30 Rock: Season Three
30 Rock just won another Emmy for Best Comedy Series and now they are out with Season Three on DVD. Ain’t that a coinkidink? Yeah, I thought so, too.
After watching every damn episode again on DVD, I have no argument with 30 Rock being given the Best Comedy Emmy for their third season. I mean, the show is hilarious, and shouldn’t that be the main criteria for Best Comedy? You don’t say, “Hey, that show has an underlying social commentary that really puts this whole health-care debate in its place; here’s the Emmy for Best Comedy.” You say, “Liz and Jack are at an event called ‘The Retreat to Move Forward’ and that makes me laugh; give those sumbitches an Emmy.”
Figuring if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, 30 Rock’s third helping is a lot like the second. Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) runs her SNL-ripoff show TGS with Tracy Jordan at NBC, under the supervision of corporate fat-cat Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin). Her two stars, Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) and Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) are selfish, childish, and stupid. Her co-workers (Scott Adsit, Jack McBrayer, and Judah Friedlander, among others) are, well, kinda like they were in the second season. The show is inundated with guest stars, including Oprah, Steve Martin, Alan Alda, Jennifer Aniston, Salma Hayek, and John Hamm. It’s the same as it ever was.
Not that the same isn’t pretty freakin’ hilarious. There are some basic plot points and a few “arcs” (more on those later), but the show runs on snappy dialogue and some surreal bits, flashbacks, and asides. You don’t feel like you’re getting a boring, self-righteous view of late-night television (I’m looking at you, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip). It’s more like characters in a sketch show are doing a sketch show about people who put on a sketch show. Does that make sense? No? Well, most of the show doesn’t, either.
Lemon is still in her usual nerd-made-good mode. She yearns for a boyfriend who wants to watch TV, eat fatty food, and never have sex. She actually ends up with many potential guy friends this season, including an agoraphobe (Martin), a little person (Peter Drinklage), and a super-good-looking doctor (John Hamm.) Hamm’s arc (set over three episodes) is kinda weak, and you wish Liz would get back to work and stop spending so much time trying to adopt a kid or meet a guy.
In fact, Donaghy’s own relationship arc with a Puerto Rican caretaker (Hayek) is also less than stellar. There was almost nothing funny about the two of them together, other than when Baldwin played both Donaghy and a Spanish-language soap actor who stars as a character called The Generalissimo. Now that was some funny.
The bottom line is that the show works best when everyone, including the mind-blowingly good Morgan, Baldwin, and Fey, are together in the building or on a road trip. Leave the multi-episode relationships and guest stars at the door, like they do in “Jackie Jormp-Jomp,” “Do-Over,” “The Reunion,” “The Retreat to Move Forward,” and “Fun Cooker,” and this show pumps on all cylinders. The season sometimes teeters on high concepts or relationships that don’t quite work, but then Liz’s odious ex-boyfriend Dennis (Dean Winters) says his sex-addict group is “lousy with nymphos” and all is right with the world.
The guys from Spinal Tap reminded us that it’s just a fine line between clever and stupid. 30 Rock walks the line pretty well. Other than some bad relationship decisions (remember, Salma Hayek is dealbreaker) they keep bringing the stupid, clever stuff in Season Three.
The DVD presentation for 30 Rock Season Three is decent, but there isn’t a lot of there, there. I mean, there is a lot of stuff written on the box, and it gets you all hot and bothered for the extras, and then they stick you with a lot of useless crap. Still, you get 22 episodes of a very, very funny show, so it’s not all bad.
Let me start out by saying that Jack McBrayer is the worst commentary provider in the history of DVD. Seriously, if they gave a “You Suck at This” award, McBrayer would win for talking about a show while you are watching the show. He participates in two of the seven episodes that have commentaries, and he’s like a 12-year-old girl: giggling about nothing, saying some nonsensical crap, being generally useless to society. McBrayer with John Hamm is pretty bad, but McBrayer and Jane Krakowski is like the Sonny and Cher of lousy commentaries. I don’t know why that’s terrible, but it is. All of the commentaries, except the two by Tina Fey and Jeff Richmond, are weak, but why the hell did they put Alan Alda on a commentary by himself? When he’s not actually on screen, he says nothing interesting and sometimes nothing at all. As was the case last season, Baldwin and Morgan don’t participate in any of the commentaries.
As was the case last year, the deleted scenes are a whole lot of nothing. I take that back, they are a whole little of nothing. Totaling just over six minutes, they aren’t really deleted scenes, they are more like deleted lines, or deleted scene fragments.
Showing that they could do something funny and worthwhile for the DVD extras, the full commercial for “1-900-OK FACE” is shown. This is the complete phone-sex ad Liz did in Chicago. It’s amazing and cheesy and everything that makes the show great. If you watch the fake commercial and then switch immediately to the incredibly uninteresting “Behind-the-Scenes With the Muppets” extra, you can have the best thing and the worst thing on the disc back to back.
Two extras revolve around the season’s final episode, “Kidney Now!” First you get to watch a table read of the episode. That’s where everyone sits around a table and reads the lines of the episode. It’s, you know, like it sounds. A table read. What can I say….BFD. There is also a more interesting 12-minute extra on recording the song used for the kidney benefit. It’s actually pretty straightforward and discusses writing the song, getting the people (Elvis Costello, Norah Jones, Cyndi Lauper, Sheryl Crowe, Mary J. Blige, Moby, etc., etc.), and a look at the recording sessions. It’s pretty cool.
Again, it looks like a lot, but it’s really not so much. You are getting this for instant access to all 22 episodes and will have to be satisfied with the blah extras.
Reviewed By: Ed Perkis