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30 Rock: Season 2 (2007-2008)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 10/7/2008

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/8/2008

I hate to ask a question that has been asked so many times before, but why is it that some of the truly great television shows aren't hits? Sure, there have been plenty of well-made shows, such as Cheers and The Simpsons, which were popular. But in recent years, some very smart and clever shows, which have won major awards, have gone virtually unnoticed by the general public. The most obvious example of this decade is Arrested Development, a show which turned the sitcom on its head. Currently, 30 Rock is one of the best shows on TV, and yet, it continues to only have mediocre ratings. Perhaps more viewers will catch the show on DVD and get hooked. With that in mind, we look at 30 Rock: Season 2.

The title 30 Rock refers to 30 Rockefeller Center, which is the setting of the show. The show follows Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) the producer and head writer for The Girly Show, a late-night comedy show. Liz's life is constantly out of control, as she's trying to rein in her stars, the egotistical and insecure Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski), and the insane Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan). She must also answer to executive Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), a power-hungry, cocky, yet oddly neurotic man. As if this weren't enough, Liz struggles with the fact that she's getting older and has yet to find Mr. Right, despite going through several boyfriends.

As Season 2 opens, Liz has decided that she's going to turn her life around and make positive changes. She wants Jack to teach her about saving money and investing. Of course, she doesn't have a chance to put this plan into place because everyone around her is always falling apart. Jenna has put on weight over the summer and Tracy has left his wife. Meanwhile, Jack, who only has meaningless relationships with young models, meets a woman, C.C. (Edie Falco), at a party and instantly falls in love. Unfortunately, he quickly realizes that he must hide the relationship from others. Jack is also obsessing over the fact that he may be up for the chairmanship of General Electric. This doesn't stop Jack from constantly hounding Liz to promote certain products on her show.

To say that 30 Rock is one of the funniest (if not the funniest) shows on TV right now would be a great understatement. The show is filled wall-to-wall with jokes, and it does a great job of blending different kinds of humor. Clever lines abound on the series, and every scene contains at least one zinger. A working knowledge of current events and the world of entertainment will only enhance one's enjoyment of these lines. If that's not your cup of tea, the show has plenty of physical humor from Jordan, McBrayer, and Krakowski. Jordan also provides a boatload of non sequitirs, bad grammars, and simply insane lines, where what he says doesn’t make sense, but is still funny.

As great as 30 Rock is, and as much as I'd love to have it become a huge hit, I can easily understand why some have not embraced it. The show is often labeled as "smart" and in many ways, it is. The show often features references which are then loaded with sub-references, and if you don't get some of these references, you won't be lost -- the show isn't that hard to follow -- but you may feel talked down to. At the other end of the spectrum, the low-brow humor which appears at times on the show may offend those who see themselves as intellectually superior. (30 Rock also has a political agenda at times which some may not embrace.) These are the same issues which befell Arrested Development. The bottom line is that a percentage of individuals from both group would find something to love about the show if they would give it a try.

All of that aside, 30 Rock is a great show to discover on DVD. This is the rare show which truly benefits from multiple viewings. The first time that you watch an episode, you'll be taken in by Alec Baldwin or Tracy Morgan (depending on your tastes) and their larger than life personas. However, upon a second viewing, the smaller moments by the other characters, such as Jack McBrayer or Scott Adsit, become very apparent, and suddenly Dot Com (Kevin Brown) is your favorite character. No matter how you discover it, you owe it to yourself to give 30 Rock a try.

30 Rock: Season 2 grabs Emmy glory on DVD courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The two-disc set contains all 15 episodes from the show's second season. The shows have been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is quite sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source material. The colors look fine and the image is neither overly dark or bright. The picture has a nice amount of detail and certainly rivals digital broadcast quality. The DVD contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The tracks deliver some subtle stereo and surround effects, and the musical cues sound fine. But, being a sitcom, the audio is basically limited to dialogue from the center channel.

The 30 Rock: Season 2 DVD set contains several extra features. Disc 1 features AUDIO COMMENTARIES on several episodes; "Jack Gets in the Game" with Will Arnett; "The Collection" with Jane Krakowski & Jack McBrayer; "Somebody to Love" with Fred Armisen; "Cougars" with Judah Friedlander; and "Episode 210" with Tina Fey and Jeff Richmond. The COMMENTARIES continue on Disc 2 with; "Milf Island" with Scott Adsit; "Subway Hero" with Tim Conway & Jack McBrayer; "Succession" with Robert Carlock & John Riggi"; "Sandwich Day" with Tina Fey; and "Cooter" with Jane Krakowski & Jack McBrayer. These commentaries vary in quality. The ones with guest stars, such as Arnett and Armisen are the weakest, as they don't have much to say and try way too hard to be funny. Krakowski and McBrayer may seem like an odd pairing, but the two have a great time and their giggling is infectious. The DVD contains six DELETED SCENES which run about 5 minutes. There are some OK moments here, but no hidden gems. The "'Cooter' Table Read" (31 minutes) offers a split-screen as we watch the actors go through the script in one frame while the other shows us the script pages. "Tina Hosts SNL" (8 minutes) gives us a backstage look at how Fey prepared for her gig as host. This is all a bit ironic as Fey is going through what was her job for years. "30 Rock Live at the UCB Theater" (47 minutes) captures the live performance of "Episode 208" which was done during the writer's strike. As noted by Fey in her intro, the audio here isn't the best, but it's nice that this was included. It should be noted that the entire main cast is here, although Edie Falco's character is played by someone else. "The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Presents: An Evening with 30 Rock" (23 minutes) has a Q & A with host Brian Williams and Fey, Baldwin, Krakowski, Lorne Michaels and others. There is some good material here, and Williams is quite good.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long