On the heels of Sunday’s Emmy wins for 30 Rock, including awards for Outstanding Comedy Series and lead comedy actor Alec Baldwin, the show’s stellar third season comes to DVD. The wonderfully ridiculous show is the creation of Tina Fey based loosely on her experience as head writer at Saturday Night Live for seven years.
Fey also stars as Liz Lemon, the harried head writer of TGS with Tracy Jordan, a sketch show mainly featuring the dubious talents of Tracy (Tracy Morgan) and Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski). Constantly juggling the stresses of the job and the prima donna demands of Jenna and Tracy, Liz confides often in NBC network executive Jack Donaghy (Baldwin, in the role of his career). Awkward, TV-loving NBC page Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer) rounds out the principal cast.
The third season of 30 Rock finds the show at its strongest yet, allowing the frequently absurd and unconventional humor to flourish, and giving the strong ensemble cast room to develop. Most obvious is the relationship between Jack and Liz, and it’s frequently both poignant and hilarious to see the two begrudgingly come to depend on and care for each other.
Fey’s self-deprecating characterization of Liz as a lonely woman whose main love is food (these jokes never get old) continues to work. Despite the various plotlines in season three that threaten to break her out of this rut — a season-long arc about her attempts to adopt a child, a budding romance with a guy she meets by reading his mail — it’s becoming increasingly obvious none of these life changes are going to take root. In this case, the old sitcom standby of maintaining the status quo in a character’s life actually works for 30 Rock, as the writing has stayed sharp and resisted stagnation while treading familiar ground.
Baldwin continues to be a revelation as suave, yet insecure exec Donaghy. The man is a deadpan comedic riot, and his interaction with every character is solid gold. He deserves every award he’s won for his performance, and the many that are sure to come.
Beyond Fey and Baldwin, the rest of the ensemble shines as well, particularly McBrayer in a kooky role that has resisted becoming tiresome. With a constant stream of non sequiturs emanating from Morgan’s character, he’s become a superb comic pairing for the naïve Kenneth. (“We’re not best friends, we’re just good friends!”)
30 Rock has a bright future in NBC’s comedy lineup alongside The Office, and the two shows pack the most potent one-two punch on network TV today. All 22 episodes of season three come equipped with some of the wittiest barbs, best pop culture references, and simply strangest jokes you’ll find on a program this mainstream.
The three-disc DVD set comes with a number of extras including several deleted scenes, a featurette on the Muppets featured in one episode, the making of the season finale, a surprisingly funny and well worth watching table read of the finale, the full phone sex line commercial that Liz starred in, photo galleries, award speeches, and an SNL monologue by Baldwin with McBrayer stealing the spotlight.
30 Rock has its season four premiere October 15, which leaves plenty of time between now and then to re-visit season three on DVD.