If you don't treat him right, Judge Daryl Loomis will slip a nip. Nobody wants this.
Our reviews of 30 Rock: Season One (published September 4th, 2007), 30 Rock: Season Two (published October 8th, 2008), 30 Rock: Season Three (published September 22nd, 2009), 30 Rock: Season Four (published September 21st, 2010), and 30 Rock: Season Six (published September 2nd, 2012) are also available.
It's my way, 'til payday.
Liz Lemon (Tina Fey, Date Night) and the gang from TGS with Tracy Jordan are back for the fifth season of the flagship show of NBC's Thursday night lineup, 30 Rock. In Season 4, it looked like the once great show had started to fall off its wheels, but they regain some of their magic in Season Five. Does it reach the consistent heights of the first couple of years? Maybe not, but its best moments are some of the funniest of the entire series.
Facts of the Case
When last we left TGS last season, Liz found a hot new pilot boyfriend (Matt Damon, The Brothers Grimm), Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin, The Hunt for Red October) was dreading the Kabletown merger and found out that his own hot new girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks, Seabiscuit) is pregnant, and Kenneth (Jack McBrayer, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) got fired from the page program. Now, all that continues, but with the added trouble of Angie Jordan (Sherri Shepherd, Precious), wife of Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan, Cop Out), who wants in on the production. Plus imminent cancellation and North Korea…it looks like there's a lot in store for the TGS crew.
For as much as the show satirizes its status as a marginally rated NBC sitcom, 30 Rock doesn't hold a very strong connection to reality. It never really tried that hard, but the last couple of years are more disconnected than ever. It's an often ridiculous show that doesn't apologize for its absurdity. For those who say that the show is stupid, I don't think there are a lot of people involved who would disagree too strongly. The corniness is part of the charm. It wouldn't be the same show without the dumb jokes and bad puns.
For as much as the show continues to make me laugh, though, it's not as great as it once was. As the show got zanier, it started to take over the story and the show suffered. At the same time, they began relying on more and more guest stars, which took the story even further off base into the realm of gimmickry. In Season Five, all of that stuff remains true, but it seems that they have embraced those things and came out with something altogether zany that allows them, at times, to throw out some of the craziest, funniest plotlines of the entire series.
Plotlines like the one that culminates in the "Queen of Jordan" episode, which takes the relatively unestablished character of Angie Jordan and turns her into a reality television star. The episode in particular is fabulous, but the lead up to it provides some really great moments, as well. The "Double Edged Sword" goes for full on insanity as both Liz and Jack realize that they're each dating their exact match. The mad dash in a mobile meth lab for Jack and Avery to get back to the US rather than have a Canadian baby is priceless, hilarious stuff. There are quite a few really solid episodes during the season, though many are not as strong and their live episode, much as I like the concept, comes off decidedly flat. It's not a perfect, but 30 Rock: Season Five shows that the show still has some gas in the tank.
30 Rock: Season Five comes to us in a very solid three-disc set from Universal. The episodes are split out evenly over the discs, with audio commentaries for selected episodes on each disc and the bulk of the extras on the third. The image looks as good as a modern television show should, with excellent colors, decent black levels, and an error-free transfer. The sound is also high quality, with both a surround and a stereo mix to choose from. The surround is slightly better than the stereo, but there isn't a whole lot of action in the rear channels. For both, the dialog is clear and bright and the music is perfectly good. There's nothing here that'll test your system, but it's technically strong across the board.
Extra features are fairly numerous and strong, as well. The commentaries are not your average sort with highly variant levels of quality. On the first disc, the only commentary is on the episode, "Brooklyn without Limits," featuring Tracy Morgan and producer Jerry Kupfer. It starts us off on a bad foot with a dreadfully boring discussion about nothing, with Morgan prattling on endlessly and Kupfer staying virtually silent the whole time. The second disc gets four commentary tracks, ranging from your typical style with actors John Lutz and Sue Galloway to weird stuff with Jack McBrayer with his parents and Will Forte with Val Kilmer, who has never been a part of the show. Five more appear on the third disc, including words from Tina Fey, Jon Hamm (Mad Men), and even producer/writer Aaron Sorkin. It's a weird group of tracks, but even if every one isn't great, at least they're different from the everyday commentaries I'm used to. Moving on, we have about half an hour of deleted scenes, a few of which are pretty funny. The alternate West Coast version of "Live Show" is a natural inclusion and good to see, but it doesn't really work any better than the East Coast feed. A behind the scenes look at that episode, the "Jack Donaghy, Executive Superhero" animated shorts, and a music video for Jenna's Obituary Song round out a pretty good set of supplements for fans of the show.
30 Rock: Season Five is a half-step up from Season 4, but not quite up to the level of the show's first three seasons. It has a few really choice episodes and some really spectacular moments, but it's not as sharp or consistent as some of the other programs that currently air around it. It's still a very good show with excellent writing and solid performances from a great ensemble cast. There are a lot of laughs here and I'll definitely be watching Season 6.
Goo goo, ga ga.
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