Few shows have reached the level that 30 Rock has in its two short seasons on the air. With its second season cut short by the writers’ strike (bringing the total to a low fifteen episodes), there wasn’t as much room for the show to grow in its second season, but nevertheless it managed to not only expand upon the blooming cast but also wet your pants with laughter. Everyone of the fifteen episodes that comprised the second season were hilarious examples of how to write a perfect comedy show and with its third season soon debuting on NBC, hopefully even more viewers tune in to witness the brilliance that is 30 Rock. While I often write my own summaries for these reviews, the blurb on the back of the cover does it so perfectly that I don’t feel I could ever touch its brilliance.
“Relive the second season of the Primetime Emmy Award-winning comedy 30 Rock, the show that the guy who writes stuff on DVD boxes calls “My Current Assignment” and that Gillian Flynn of Entertainment Weekly has named “simply the Best TV.” Created by Golden Globe and SAG Award Winner Tina Fey, 30 Rock features Fey (as TV writer Liz Lemon), Golden Globe and SAG Award Winner Alec Baldwin (as corporate executive Jack Donaghy), Tracy Morgan and Jane Krakowski (As Lemon’s unpredictable stars, Tracy Jordan and Jenna Maroney) and Jack McBrayer (as the naïve NBC Page Kenneth Parcell). Co-workers and friends, they are all trying to balance work and life, with the inevitable result of failed relationships, disastrous parties, at-work drunkenness, hard-core coffee addiction, world-class sandwich eating and occasional attempts to chop down Christmas trees. Join in the behind-the-scenes fun with lots of exclusive content and all fifteen episodes of the acclaimed second season of 30 Rock from executive producer Lorne Michaels.”
See how perfect that summary was? Usually the things that loiter the back of these boxes are just the usual filler crap (sorry guy who writes stuff on DVD boxes), but the shows unique way of making you laugh is represented even in its DVD packaging. Ok, so maybe I was just being lazy and didn’t want to come up with a summary of the second season of 30 Rock, but honestly it does sum it pretty well. The discussion about disastrous parties and hard-core coffee addiction alone brings forth memories of the second season that immediately bring a smile to my face just visualizing the insanity that goes on in each one of these episodes.
If you sit down to watch one episode, you will quickly find yourself breezing through the entire season within no time. There are so many jokes you miss on the first breeze through and with each and every viewing new stuff is pointed out as well as the old familiar jokes that you can’t wait to hear again. There are so many laugh-out-loud moments in this season, courtesy of just about every cast member on the show, that it’s hard to pick a favorite. It may also be hard because I did exactly what I just typed in that I watched fifteen episodes in a row and now the whole season is a giant blur of watering eyes and busted guts.
Throughout the season we got a whole array of guest stars that we didn’t get in the first season. From the first few episodes alone we see the return of Will Arnett as Jack’s nemesis Devin and we even meet Liz’s idol, Rosemary Howard, played by Carrie Fisher in a role that I won’t soon forget. An eco-obsessed David Schwimmer guest stars and is responsible for one of the funniest episodes of the season, while the big guest star throughout the season is Edie Falco as C.C., the forbidden love interest of Jack. Liz’s own ex (well, both of them—Jason Sudeikis and Dean Winters both make appearances) returns and we see the introduction of her parents in an absolutely ridiculous family reunion in the episode title “Ludachristmas.” The guest stars don’t stop there, however, as Tim Conway and Matthew Broderick both make appearances toward the end of the season in roles that are just absolutely hilarious. Oh and then there’s Jerry Seinfeld in the pilot…he’s hilarious too.
There’s so much to love about this show and this season just gave us more reasons. The developed characters that just become more screwed up as they go along as we get to see the decisions that ruin their lives and, of course, the comedy that goes along with it. I doubt there will be another show like 30 Rock for quite some time, so do yourself a favor and pick up this second season and tune into the third season. While it’s done well in the ratings, it couldn’t hurt it to be higher—a show this funny deserves it.
Overall this was a superb continuation for the series and never once did I feel the quality of the show drop. Sure, it got a bit weird some areas, but for the most part the show just continues to ramp up its wit and charm with its flawed characters that never fail to make you laugh. Must See (TV).
Why hello there giant foil reflective packaging, how are you? I guess in an attempt to make the first season not feel incredibly fat, Universal decided to use the same packaging width for this two-disc set as they did for the three-disc first season. Yes, that’s right…when other studios are slimming down their packaging to devour less of your shelf space, Universal is right there to save whatever room Warner Home Video may have made for you. I’m not terribly upset though, it is a brilliant show and I’ll give it as much of my shelf space as it needs, I just wish it wasn’t so needlessly large. In any case, the set features similar packaging to the three season set with the two discs each sitting on about a half an inch of digi-pak plastic (seriously, it’s huge) each. The aforeplageris…I mean copied description from the rear cover is there in full glory and inside we get a repeat of the cover art as well as descriptions of each episode.
The first aspect to cover is the video and audio and…holy crap. This may be the single worst transfer of a TV show I’ve seen on a licensed DVD release. While the first season received similar interlaced image treatment (Why? NBC broadcasts this in HD!), the compression levels were not nearly as bad as they are here. The sad part is there’s still a bit of disc space left on each of the discs, meaning they didn’t have to compress the hell out of it like they did. I am seriously turned off by the video quality on this release, as it is truly the worst transfer for a modern television show I have ever seen. I know Universal doesn’t want to spend a lot on television releases, but this is just pushing it—their other TV show DVD releases don’t look like this and I’m genuinely curious as to why 30 Rock seems to be forced to squish itself onto two discs when it could have breathed much easier on at least three. Take a look for yourself. In any case the audio mix, a Dolby Digital 5.1 transfer, sounds clean and clear. Oddly enough they include a 2.0 track as well, which means they could have just saved more disc space by only having one or the other. Whoever is responsible for authoring these seasons should be fired. Further evidence? There’s no chapter stops. Seriously, was this DVD produce in 2002 or something? We’ve long since transcended interlaced and chapter less TV show releases.
Thankfully there is a fair bit of extras to poke through on both of the discs. The major bonus here is the commentaries. On the first disc we have “Jack Gets in the Game” with Will Arnett, “The Collection” with Jane Krakowski and Jack McBrayer, “Somebody to Love” with Fred Armisen, “Cougars” with Judah Friedlander, “Episode 210” with Tina Fey and Jeff Richmond and disc two houses “Milf Island” with Scott Adsit, “Subway Hero” with Tim Conway and Jack McBrayer, “Succession” with Robert Carlock and John Riggi, “Sandwich Day” with Tina Fey, “Cooter” with Jane Krakowski and Jack McBrayer. That’s ten commentaries for this season, each with varying participants. There are some that are stronger than others and as humorous as the Will Arnett track is, he seems to be at a loss for things to say for the majority of it. Still I enjoyed it simply because I find the man hilarious (Arrested Development!).
Moving onto the second disc we have five deleted scenes to watch (in letterboxed interlaced widescreen, likely done to just cheese me off completely) and quite a few meaty extras. “‘Cooter’ Table Read” (31:28) is just as it sounds, although Broderick is sadly absent. Also included is “30 Rock Live at the UCB Theater” (46:45), a benefit held during the writers’ strike that was performed, well, live at the UCB Theater. It’s a lot of fun to watch, although as Fey points out in the audio-only intro, the video and audio is a bit wonky as its all home camera footage rather than something professionally recorded. Next we have a behind-the-scenes look in “Tina Hosts SNL” (8:05) and finally a nice panel discussion with “The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Presents: An Evening with 30 Rock” (23:09).
There are plenty of extras to watch and enjoy here and the commentaries certainly make for an entertaining time, but…man, that video transfer. It’s especially painful to watch since I saw the season first during its original 1080i NBC HD broadcast and now I have to watch it in horribly compressed 480i. I doubt they will, but Universal really should recall this set and remaster the video on it, I honestly feel it is that horrid. Or at the very least offer up Blu-ray versions for those who are as put off by the transfer as I am.
On one hand I want to recommend this set wholeheartedly as the season and extras are fantastic, but considering the main draw of owning the series is the ability to watch the episodes over and over, I’m conflicted due to the transfer. Interlaced, blocky and compressed, it’s just really an extremely shoddy job and one that shoves this set down to a Rent It. You’re bound to find the episodes online streaming, legally, in better quality, so there’s little reason to even pick this one up right now.
30 Rock: Season 2 arrives on DVD on October 7th.