Much like Heroes (reviewed here), I didn’t catch this show when it originally premiered. Unlike Heroes, I did start watching it toward the end when a few of my co-workers couldn’t stop raving about it. So, out of curiosity, I flipped over to NBC and tuned into 30 Rock after my weekly dose of The Office and I was pleasantly surprised at just how smart and funny this series was. The critics were right! This is one series that definitely deserves to be discovered, or rediscovered, on DVD. And yes, you still have time to pick up this box set before the new season of 30 Rock begins!
Liz Lemon (Tina Fey), head writer of live variety show, has enough on her hands without having to deal with brash network honcho Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) in this witty look behind the scenes of a live sketch comedy series. Donaghy, the new Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming, turns the show upside down when he insists that Liz add mentally unbalanced movie star Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) to the cast of “The Girlie Show” to attract more male viewers. Jordan’s outrageous antics and Donaghy’s clueless contributions to the show leave Liz little time for her already disastrous personal life. Jane Krakowski adds to the show’s humor as blonde bombshell Jenna Maroney.
I can see why 30 Rock was nominated for ten 2007 Emmy® Awards and where all the praise comes from. The tag of “funniest new sitcom of the season” is definitely justified. The show is hilarious, in and out. While it’s not the same comedy we expect from the sitcoms of the past, that’s probably a good thing. I think this show would suffer from a laugh track. The laugh track would force the show to slow down, which would work against it tremendously. It doesn’t pause to wait for the studio laughter. It keeps rolling, which is part of the charm. Shot in a style similar to The Office and Arrested Development, 30 Rock never rests. Not only does the show share the same style, but also the same dry wit.
30 Rock has a brilliant ensemble cast, quick comic exchanges and ingenious dialogue, hilarious supporting characters, and plenty of smarts. Tina Fey has created a brilliant show, one chock full of wry wit and immensely quotable dialogue. I will admit that the show started out a bit rough with the first few episodes, but picked up considerably with “The Blind Date,” the third episode on the first disc.
Fey, creator, executive producer, and star of the show, headlines such a great cast of characters, particularly Alec Baldwin. Casting her opposite Baldwin was an absolutely genius move. They have such a fascinating chemistry, and they work off each other so well. Baldwin is perfect in this role, one written specifically for him. His dry wit and razor-sharp tongue are responsible for some of the biggest laughs of the series, which, in turn, have him a lead actor Emmy® nomination as well as Golden Globe® and SAG® awards. I honestly can’t put my finger on it, but he’s simply great in this role. Tracy Morgan plays Tracy Jordan, a movie star who happens to be the newest addition to Lemon’s show. While not my favorite character, he manages to remain consistently entertaining and flat-out bizarre. Watch for some true uncanny antics where, in one episode, Jordan manages to lose his medication. Truly bizarre and simply genius.
The show’s quick pace, manic energy, and rapid dialogue make it easy to look past the emotional core of the series, particularly that of Lemon. Lemon is struggling to make her personal life work and, sometimes, it really hits hard.
It’s a show that deserves success, and serves as a great companion to the likes of The Office on network television (and should fit right in between The Office and Arrested Development on your DVD shelves). The show has everything, whether it’s great visual gags, such as Maroney’s botched face lift, or killer dialogue, pretty much anything from the mouths of Fey or Baldwin, and deserves to stick around for awhile. It managed to beat out Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip (the notorious “other” behind-the-scenes-of-a-sketch-show-also-airing-on-NBC series) and has a fanbase that’s slowly picking up. Hopefully, this collection of the first season will entice a few more new fans to check out one of the season’s best sitcoms.
The three-disc set includes all 21 first season episodes of 30 Rock, plus a nice helping of bonus features. Commentaries by Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan and Jack McBrayer are included on key episodes, all found on the final disc. Also includes are some hilarious deleted scenes, bloopers, and a couple somewhat informative behind-the-scenes featurettes. I need to point out that 30 Rock: Season 1 is available as a solid three-disc collection, or two separate volume releases. Volume 1 includes the first 16 episodes as a two-disc set and Volume 2 includes the final five episodes plus the bonus materials as a single disc. It’s a bit odd, but I understand why they did it: to make it accessible for fans and curious on-lookers. However,going with the complete season collection is simply the best way to go.
This show has a strong rewatchability factor, and it deserves to be watched. 30 Rock: Season 1 comes Highly Recommended. If you’re looking for a great network comedy to fill the void left behind by Arrested Development, this is it. The cast is great, the writing is sharp and smart, and the laughs come pretty steady once the show gets its’ baring. It’s a show that deserves your full attention, and the DVD set does a pretty good job at catching that. You can tell there was some hesitation in what to include with this set, as they are likely unsure of the sales, but one can hope that the next season set will be brimming with extras. Pick up 30 Rock: Season 1, you won’t regret it.
30 Rock: Season 1 is currently available on DVD. Also arrives on DVD in two seperate volumes, 30 Rock: Season 1, Volume 1 (Two Discs) and 30 Rock: Season 1, Volume 2 (One Disc).