30 Rock: Season One
R1 - America - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (28th November 2007).
The Show

As it so happens sometimes the best comedies are the ones unfortunately ignored by the mainstream television viewing audience, a prime example of this is the exceptionally brilliant and shamefully cancelled "Arrested Development" (2003-2006) which won the Emmy for 'Outstanding Comedy Series' in 2004 along with many other accolades but sadly did not win the appreciation of the viewing population. This year's winner of the 'Outstanding Comedy Series' Emmy came as a total surprise, even to the show's creator who quoted in her speech thanking "our dozens and dozens of viewers". The show is "30 Rock" and much like "Arrested Development" before it has been hailed by critics (I for one have been won over by the show's humor and characters) however the first season was ranked #102 in the ratings. Despite this poor showing a second season is underway and hopes are the show will grow and gain in viewership thanks to in part by the recent win at the Emmy's but mostly because it's one of the best written comedies currently on television, standing alongside such giants of hilarity as "The Office" (2005-Present) and the recent HBO series "The Flight of the Conchords" (2007).

The series creator Tiny Fey partly based the series on her experiences as a head writer on the variety comedy show "Saturday Night Live" (1975-Present), however initially it wasn't the case. The original pitch centered the show on a Nightly News program but NBC executives encouraged the writer to "write what you know" and thus "30 Rock" was born and NBC took a chance and insisted that Fey also appear in the series. This meant having to leave her "Saturday Night Live" stint.

"30 Rock" which references 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City is the base for NBC Universal and houses a few live stages; this is the location for show in which the characters of the series work on. The series is a workplace comedy that follows the head writer Liz Lemon (Tiny Fey) of a live-to-air variety show called 'The Girlie Show' which stars Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski). But when new programming boss, Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) is put in charge he wants to make a few changes to the show including the casting of Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) an over-the-top comedian turned movie star, who's not only outrageous but clinically crazy to help boost ratings. Thus the show is renamed 'TGS with Tracy Jordan'.

The strengths of the show can be traced to its writing, the series flows exceptionally well at a fast pace taking the viewer into the world of these characters, each episode is filled with snappy, witty dialog that often leads to humorous set-ups and pay-offs as the writers satirize the television industry. This comedic feat is sometimes difficult to accomplish and equally difficult to deliver, but the actors are on top form creating unique characters. Undoubtedly the best performance goes to Alec Baldwin who plays Jack and is quickly becoming the best thing he's ever done career wise. The character is conniving, slick and fast talking with a love for negotiation and getting things done his way and the many interactions he has with Liz Lemon result in the funniest and often most memorable moments in the series.

The best thing about this show is that you can watch it over and over again and discover something new each time, the comedy never gets old, as the shows fast pace gives it a fresh quality about it. The season started out a big slow in the first few episodes but certainly hits its stride by the fourth episode and the series producers, writers and cast continued to deliver consistently brilliant episodes. "30 Rock" is definitely worth checking out if you missed it during its first season, and now that the second season is about to get underway I officially can't wait to see what else Tiny Fey and crew come up with.

Video

Presented in the show's original broadcast ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen this anamorphic transfer is excellent. The image is sharp and nicely detailed, there's an odd soft close-up but it's not persistent. The colors are well balanced and appear bright and vivid, with skin appearing natural and black levels bold and deep. There is limited shadow detail as the series takes on the standard sitcom lighting which tends to light everything leaving little by way of photographic definition, although night scene interiors have consistent shadow detail. Overall the print is clean and pristine and presents the show excellently.

Audio

Two audio tracks are included in English Dolby Digital 5.1 as well as an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the series with its 5.1 track, although this series is a dialogue based sitcom I did feel that the 5.1 track added more depth to the episodes than the Stereo track. The depth was created with a subtle ambient mix that makes use of the surround speakers placing the viewer on the soundstages of 'The Girlie Show'. Additionally dialogue is clear and distortion free.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired and Spanish.

Extras

Universal has released this season with five episode audio commentaries, deleted scenes, bloopers, interview clips, a couple of featurettes and some shorts as well as bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements broken down per disc.

DISC ONE:

The only extras on this disc are a series of start-up bonus trailers for:

- "30 Rock" promo spot which runs for 32 seconds.
- "Friday Night Lights: Season 1" which runs for 33 seconds.
- "The Office" on DVD which runs for 1 minute.
- "HD DVD" promo spot which runs for 1 minute 2 seconds.

DISC TWO:

There are no extras on this disc.

DISC THREE:

The majority of the extras are featured on this disc, first up are a series of five episode audio commentaries. The strange thing about these tracks is that they are featured on episodes that appear on discs one and two. A couple of these tracks are OK at best but almost all of them don't really provide a lot of information on the show or even the making of the show, and there are a lot of silent gaps in these tracks. Perhaps for the season two DVD set they might consider grouping people for the recording session because alone these tracks are severely lacking. In any case the tracks included are:

First track is an audio commentary on the episode "Tracy Does Conan" by cast member Tracy Morgan who spends his time talking about his days on "Saturday Night Live" with Fey and how they worked together on writing sketches, he comments on his involvement in "30 Rock" and who Fey wrote the character with him in mind and also talks about the difference between himself and character of Tracy Jordan among other things.

The second track is an audio commentary on the episode "Black Tie" by creator/producer/cast member Tina Fey, in this track she talks about the specific episode and on her character as well as her favorite moments of Paul Reubens's guest starring performance and the development of his character's look. She also provides some trivia such as her husband scores each episode including the opening credit music.

Third is an audio commentary on the episode "Hard Ball" by executive producer Lorne Michaels and his son Henry Michaels. In this track Fey introduces these two wanting to know their thoughts on the series as they spent a lot of time watching the rough cuts, however this horribly backfires as they have extremely little to say leaving the majority of this track silent and a few times commenting on something that happens on-screen...this track is an unfortunate waste.

The fourth track is an audio commentary on the episode "Fireworks" by cast member Jack McBrayer who plays Kenneth on the show, this one of the better tracks, although it has a few quiet gaps he does in fact provide some information about the show including Fey's second city comedy days, working with the cast including the guest star Will Arnett among other things. On a side note McBrayer seems eerily similar to the character he plays on the show, at least his boy-like enthusiasm.

The fifth and final audio commentary is on the episode "Hiatus" by cast member Alec Baldwin, who also appears to have little to say and seems like he's watching the episode along side you rather than actually commenting on it as he occasionally laughs at a funny bit. It's frustrating because in the track he states that in stead of waiting for a moment to talk within the show's fast pace structure he'll just talk regardless, but shortly after that comment he's quiet and sometimes makes references to Jane Karkowski being the new 'horny' girl on TV. Great, can someone please script his commentaries next time?

Following that are a series of deleted scenes form the episodes that include:

- "The Pilot" which runs for 1 minute 1 second as Tracy crashes an MBC tour.
- "Blind Date" which runs for 1 minute 25 seconds, Pete is concerned that Liz is hanging out too often with her lesbian friend Gretchen.
- "Tracy Does Conan" runs for 1 minute 46 seconds Pete tries to get a hallucinating Tracy ready for the show.
- "The "C" Word" runs for 6 minutes 40 seconds and includes a few scenes, Liz talks to Jenna about what to do with Lutz about calling her the worst word ever, Tracy can't keep up with the people at the charity golf tournament and Kenneth reveals he's in love with another page, Kenneth and Gracie find Tracy and Mrs. Winthrop in a sand bunker after what appears to be a heavy night to drinking and Tracy calls Grizz and Dot Com to pick him up, Additionally Grizz and Dot Com get pulled over a couple of times driving through Connecticut and finally a writer asks Liz for time off.
- "The Break Up" runs for 30 seconds, Liz enquires about Dennis' apartment hunting.
- "The Head and the Hair" runs for 43 seconds, Pete asks Jack to go through the trash and pick out the recycling.
- "Up All Night" runs for 1 minute 49 seconds and Liz calls her parents to see if they sent her the Valentines flowers and Jenna asks her to make Frank stop making fun of her, later Frank puts a blanket on Jenna and stares at her boobs.
- "The Fighting Irish" runs for 30 seconds, Jack breaks up a fight between two kids on an NBC tour.
- "Hiatus" runs for 16 seconds, Liz asks Frank not be homophobic or racists in his stand-up.

Next up is "The Wrap Party" this is a series of bloopers which runs for 13 minutes 8 seconds and is cut together like a "E True Hollywood Story" as we get a series of funny line flubs, missed cues and outtakes.

Also on the disc are a series of "An Evening with Kenneth" clips, in these clips McBrayer is in character as he films a late-night talk show, they include:

- "Kenneth - Jenna" runs for 2 minutes 51 seconds, Kenneth interviews Jenna about her new covers album.
- "Kenneth - Kittens" runs for 1 minute 18 seconds and is an audition tape for "Deal or no Deal" as he shares pictures and stories of his kittens.
- "Kenneth - Frank" runs for 2 minutes 38 seconds and Kenneth interviews rank the writer about what he does each day and a sketch he wrote.
- "Frank & Kenneth Fart Contest" runs for 41 seconds and the two make farting noises with their hands.
- "Kenneth - Tracy" runs for 2 minutes 33 seconds and Kenneth bumps Tracy because he's out of time.

"Behind the Scenes with Judah Friedlander" is a featurette which runs for 5 minutes 40 seconds and the comedian and cast member takes us on a studio tour where we get to meet some of the crew and visit the character dressing rooms as he and Lonny Ross have some fun with combo impressions.

Another featurette follows entitled "Behind the Scenes with Jack McBrayer and Lonny Ross" which runs for 9 minutes 46 seconds and take us on another tour of the Silvercup Studios in New York where the show is filmed as we visit various sets and dressing rooms and meet some of the cast as well as take a tour of the wardrobe department and the writer's room.

Rounding out the extras are "Makin' it Happen" shorts which run for 31 seconds and are a series of three quick internet sitcom clips.

Packaging

This 3-disc set is packaged in a digi-pack that that is housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

The Show: A Video: A Audio: B Extras: B- Overall: A-

 


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