Universal // 2007 // 321 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // October 8th, 2008
Enjoy the ride.
Liz: "Ugh! You're just like the mailbox."
Jack: "I'm going to assume that's a Haldeman reference, in which case I thank you."
So, what has happened to our beloved characters since Season One? Well, not a whole lot. Liz Lemon (Tina Fey, Mean Girls) is still the constantly exasperated head writer of "The Girlie Show" (an SNL-style sketch comedy program). She has the incredibly challenging job of attempting to keep everybody involved with the show happy and content. Her boss is NBC network executive Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin, The Hunt for Red October). Jack is a diehard conservative who has aspirations of taking over for network head honcho Don Geiss (Rip Torn, Men in Black). Unfortunately, he's facing some tough competition from Devon Banks (Will Arnett, Blades of Glory), a closeted homosexual who has determined to marry Geiss' strange daughter in a bid to win the job. The biggest star of TGS is Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan, First Sunday), a very eccentric actor with a track record of extreme unpredictability. The show's other major star is Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski, Pretty Persuasion), an attention-seeking diva who unfortunately gained a lot of weight while starring in the musical version of Mystic Pizza (she had to eat four slices of pizza onstage each night). 30 Rock is a funny, frantic look at life in the world of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
All 15 episodes from the strike-shortened second season are included on only two discs.
* Jack Gets in the Game
* The Collection
* Rosemary's Baby
* Somebody to Love
* Secrets and Lies
* Episode 210
* MILF Island
* Subway Hero
* Sandwich Day
Just a few days before I sat down to write this review, 30 Rock scored big at this year's Emmy Awards. The show was not only named the best comedy program, but also took home awards for best actor (Alec Baldwin), best actress (Tina Fey), best writer (Tina Fey), and even best guest star (Tim Conway). It deserves every single one of those awards. If you've seen 30 Rock, odds are pretty strong that you love it. So why haven't more people seen this show? Despite plenty of awards and critical acclaim, the show has not really done too well in the ratings department. That needs to change. Ladies and gentlemen, 30 Rock is far and away the funniest show on television right now. When it first began, it wasn't even the funniest show on Thursday night. That honor used to belong to The Office, which had an amazing run for three seasons. But as The Office began to slip into mediocrity in its fourth season, 30 Rock became funnier and sharper than ever. The first season was great, absolutely. This second season is even better.
What began as a mere "behind-the-scenes" sitcom about the life of people working on an SNL-style show has quickly turned into so much more. Creator Tina Fey has transformed 30 Rock into a wonderfully unpredictable screwball comedy show, offering up a heaping helping of originality and laughs each week. Surely it's the most quotable show on the tube, featuring so many wonderful bits of writing delivered with juicy perfection by the cast. A few examples:
Kenneth: "I don't drink hot liquids of any kind. That's the Devil's
Tracy: "Ken, this is New York. The Big Easy! Live a little! Boundaries were made to be broken. That's why my wife and I stopped using a 'safe' word."
C.C.: "I'm working out the Clinton office for a few weeks. I'm helping
Hilary retool her Universal Healthcare platform."
Jack: "God, I want to kiss you on the mouth to stop you from saying such ridiculous things."
Jack: "I'm going to a party tonight for Robert Novak. It's being thrown
by John McCain and Jack Bauer."
Liz: "Um, I don't think he's real."
Jack: "I assure you, Lemon, John McCain is very real."
Liz: "What's with the cookie jar?"
Jack: "I collect them."
Liz: "Really? Is that some sort of unresolved childhood thing?"
Jack: "Nice try. Ah, we never had any cookie jars in my home because our mother never baked us any cookies because she never felt we deserved any cookies, so obviously it has nothing to do with my childhood."
Liz: "But that cookie jar says 'MOM' on it."
Jack: "I don't think so. I've always viewed it as an upside-down 'WOW'."
Dr. Spaceman: "Now Jenna, medically speaking your height and weight puts you in what we call 'the disgusting range.' Fortunately, there are solutions. For example, crystal meth has been shown to be very effective. How important is tooth retention to you?"
I just love listening to these people talk. Strange delights are hiding around every corner. Where else can you find an episode dedicated show called "MILF Island," in which a bunch of middle-aged women compete for the affections of a large group of sweaty eighth-grade boys? Or a spontaneous performance of "Midnight Train to Georgia" by the entire cast? Or Tracy Jordan's novelty song, "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah" (containing the immortal lyrics, "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah/Spooky, Scary/Boys Becoming Men/Men Becoming Wolves!")? Or the Amadeus-inspired episode in which Tracy determines to turn his two favorite things into one amazing product? Tuning in to 30 Rock was always one of the highlights of my week during the 2007-2008 television season, because the show never failed to provide something so funny that it would keep me smiling for days.
The cast is in top form. Tina Fey continues to demonstrate her awesomeness. She is technically portraying the "straight man" in the middle of all this wild insanity, but her desperate attempts to keep things from falling apart completely provide for many of the show's funniest moments. Alec Baldwin's scene-stealing role as Jack Donaghy has hit new strides of perfection. Seeing an outspoken liberal like Baldwin play such a charismatic Republican executive is a lot of fun, and Baldwin deserves his Emmy. Jack McBrayer always scores a lot of laughs as the irrepressably enthusisastic and morally sound Kenneth, and Tracy Morgan exists in his own strangely funny universe. The rest of the cast is fine, but honestly the supporting players are often reduced to bit players this season. There is a greater focus on the stars and guest stars, and most of the smaller regulars aren't really given a lot of screen time. While I feel sorry for the cast and crew, the leads are so good that I can't really blame the show for the shift in attention.
Speaking of those guest stars, I don't think I've ever seen a season of television with as many terrific guest performances as season two of 30 Rock. We get very inspired turns from Jerry Seinfeld, Gladys Knight, and Al Gore as themselves, Tim Conway as a strange old man, Buck Henry as Liz's super-encouraging dad, Elaine Stritch as Jack's super-discouraging mom, David Schwimmer as an environmental mascot, Carrie Fisher as a somewhat frightening activist, Fred Armisen as a potential threat to American security, Matthew Broderick as a pushover working for the Bush administration, Brian Dennehy as a rugged truck driver, Edie Falco as Jack's liberal lover, and Steve Buscemi as a private investigator. There isn't a single misfire in the bunch. Of course, we also can't forget the wonderful performances from recurring guest stars Rip Torn and Will Arnett, who play an instrumental role in the long-arc plot of the series despite only having starred in a handful of episodes.
You wouldn't think that there would be a lot of room for supplements with 15 21-minute episodes being spread across two discs, but there's a sizable batch of stuff here. Ten episode commentaries are included, with one or two participants on each track. We get to hear from actors Tina Fey, Jack McBrayer, Jane Krakowski, Scott Adsit, and Judah Friedlander, producers John Riggi, Robert Carlock, and Jeff Richmond (also the show's composer and Fey's husband), and guest stars Tim Conway, Will Arnett, and Fred Armisen. Oddly enough, the tracks with the three guest stars are the most fun, particularly Arnett's. All the tracks are pretty informal and goofy, with lots of joking around and very little sincerity. A handful of deleted scenes are pretty fun, though quite brief. A half-hour table reading of one of the episodes is kind of neat, but suffers from poor audio and video quality. The same applies to a 45-minute live stage performance of "Secrets and Lies" performed during the writer's strike. My favorite feature was the 20-minute Brian Williams interview with the cast, which actually gives us some substantial insight. Finally, an eight-minute featurette follows Tina Fey backstage as she prepares to host an episode of Saturday Night Live. It's a mixed bag of stuff, but I'm pleased overall.
The transfer is disappointing. It's a bit flat and really lacks detail, so the show doesn't really look much better than it does when you're watching it on television. Due to the frequently busy sets and visual gags, I had hoped for a hi-def release. Oh, well. Maybe later on. Sound is adequate, but there's nothing particularly outstanding here.
There isn't a single weak episode over the course of the entire season. If you haven't checked out 30 Rock yet, by all means give it a shot. Here's hoping the show catches on with audiences before NBC decides to give up on it.
Review content copyright © 2008 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 321 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* "Cooter" Table Read
* 30 Rock Live
* "Tina Hosts SNL"
* "An Evening with 30 Rock"