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"30 Rock": Season 3 DVD Review - Page 2

Buy 30 Rock: Season 3 on DVD from Amazon.com 30 Rock: Season Three (2008-09)
Show & DVD Details

Regular Directors: Don Scardino, Gail Mancuso, Beth McCarthy / Regular Writers: Tina Fey, Robert Carlock, Jack Burditt, Ron Weiner, John Riggi, Kay Cannon

Regular Cast: Tina Fey (Liz Lemon), Tracy Morgan (Tracy Jordan), Jane Krakowski (Jenna Maroney), Jack McBrayer (Kenneth Parcell), Scott Adsit (Pete Hornberger), Judah Friedlander (Frank Rossitano), Alec Baldwin (Jack Donaghy), Katrina Bowden (Cerie Xerox), Keith Powell (James "Toofer" Spurlock), Lonny Ross (Josh Girard), Kevin Brown (Dot Com), Grizz Chapman (Grizz), Maulik Pancholy (Jonathan)

Recurring Characters: John Lutz (J.D. Lutz), Chris Parnell (Dr. Leo Spaceman), Rip Torn (Don Geiss), Dean Winters (Dennis Duffy), Salma Hayek (Elisa), Marceline Hugot (Kathy Geiss), Elaine Stritch (Colleen Donaghy), Sherri Shepherd (Angie Jordan), Will Arnett (Devon Banks), Brian Stack (Howard Jorgensen), Steve Buscemi (Lenny Wosniak), Todd Buonopane (Jeffrey Weinerslav), Jon Hamm (Dr. Drew Baird), Meredith Vieira (Herself), Alan Alda (Milton Greene)

Notable Guest Stars: Megan Mullally (Bev), Oprah Winfrey (Herself), Markie Post (Herself), Charles Robinson (Himself), Harry Anderson (Himself), Jennifer Aniston (Claire Harper), John McEnroe (Himself), Steve Martin (Gavin Volure), Peter Dinklage (Stewart LaGrange), Matt Lauer (Himself), Larry King (Himself), John Lithgow (Himself), Patti Lupone (Sylvia Rossitano), Nancy O'Dell (Herself), Calvin Klein (Himself), Adam West (Himself), Brian Williams (Himself), Keith Olbermann (Sportscaster), Adam Levine (Himself), Sheryl Crow (Herself), Mary J. Blige (Herself), Clay Aiken (Himself), Elvis Costello (Himself), Michael McDonald (Himself), Rachael Yamagata (Herself), Robert Randolph (Himself), Moby (Himself), Rhett Miller (Himself), Cyndi Lauper (Herself), Talib Kweli (Himself), Norah Jones (Herself), Wyclef Jean (Himself), Steve Earl (Himself), Sara Bareilles (Herself), Adam Horovitz (Himself), Michael Diamond (Himself)

Running Time: 486 Minutes (22 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles: English, Spanish; Closed Captioned / DVD Release Date: September 22, 2009
Season 3 Airdates: October 30, 2008 - May 14, 2009
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s); Suggested Retail Price: $49.98
Six-sided fold-out Digipak with glossy cardboard slipcover

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Page 1: Show Discussion, Discs 1-2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

Tracy's wife, Angie (Sherri Shepherd of "The View") requires him to tattoo her face on his back. It goes terribly wrong. Steve Buscemi not only continues his recurring role in Season 3 of "30 Rock" -- he directs an episode too! Sheryl Crow and Elvis Costello are but two in a long line of big name celebs appearing in the Season Three finale.

Disc 3

17. Cutbacks (21:12) (Originally aired April 9, 2009)
Liz compromises her dignity to save her staff from discomfort and layoffs when Jack is ordered to cut expenses. The budgeting finds Kenneth doubling as Jack's secretary, a change that Tracy and Jenna suspect stems from something more nefarious inside Kenneth's apartment.

18. Jackie Jormp-Jomp (21:07) (Originally aired April 16, 2009)
Jenna learns that licensing problems will result in her starring not as Janice Joplin, but as Jackie Jormp-Jomp. Liz finds a new group of friends while on mandatory leave due to sexual harassment.

19. The Ones (21:12) (Originally aired April 23, 2009)
While Jack considers proposing to Elisa, she reveals a terrible secret to Liz. Meanwhile, Angie demands that Tracy get a tattoo bearing her likeness and Jenna makes Kenneth the pawn in her ploy to woo an EMT.

20. The Natural Order (21:10) (Originally aired April 30, 2009)
Liz and Tracy insist on treating each other as equals, leading to some workplace rivalry, and Jack is upset that his mother has forgotten the date on which his dad left them.

21. Mamma Mia (21:12) (Originally aired May 7, 2009)
Liz is jealous when Jenna gets the credit for a line Liz wrote ("That's a deal breaker, ladies!") but still finds the time to set up a Mamma Mia! scheme to find Jack's real dad.

22. Kidney Now! (21:11) (Originally aired May 14, 2009)
Liz becomes an overnight media sensation thanks to everyone's favorite new catchphrase, "That's a deal breaker, ladies!" As their second most famous graduate, Tracy is invited to be the keynote speaker at his high school's graduation. Determined to find his father a kidney, Jack calls in more than a few favors and assembles a star-studded "We Are the World" charity single project.

Liz Lemon knows that the way to a man's heart is through an '80s wardrobe. From Jackie Jormp-Jomp to Peter Pan, Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) is quite the versatile actress!

VIDEO and AUDIO

The episodes are correctly presented in the 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio for which they are filmed but not necessarily broadcast (depending on your local NBC affiliate). They are enhanced for 16x9 displays. Video quality is quite pleasing overall. Viewed up close on a large screen, one immediately detects a softer image than is desired and occasional, minor edge enhancement. These are at least largely due to the cramming of so much content onto each disc. Universal has unfortunately declined to grant "30 Rock" a Blu-ray release thus far (despite giving one to "The Office", a show with only a million more viewers and an overlapping fan base). That said, the impairments here are minimal and don't detract from the viewing experience. In fact, even on cram-packed DVD, these episodes look vivid and sleek.

Audio is available in both Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and Dolby 2.0 Stereo. In either one, dialogue comes from the front channels (the center channel in the former and the left and right in the latter). The Surround soundtrack adds quite a bit of rear reinforcement for both effects and score, and an adequate bass level as well. The stereo track is, of course, a more accurate replication of the way you likely would have first seen the episode on TV. The Dolby 5.1 track is definitely the more pleasing of the two but either satisfies. English and Spanish subtitles are available.

You might notice that each episode contains two 2.0 Stereo tracks. The second is for audio commentaries. For episodes that don't offer a commentary track, the second stereo track simply replicates the first.

This deleted scene finds Jack receiving some unwanted affection. Tina Fey pals around with her Muppet counterpart in this behind-the-scenes Season 3 featurette. Liz Lemon's darkest secret is revealed with the discovery of her 1-900-OKFACE adult hotline ad, included in its entirety on the "30 Rock": Season 3 DVD.

BONUS FEATURES

Season 3's roster of DVD bonus features is substantial, beginning with audio commentaries on seven episodes, broken down as follows -- On Disc 1: "Flu Shot" (with Tina Fey and her husband, show composer Jeff Richmond). On Disc 2: "Goodbye, My Friend" (with Judah Friedlander and John Lutz), "The Bubble" (with Jon Hamm and Jack McBrayer), and "Apollo, Apollo" (with Jack Burditt and Robert Carlock). On Disc 3: "The Ones" (with Jane Krakowski and Jack McBrayer), "Mamma Mia" (with Alan Alda) and "Kidney Now!" (with Tina Fey and Jeff Richmond).

Easily the most entertaining pairings are Friedlander with Lutz, Hamm with McBrayer, and Krakowski with McBrayer. Funny, relevant, and active throughout, each of those tracks is highly recommended. Fey and Richmond's commentary on "Kidney Now!" is also pretty interesting, unlike their recording for "Flu Shot", which is rather dull. Alan Alda might seem like an odd choice for a commentary provider, given his limited role on the show, and his solo track is indeed filled with quite a bit of silence. Clearly, he should have been paired with someone to keep the conversation flowing. Writers Burditt and Carlock have something to say in the abstract,
but their conversation centers more on Burditt's remarkable career than on the show itself.

The rest of the bonus features are found exclusively on Disc 3, beginning with a gallery of 13 deleted scenes. Running just over six minutes in total, these show fragments are each fast flashes of funny, even if they aren't too memorable. Inexplicably, there's no Play All option, despite the scenes' encoding as successive chapters in the same video title.

"Behind the Scenes with the Muppets" (3:09) doesn't feature the particular Muppets you associate with that name but it does present behind-the-scenes footage of "Sesame Street" muppeteers at work on "30 Rock"'s Avenue Q-esque fantasy sequence. While the absence of a more concrete Henson connection might disappoint some, this short piece is surprisingly revelatory of the Muppeteering process.

"1-900-OKFACE" (1:09) is the complete, uninterrupted adult hotline commercial featuring Liz Lemon in all her mom jeans, lipstick-smattered teeth glory. After first appearing in the show, the hilarious faux ad went viral online and it's only fitting that the video has now found its way to the DVD.

The best bonus feature on the "30 Rock": Season 3 DVD is this full taping of a table read, complete with scrolling script! Jeff Richmond, "30 Rock" composer and husband to Tina Fey, talks about the Season 3 finale song, "We Need a Kidney." Judah Friedlander is caught in this candid shot from the "30 Rock" backstage photo reel.

By far the best bonus feature on this DVD is the "'Kidney Now' Table Read" (31:25). The entire starring cast gathers, alongside a slew of supporting cast and crew members, to read the entire early draft of the "Kidney Now" (pre-exclamation point in the title) script. This hilarious and fascinating inside glimpse reveals a number of changes between the original draft and the final product, including the replacement of Michael Stipe and Norah Jones with Clay Aiken and Sheryl Crow, respectively. Adding value is a scrolling scan of the screenplay in the bottom-half of the screen, set beneath the video of the run-through. It's worth noting that there are occasional gaps of silence, presumably editing either profanity or some brand name that the legal department struck out. Major kudos to Universal for allowing this otherwise complete read-through to make it onto the DVD.

"The Making of 'He Needs a Kidney'" (12:23) is a serious look at a not-so-serious all-star charity single. The Season Three finale ended with a superstar spectacular in "He Needs a Kidney". This featurette chronicles that song's journey from composition to its ultimate appearance in the show. Celebrities like Mary J. Blige, Adam Levine, Cyndi Lauper, Clay Aiken, Sheryl Crow, Michael McDonald, Elvis Costello, and more come together in the studio and on the soundstage to deliver one of "30 Rock"'s most monumental endeavors.

"Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery" (2:05) is less of a gallery and more of a moving reel. The latter is less common on DVDs but certainly preferable. There aren't many images here, but they mostly come from production -- some candid, some posed. Publicity images would be an added bonus and background music would liven the reel up, but these photos are still worth a quick scroll-through (made even quicker if you fast-forward).

The DVD takes the rare step of including a completely awesome and relevant "Saturday Night Live" opening monologue from Alec Baldwin's fourteenth stint as host. Tracy Morgan parodies Christian Bale's infamous on-set meltdown in this "30 Rock" bonus feature. Tina Fey accepts an Emmy for "30 Rock", her speech preserved for posterity on the third season DVD release.

"Alec Baldwin's SNL Monologue" (4:50) is, as the title suggests, the 14-time "Saturday Night Live" host's complete introduction from his latest appearance on the late-night show.
This one is especially relevant, as Baldwin's monologue is repeatedly interrupted by an audience more interested in his "30 Rock" co-star, Jack McBrayer.

"Tracy Jordan's Rant" (2:08) finds Tracy Morgan (presumably in-character as Jordan) imitating Christian Bale with a similarly profanity-laden meltdown on the set of "TGS". After seeing this, if Tracy Morgan ever stars in a Christian Bale biopic, I'll be there on opening night.

Finally, the disc includes video of acceptance speeches for three of the last year's major "30 Rock" award wins: Tina Fey's Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (1:19), Alec Baldwin's Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (1:04), and the show's Golden Globe for Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy (1:17). All award-winning series should include clips like these on their DVD releases.

There is an Easter Egg. Skip this paragraph if you'd rather find it yourself. On Disc 3, go to the second Bonus Features menu screen. When "Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery" is selected, hit the right arrow button to select "Back" and then hit the down arrow button. The top window in the building on the right will light up. Hit enter to see a very quick shot of a letter that Jack has left for Jane.

Look carefully at the menu screens... there's an Easter Egg to be found! Disc 3's Bonus Features menu is, like the other menu screens, 16x9-ehanced and nicely designed.

MENUS, PACKAGING, and DESIGN

The discs are nicely packaged in a sturdy, glossy-coated Digipak. Each one is adorned with classy, modern-looking artwork that features one of the starring cast members. Disc-by-disc episode listings and plot summaries are printed on the case, which is housed inside a glossy cardboard sleeve that repeats the cover art and continues with an NYC cityscape on the sleeve's interior. Inside the case is a flyer advertising "Other 'SNL' Favorites" on one side ("30 Rock" is apparently an official part of the "SNL" family now) and "The Jay Leno Show" on the other.

The cover art's design carries over to the 16x9 main menu screens, which are mostly dormant with the exception of a playful pop in the title logo every time the show's theme song (playing the background) hits one of its signature horn bursts. The NYC cityscape repeats on all of the sub-menus. There's an Episode Selection screen on each disc, but the episodes themselves, surprisingly, are not chapter-divided.

Both the physical packaging and the menu design are tastefully appointed, making for a very aesthetically pleasing purchase. The only annoyance is that each and every menu transition triggers some short and funny excerpt from a Season 3 episode -- a device that not only annoys after the first play-through, but also spoils a few jokes before they play in context as part of the full show.

Disc One automatically plays promos for "The Office": Season 5, "Parks and Recreation": Season One, Mamma Mia! on DVD & Blu-ray, Universal on Blu-ray in general, and "The Jay Leno Show" on NBC. None of these are available from the main menu.

Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) sets New York City into a panic after his absurd commentary on CNN's "Larry King Live." Liz Lemon defends her Slanket on "30 Rock."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"30 Rock" is a show I want everyone I know to see. I want you to see it too. So brimming with levity and cleverness is this series that I feel compelled to share it with others. I suspect, however, that some will deem it as too silly, too unrestrained for their tastes. Certainly, "30 Rock" has a flair for the zany, but that's tempered by characters who are accessibly defined and fully realized by an impeccable cast. The writing here is too biting, too culturally astute to be dismissed as broad.

Season 3 finds the show riding strong. Universal's DVD presentation leaves little room for complaint, with pleasing (though imperfect) audio and video treatment and a robust slate of bonus features. Snazzy packaging adds value too. Whether it's with this release, a previous season, or the upcoming fall debut, "30 Rock" is a series you should make a regular part of your TV schedule, if you haven't already.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Page 1: Show Discussion, Discs 1-2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

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Reviewed September 24, 2009.

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