at the graduation of his alma mater.
There's very little that can still be said in praise of Tina Fey's brilliant show-behind-a-show 30 Rock that hasn't already been said. For a sitcom, it's been almost ridiculously praised by the critical community and cleaned up time and again at awards shows. It outlasted its NBC counterpart, the similarly-themed (but differently executed) Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (both shows take place behind the scenes of a Saturday Night Live-like sketch series, but 60 barely made it to the end of its first and only season). It was created by and stars the untouchable Tina Fey, who still hasn't really made a misstep in her seemingly blessed career. In short, 30 Rock has everything going for it.
The thing that's really impressive about 30 Rock is that it hit the ground running and has never looked back; like Arrested Development (the show that I can most easily compare it to) before it, there was no real learning curve. The show was incredibly strong right out of the gate, meaning that Season Three may not necessarily be better than previous seasons, but it's at least as good -- and that's saying a lot. Because the series is so dependent on an almost relentless assault of jokes and gags, the characters don't necessarily deepen or change all that much. It's not necessarily a bad thing, because every character is so well-defined and played pitch perfectly by one of the best ensembles on TV (Baldwin, in particular, is funny with almost every single line). I do like that Liz and Jack's relationship has evolved over time -- they're no longer in battle with one another, but have developed a mutual respect and genuine fondness for each other. One of my favorite moments of Season Three comes in the first episode, as Liz lingers a little too long while looking at Jack in his office ("I just like seeing you in there," she says). It's a moment of sentimentality made all the more poignant because of how rare moments like that are on the show.
30 Rock draws a lot of fire for its heavy reliance on guest stars and stunt casting, and on another show I'd be willing to concede that point (it's the kind of thing that grew very tiresome on a show like Friends). But 30 Rock makes such creative use of its guest stars (the show built around Oprah Winfrey is absolutely inspired in the way it has fun with the cult of Oprah while still messing with her image, and the punchline is a thing of beauty) and gives them such interesting things to do that I can overlook what's essentially a stunt. While Salma Hayek never seems to fit in, other guest actors have never been better; Jennifer Aniston, for one, is vibrant and funny for maybe the first time, as far as I'm concerned. Alan Alda's casting works not just because he's funny but because of who he is -- he brings baggage to the show that makes him even funnier than any other aging white male might have been.
The 22 episodes that make up 30 Rock: Season Three are spread out over three discs, with each episode presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer. Similar to the boost in quality in TV shows themselves over the last eight years or so, the way shows are being shot and reproduced on DVD keeps getting better. 30 Rock is consistently bright and slick, but never overly-so; it's a great-looking TV show that looks great on DVD. The 5.1 audio track mixes the beyond-snappy dialogue with the show's bouncy musical score (composed by creator and star Tina Fey's husband). Even better is that there's no laugh track intruding on the proceedings.
There are a considerable number of extras included on the 30 Rock: Season Three DVD set. Most are contained on the third disc, save for the commentaries which are spread throughout. Here's a rundown of what you'll get:
Commentaries: Several episodes get commentary tracks from different incarnations of cast and crew: Tina Fey teams up with husband Jeff Richmond, a producer on the show and the man responsible for the score. Their conversations are pretty subdued with long gaps in between talking, but when they do liven up there are some interesting things pointed out. Stars Jack McBrayer and Jane Krakowski pair up from some giggly, jokey and not-very-funny tracks; Alan Alda goes solo and so on. Of all the bonus features on the set, the commentary tracks are probably the biggest letdown.
Deleted Scenes: A collection of very brief scenes, most featuring one or two cut jokes at most. They're amusing if you're a fan, but hardly required viewing. There's about six minutes of deleted scenes in total, and -- annoyingly -- there is no "Play All" option.
Behind the Scenes with the Muppets: A short assembly of "making of" footage from the episode where Kenneth hallucinates the staff of TGS as muppets. It's nothing that interesting, but you do get to see how the shots where staged and built around the puppeteers.
1-900-OKFACE: The full clip of Liz Lemon's chat line commercial. Hilarious and a welcome addition.
"Kidney Now!" Table Read: Video footage of the staff and cast's table read of the Season Three finale, presented side by side with the script. It's cool to see how the script changed somewhat between this stage and the finished episode; ditto for the way the actors tweaked their performances and made them even funnier.
Making of "He Needs a Kidney": More backstage footage of the star-studded tribute song featured in "Kidney Now!"
Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery: Just what it sounds like.
Alec Baldwin's SNL Monologue: This is a neat inclusion. It's Baldwin's SNL monologue from his hosting gig in 2009, and it's especially 30 Rock-centric because it also features Jack McBrayer. It's not hilarious, but I like when DVDs include little touches like this.
Tracy Jordan Rant: A fake off-camera rant from Tracy Morgan in character. Ha?
Awards Acceptance Speeches: Another little inclusion like the SNL bit that made me happy, this is just Fey and Baldwin's Emmy acceptance speeches from 2008 and Tracy Morgan's acceptance (on behalf of the entire show) from the 2009 Golden Globes. It may seem a little self-congratulatory, but the speeches themselves are fun enough that you overlook it. Tracy Morgan's, in particular, is pretty brilliant and ought to be preserved.
With 30 Rock packaged together on NBC's Thursday night lineup alongside The Office, it isn't just the best hour of comedy on TV right now -- it might be my favorite hour of TV period. If forced to make a choice between the two, I'd say that The Office edges out 30 Rock because it has a stronger emotional center and is more about characters than gags -- though this is precisely the reason a lot of people will prefer 30 Rock, and I can't fault them. In terms of sheer comedy and jokes-per-minute, it's the first legitimate successor to Arrested Development that we've had on TV. Season Three shows no signs of 30 Rock slowing down, and I can't wait for Season Four.
Review content copyright © 2009 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 486 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries
* Deleted Scenes
* Photo Gallery
* Official Site