TITLE: 30 ROCK - SEASON 3
DVD Release Date: September 22, 2009 (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 22
Running Time: 486 minutes
Running Time of Special Features: approx. 193 minutes (Including Commentary)
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
*Audio Commentary from Tiny Fey, Jon Hamm, Alan Alda, Jack McBrayer, Jane Krakowski, and more!
*Behind-the-scenes with the Muppets
*Season Finale Table Read
*The Making of “He Needs a Kidney”
Re-enjoy the complete third season of the Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning comedy 30 Rock. The show features show creator Tina Fey as the head writer for an SNL-like TV show. (What a stretch!) She reports to *my* favorite character on the show, network executive Alec Baldwin...er...Jack Donaghy. The actions and interactions surrounding Baldwin’s character are honestly what drew me to the show, given my initial coolness to the show’s technical star (Tina Fey). Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy aren’t the only inhabitants of this crazy universe, however. Their office has many crazy and insane employees, from the hapless NBC page Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) to the stars of the show that 30 Rock is about -- Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) and Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski). I could go down the list naming off the entire on-air cast (there’s a full writing staff portrayed on-air and they’re all wonderful) but I’d be here until Halloween. What you need to know is the end results of this hilarious comedy: topless break-dancing, professional tetherball, geriatric kidnapping, bird murder, sexual espionage, Appalachian witchcraft, patricide, gay lion tattoos and important life lessons learned from sasquatches.
Welcome to 30 Rock.
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
Early on, as you can read in past reviews, I expressed a noted distaste for the show’s star Tina Fey. Over time though, I’ve really warmed to her on this show. She’s hysterical. My distaste largely stemmed from fatigue at her work on the show that inspired 30 Rock -- Saturday Night Live. Time heals all wounds, and the misadventures of Liz Lemon continue to get only funnier and funnier. The surrounding cast continues to deliver, too.
The season starts off with an episode that I happened to find hysterical -- and it even features a guest star so I can knock that out of the way now. In the episode, Megan Mullally plays Bev, an adoption agent. Liz Lemon (Fey), you see, is trying to adopt a child. Bev (Mullally) stops by Liz Lemon’s workplace to see evaluate whether Liz’ job makes her a suitable candidate for adopting. This goes about as well as you would expect. Meanwhile, the character of recurring guest Will Arnett has taken over Jack’s job, while Jack is left to work his way up from the mailroom. Again. The next episode? It features Oprah. I’m not a particular fan of Oprah, so I’m moving on because it’s in the way of talking about the next episode:
The season’s third episode, “The One with the Cast of Night Court,” features Tracy attempting to cheer up Kenneth by bringing together several members of the cast of...Night Court. Harry Anderson, Markie Post, and Charles Robinson all appear in order to give the show a proper finale -- the wedding of Harry & Christine. A mention is even thrown in the direction of John Larroquette, who at the time this episode aired was involved in the final season of Boston Legal and as such was unavailable. No mention is made as to the absence of the other Night Court cast. There’s a subplot to the episode not involving Night Court, and at some point Jennifer Aniston plays into things (hence the Friends-esque title), but I won’t lie: When I watch this episode I tend to tune out the non-Night Court parts. Night Court is one of my favorite older sitcoms, and I tend to zone out (positively) at its mention.
Episode 4 features yet ANOTHER quality premise -- involving Liz Lemon falling in love with an eccentric wealthy older gentleman (Steve Martin), while Tracy fears his kids have pure evil cooking when they suddenly become nice towards him. The episode also features Bill Kurtis (from the various crime documentary series and the AT&T ads) and John McEnroe as themselves. Yet more guest stars in Senor Macho Solo, as Nancy O’Dell and Billy Bush from Access Hollywood appear as themselves, as does Salma Hayek, who has a recurring roll in various episodes throughout the season. SNL alum Chris Parnell recurs in both Flu Shot and the episode immediately after.
A great episode is the season’s tenth episode. Jack has an eerie resemblance to a character in a telenovela -- putting him on the outs with the grandmother of Salma Hayek’s character (Elisa). Meanwhile, Liz Lemon has a new neighbor and the show has yet another recurring character. If you like AMC’s series Mad Men, you’ll want to tune in starting here as Jon Hamm from the aforementioned show has the first of several appearances as Liz’ neighbor. The episode also features the aforementioned Salma Hayek, plus Matt Lauer of The Today Show.
Episode #12, “Larry King” features a guest appearance by...wait for it...Larry King. Surprising, isn’t it? Also appearing is the *other* main co-host of The Today Show, Meredith Vieira. This section continues to get longer -- and the show continues to get funnier -- with the appearance by John Lithgow in “Goodbye, My Friend.” Nancy O’Dell returns in “The Funcooker.” If you tune in to “The Bubble,” you’ll again see Jon Hamm and Meredith Vieira, but you’ll also see Calvin Klein as himself.
In the season’s 16th episode, “Apollo, Apollo” you find Jack attempting to plan himself a 50th birthday party, but becomes nostalgic for quaint concepts like youth and happiness after watching an old home movie. Liz and Jenna have one of their little friendship moments, Tracy wants to be an astronaut, and all of the plot lines actually tie together coherently at the end! The episode, as if it wasn’t great enough, also features a guest spot from Batman himself, Mr. Adam West. Speaking of guest stars, it was good to see legendary SNL (and NBC) announcer Don Pardo used in the episode “Cutbacks.” Highlight of the episode for me. Yet another guest can be found in the season’s 20th episode, “The Natural Order.” Two words: Steve Buscemi.
Mentioning the appearance of Mr. Buscemi in that episode allows me to better transition into the write-up of the season’s penultimate episode, “Mama Mia,” also featuring Mr. Buscemi. It also features an appearance by sportscaster-turned-political commentator Keith Olbermann as...a sportscaster. Perhaps most notable is the episode’s third guest for the episode. Alan Alda, of great fame through the TV version of M*A*S*H, appears as the end result of a quest on Jack’s part to find his real father. This story would continue in the season’s finale, Kidney Now!, as Milton (Alda’s character) needs a kidney. Appearing in the season’s great finale also are Mary J. Blige, Sheryl Crow, Clay Aiken...and Elvis Costello, Cyndi Lauper, Norah Jones, Wyclef Jean, and the list goes on.
Thanks to someone at NBC Universal having not arrived at the same decision as other studios have, the packaging for this set is still your usual well-visualized digipak instead of the now-near-standardized boring and flimsy translucent plastic case. The various panels feature details on each episode, broken down by disc. The front cover of both the outer box and holding package itself are identical, and are featured at the top of this review. The rear cover of both feature various -- and differing -- photos from the season, with the package holding a few more photos than the outer shell. Inside the package is a your typical promotional insert. Depending on the way it was placed inside your copy, you may see either an ad for SNL DVD sets (Yay!) or...an ad for Jay Leno’s 10 PM nightmare. I could derail this review right now into a ten-page missive on the 569 reasons I hate Jay Leno’s new primetime series, but for the sake of brevity I’ll simply say that I could have done without the plug for that nightmare greeting me. Discs are solid white except for the show logo, disc number, and picture of one cast member each (Fey, Baldwin, and Morgan). First two discs house 8 episodes each, while the final six shows are on the final disc.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The main menu is in fact slightly deceptive. The only animations you see on the main menu are the initial transition into the menu on disc load, and the logo jumping into a larger font and back whenever a certain horn blare plays in the loop of the main theme. Coordinating that animation to time precisely with the horn blares takes a bit of skill, so my sincere admiration to whoever arranged that little bit. Animations kick in with the selection of any option, with an exit animation, with a short clip from an episode playing as a transition in between, and with the intro animation for the new menu. As mentioned earlier you get a perpetual loop of the main theme. You can also find a play all function, for those so inclined towards a marathon.
Video and Audio Quality:
If you’re expecting me to complain here, then you clearly haven’t viewed the sets for seasons one or two. You likely also have not viewed the majority of releases for DVD shows from 2000-onwards. Modern shows are perfectly preserved (isn’t digital storage great?) and are able to be presented up to the limits of a particular medium. In this case, you get a slightly lower resolution than a native HD picture -- this isn’t Blu-ray -- but for a non-HD video the picture is spectacular. You of course see the video presented in anamorphic widescreen, so how the video is interpreted will depend on your player, television, and set preferences in both. Audio is a magnificent 5.1 track that, unfortunately, I can’t actually take advantage of - it’s stereo or bust. Three cheers for mid-1990s televisions! What little I can hear sounds good, but I’m not on my normal reviewing equipment so the little things I’m missing out on. A side effect of the unusual setup I’m on is that while I’m sure there are chapter stops on the disc *somewhere,* this player refuses to acknowledge them. If you’re on old or unusual hardware, you may have trouble but normal setups shouldn’t pose problems. One fun bonus: though not advertised on the box there are Spanish subtitles in additions to the English SDH track.
Believe in the Stars: 21:02
The One with the Cast of Night Court: 21:10
Gavin Volure: 21:10
Christmas Special: 21:16
Senor Macho Solo: 21:12
Flu Shot: 21:09
Retreat to Move Forward: 21:11
St. Valentine’s Day: 21:12
Larry King: 21:13
Goodbye, My Friend: 21:09
The Funcooker: 21:09
The Bubble: 21:08
Apollo, Apollo: 21:15
Jackie Jormp-Jomp: 21:07
The Ones: 21:12
The Natural Order: 21:10
Mamma Mia: 21:12
Kidney Now: 21:12
To those of you familiar with older shows, those runtimes may appear pathetically short. They’re not -- this is a modern sitcom and networks have sold more and more advertising space, unaware that viewers generally only retain any brand information for two spots per ad break. Essentially, unless you’re either the first or last advert in a break the odds of viewers retaining any information is close to nil. What *I* think networks should try doing is halving the amount of commercial time. Go from 9:45 to roughly 5 minutes. Offer either 3:30 or 4:00 of national spots per break, with a minute reserved for local advertisements. Viewer retention goes up, there’s less ad clutter and thus less incentive to skip past ads via DVR, and clients aren’t wasting their cash in a money sink as they currently are. Instead viewers get bombarded with ads at a 2:1 content:ad ratio, and they have virtually no incentive to even WATCH ads let alone devote the five brain cells needed to recall an advertisement’s brand or message. Brilliant strategy.
< /rant over>
For the sake of brevity, and so that I don’t give away any details about their comments, only the participants in commentary will be listed -- no details of the commentary track itself will be spoiled.
Flu Shot (21:09): Commentary with Tina Fey & Jeff Richmond.
Goodbye, My Friend (21:09): Judah Friedlander & John Lutz.
The Bubble (21:08): Jon Hamm & Jack McBrayer.
Apollo, Apollo (21:15): Jack Burditt & Robert Carlock.
The Ones (21:06): Commentary with Jane Krakowski and Jack McBrayer.
Mamma Mia (21:12): Commentary with ALAN ALDA!
Kidney Now! (21:12): Commentary with Tina Fey & Jeff Richmond.
Deleted Scenes (6:20): There are 13 in total and quite a few each from both the season premiere and the Night Court episode.
Behind the Scenes with the Muppets (3:10): So, at one point Jack imagines himself and those around him as a Muppet. Days like this are why it’s so fun to work in television.
1-900-OKFACE ad (1:09): The full ad produced from early in Liz Lemon’s career where she did an ad for one of those cheesy local singles lines you see late at night on Fox affiliates.
Kidney Now Table Read (31:27): It’s great seeing table read -- it’s the entire cast going through the script. The table read plays in the top half, while the script scrolls by in the bottom half.
The Making of “Kidney Now” (12:23): It talks about the little “We Are the World” like stunt arranged to get the Milton character a kidney.
Total running time of special features: approx. 193 minutes
This was a long review, but then again there’s an awful lot of quality content in this humble little three-disc set. And a lot of gold, too. This show continues to clean up at all the various award shows, including this past weekend’s Emmy Awards where it won Best Comedy. There’s a reason why this show keeps getting the hardware piled atop its proverbial mantle. 30 Rock is a tremendous show, and if you haven’t discovered yet you’ll get your chance this fall on NBC. I don’t recommend buying into the show blind unless you actually have $35-$50 in discretionary income lying around. The show’s humor could rub you the wrong way, in which case you’ve blown your investment. And unlike people on a popular financial channel, I actually favor investments that allow you to keep your money.
If you ARE a fan of this show, hopefully you have the set in hand right this very second – it was just released to the public on the day of this writing. It is an absolutely tremendous series, and there are laughs all around. And after three years I’ve even become a fan of Tina Fey again. The show also airs in the middle of one of the last two great comedy blocks on television. While ABC still has Scrubs and a couple of interesting pilots in development, right now there are essentially only two remaining bastions of great sitcoms on network television - CBS Monday and NBC Thursday. Between the two you can find – in my opinion – SIX great, and entirely different, sitcoms. One of those six happens to be THIS fantastic show. There aren't many shows this funny left on television, and it's why I so enthusiastically support this show.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 5/5
Audio Quality: 5/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 5/5
Special Features: 4/5
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 09/22/08
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