TITLE: 30 ROCK - SEASON 1
DVD Release Date: September 4, 2007 (Universal Home Video)
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 21
Running Time: 457 minutes
Total Runtime of Special Features: approx. 162 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH
* Audio Commentary by Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, Lorne & Henry Michaels, and Jack McBrayer
* Deleted Scenes
* The Wrap Party Video including Bloopers
* An Evening with Kenneth Shorts
* Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes
* Makin’ It Happen Shorts
Emmy Award winner Tina Fey writes, executive produces and stars as Liz Lemon, who is the head writer of a live variety program in New York City (No, not that one. Well, not anymore). Liz’s life is turned upside down with brash new network executive Jack Donaghy (Vice President of East Coast Television -- formerly Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming) played by Golden Globe winner Alec Baldwin interferes with her show, bringing the wildly unpredictable Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan, in the character he was born to play) into the cast. Now it is up to Liz to manage the mayhem and still try to have a life. Join in the behind-the-scenes hilarity with the complete first season of 30 Rock on DVD.
30 Rock debuted on NBC in Fall 2007, quickly being paired up with NBC’s three other single-camera sitcoms, My Name is Earl, The Office, and Scrubs. I will admit, 30 Rock is probably third on my preference list of the four shows after The Office and Scrubs, but I still enjoy it nonetheless. It debuted in the same TV season as the dramatic show Studio 60, with the same concept on the same network. Both shows earned similar ratings numbers, however, as NBC has lower ratings expectations for its comedies compared to it’s more expensive dramas, 30 Rock continues, while Studio 60 is already off the air. 30 Rock, as well as Studio 60, are both obvious takes on the production insanity that goes on week to week at the venerable NBC hit show Saturday Night Live. As such, some of the humor is “in” humor related to the show, in which you have to have some idea of what goes on backstage in order to understand. Most, however, is just general comedy -- and extremely funny comedy at that.
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
I’ll make a confession -- it took me half a season to get into this show. Starting out, I much preferred Studio 60 to 30 Rock (or with how last season turned out, even SNL itself). As Studio 60 kept getting pushed aside though, I gradually found myself watching 30 Rock more and more, and getting to like what I see. I will be honest though -- I still am not completely thrilled with Tina Fey’s character. That is more of a personal preference thing, however. Nonetheless, I derive a great deal of enjoyment from the show due largely because of the characters played by Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan. Episodes that focus on Baldwin’s character and/or Morgan’s character are among my favorites of the season. Two of my favorite episodes this season come closer towards the end of the season -- when I really became a fan of the show. Show #16, “The Source Awards,” features Jack attempting to get a rap producer named “Ridikolus” (played by guest star L.L. Cool J) to help him unload his inferior wine onto the unsuspecting public. Kenneth has a few altercations with Ridikolus which then causes a rift with Tracy. Tracy meanwhile hosts The Source Awards despite his constant fear of attack from the various rappers he has offended over the years.
Another favorite is episode 18, “Fireworks.” Jack starts to get worried as the network’s Vice President of West Coast News, Web Content, and Theme Park Talent Relations decides to pay him a visit from LA. (In case you have not noticed, the executive titles are a joke towards NBC, whose parent company is General Electric, a corporation with many brands in just about every conceivable industry, thus leading to some bizarre corporate dynamics). Jack thinks that the West Coast VP, Devon Banks, is after his job. Jack has Jonathan spy on Devon -- and after that, it quickly spirals. Meanwhile, Tracy learns that he is a direct descendent of Thomas Jefferson, leading to an insane recurring plot device over the ensuing episodes.
30 Rock uses several guest stars. In addition to the aforementioned L.L. Cool J, we have the following. Conan O’Brien appears as himself in episode 7, “Tracy Does Conan.” In the same episode, former SNL alum Chris Parnell appears. In addition, former-SNL-alum Rachel Dratch has a number of various parts over the course of the season, gradually seeing less screen time. She was originally to be a starring cast member, but that did not work out, which is probably for the best. Chris Parnell returns again in episode 9, “The Baby Show” and episode 10 “The Rural Juror.” In the same episode, Whoopi Goldberg guests as herself. Episode 12, “Black Tie,” features three guests. Current SNL cast member (noticing a trend yet?) Will Forte guests, as does the former Pee Wee Herman, Paul Reubens. In the same episode, actress Isabella Rossellini guests as well -- playing Jack’s ex-wife. She appears again in the next episode, “Up All Night,” which features..surprise…a current SNL cast member, Jason Sudeikis.
The 2nd of the current (2007-08) “The View” cast members, Joy Behar [the first being the newly announced Whoopi], guests has herself in this episode as well, as does former “Less than Perfect” cast member Sherri Shepherd, who might also join “The View” soon. In episode 14, Rip Torn guests as Don Geiss. He would reprise this role again in episode 19, “Corporate Crush.” Episode 15 (this list is never going to end…) features MSNBC personalities Chris Matthews and Tucker Carlson as themselves. Episode 16, “The Source Awards,” features not only an appearance by L.L. Cool J, but a guest spot for Wayne Brady as well. Also appearing in this episode, as well as the prior episode #5, Jack-Tor, is rapper Ghostface Killah. Episode 17, “The Fighting Irish,” features Nathan Lane as Jack Donaghy’s brother Eddie. It also features three current/former SNL cast members -- Sudeikis [plus his wife Kristen], Molly Shannon, as well as short-stinted cast member Siobhan Fallon (no relation to Jimmy). Episode 18 features another appearance by both Parnell and Sudeikis, plus guest spots for Maury Povich and Al Roker (as themselves). West Coast VP Devon Banks is played by Will Arnett of “Arrested Development”…er…fame. Sudeikis AGAIN appears in episode 19, “Corporate Crush,” along with the aforementioned Rip Torn spot. Episode 20, “Cleveland,” another Sudeikis role (I believe we call these recurring characters, Timmy….). Same character in episode 21, Hiatus (the season finale), also featuring Parnell’s recurring character, plus another of Dratch’s random characters, plus Sean Hayes (Jack from Will U& Grace). Finally, appearing in the final two episodes is the anchor for the Weekend Today program from NBC Lester Holt.
And I’m finished. Take a breather, and then come back -- I am not even close to finished yet.
Back so soon? Carrying on now: The packaging is a remarkably standard issue Digipak inside an outer box. Front cover, which you’ve no doubt seen by now, is white with the three primary cast members standing (and by standing I of course mean Photoshopped-together-and-in-front-of) in front of a random assortment of partially tilted skyscrapers. Tracy on the left, Tina in center, and Alec on the right. What previous photos of the cover art may not have shown is that the someone in packaging got a little creative -- the skyscrapers are done in a reflective metallic-colored paint, while the cast is done in a sort of blurred 3-d image effect. It actually turns out fairly well. Back cover features a random strip of images down the left side, with the right ¾ of the rear cover used for the introductory text laying in front of a white sky and yellow-tinted view of 30 Rockefeller Center. Special features are listed at the bottom in a rounded white rectangle. The front cover of the Digipak features identical art as the front of the outer box, only the skyscrapers aren’t reflective. Rear cover features the secondary cast members in front of a yellow-hued picture of skyscrapers that fades to white at the top. I am not completely thrilled with all the yellow and yellow-green colors in the packaging, honestly. It is an awful color.
Opening the digipak 1 level reveals disc holder 1 (yay, no overlaps!) on the left, and a panel with the disc breakdown on the right (more on that in a minute). Opening this panel reveals the holders for discs 2 and 3. The background for the disc holders features a collage of various images in a tint I can only refer to as “overexposed photo”. We have all seen those (well, at least those of use who have used traditional film cameras, anyway). Each disc features nearly identical cover art. Each cast member occupies either the bottom left or bottom right side of a disc, with an again-overexposed shot of NYC skyscrapers occupying the other side. Show logo appears at top. Discs 1 and 2 each hold 8 episodes. Disc 3 holds 5 shows plus a decent quantity of the special features.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus are for the most part well done, though I still dislike this “overexposed yellow” color scheme. The menu starts out with an animation similar to the first parts of the opening titles, then the main menu (which is almost identical to the main box art) animates in. After that, the main menu remains static, while the main theme plays in the background. You know, theme music these days, when the shows even have it, is often too short, and too uninspired, with no recognizable melody -- and that bothers me. The more memorable a theme, the more likely a show is to stay in the public consciousness. People tend to equate music to memories, which then recalls the show the song is attached to.
Miniature rant on theme music aside, these menus are fairly well done. The submenus feature more overexposed-yellow-hued skyscraper shots, with the corresponding menu items in front. There is not a lot to say really.
Video and Audio Quality:
One extremely nice thing about reviewing new shows is just how impressive the episode presentation is in terms of audio and video, regardless of whether you’re using a state of the art home theater system, a 25” color TV from the late 90s, or a PC. The presentation is simply impressive. Color is flawless with no defects present, and the show makes wonderful use of the 5.1 channel audio -- a great thing about single-camera sitcoms is that the production style allows for greater use of multiple channels compared to traditional production methods. There is only one flaw whatsoever in the A/V presentation of the show, but it’s one that in 2007 rather surprises me: There are no chapter stops whatsoever. None. There IS a Play All feature. Advancing the chapter in Play All takes you to the next episode.
Runtimes: (Remember, this is 2006-07 show. Anything north of 20 isn’t alarming.)
30 Rock Pilot: 21:57
The Aftermath: 21:17
Blind Date: 21:32
Jack the Writer: 21:33
Jack Meets Dennis: 21:35
Tracy Does Conan: 21:25
The Break-Up: 21:30
The Baby Show: 21:30
The Rural Juror: 21:32
The Head and the Hair: 21:00
Black Tie: 21:33
Up All Night: 21:31
The “C” Word: 21:47
Hard Ball: 21:33
The Source Awards: 21:31
The Fighting Irish: 21:33
Corporate Crush: 21:30
The special features are entirely confined to Disc 3 - which for the deleted scenes seems a bit off. Anyway:
Deleted Scenes: Not going to say what these are. Each of the following episodes has deleted scenes:
Tracy Does Conan
The “C” Word
The Head and the Hair
Up All Night
The Fighting Irish
Total Runtime for Deleted Scenes is 10:28. Runtime for each episode’s scenes are not available.
Audio Commentary: More bizarre arrangement of special features. All episodes with commentary are on this disc, which means, “Tracy Does Conan,” “Black Tie,” and “Hard Ball” are in fact available on two separate discs. I have never seen this sort of bizarre arrangement before. “Fireworks” and “Hiatus” also have commentary.
Tracy Does Conan, Commentary by Tracy Morgan (21:25): If you play this episode on D1, you can only listen to the episode audio. D3 only has the commentary track; there is no standard audio track. Bizarre. Tracy talks a lot, with also some truly legitimate insights.
Black Tie, Commentary by Tina Fey, 21:37.
Hard Ball: Commentary by Exec Producer Lorne Michaels and his son Henry, with introduction by Tina Fey (21:33): They are quieter than Tina and Lorne, meaning more regular audio.
Fireworks: Commentary by Jack McBrayer (Kenneth the Page) (26:25): Slightly more “ums” and “uhs” in this commentary compared to others. A lot of this track is him watching the episode along with us, representing a shift in commentary styles.
Hiatus, 21:54: Alec Baldwin! Funny funny man. His style tends to be a mix of reflection and watching along.
Wrap Party (13:08): Set in the tone of a parody of E!’s “True Hollywood Story.” This includes many hilarious bloopers. I am not entirely sure why this is referred to as The Wrap Party. Maybe it was shown during the actual wrap party.
An Evening with Kenneth (9:59): Five different video features featuring Kenneth doing little quick talk show type bits with various characters. All five total (Jenna, Kittens, Frank, Frank & Kenneth Fart Contest, and Tracy) run a total of 9:59.
Behind the Scenes: Two different behind the scenes featurettes -- one features Judah Friedlander, while the other features Jack McBrayer and Lonny Ross. Both total are 15:22 total. Just regular behind the scenes video -- and this is not some overly pre-produced behind the scenes things like other set -- they just took a camera around the set with them.
Makin’ It Happen: These are three little quick 10-second interstitials. OK then. 30 seconds total.
Total Runtime of Special Features: 162 minutes, 21 seconds, most of that time is commentary. I’ve seen a LOT of sets do worse, but I’ve seen quite a few sets do better.
This is a show that, to me at least, doesn’t begin to pick up until a few shows in the season, but going back and watching the early shows again improved my opinion of them as well. Again, the show is often referential to SNL, but you do not have to be a frequent SNL viewer to get 90% of the jokes. Alec and Tracy are particularly funny and Tina has her moments. For the subsequent releases, I would just like to see Universal work out the kinks in their bonus features (putting commentaries on the same discs as the primary episodes, for example -- ditto deleted scenes). A bit more substance in the “secondary” features would be nice as well -- cast appearances on other shows, perhaps. (I know it could not be that hard to get a few *legitimate* Conan appearances, for example). Other than that, this is a more or less hilarious show, and I urge you to give it a shot. Recommended.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 5/5
Audio Quality: 5/5
Special Features: 3.5/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 4.5/5
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 08/31/07
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