Two days ago, the third season of 30 Rock rightfully won the Emmy for Best Comedy. Today that award-winning season is available on DVD. A purely original combination of surrealistic situations and perfectly timed absurdist dialogue, 30 Rock is a comedic masterpiece. There has never been an episode that hasn’t made me laugh, and this season ranks among their best.
While the style of humor is completely unique, what makes the show work as well as it does is the “anything for a laugh” humor of the ensemble. While Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon is technically the lead, as the stories mostly play out from her perspective, every character plays a vital part in propelling the action forward.
Lemon is the executive producer of a fictional comedy show called The Girlie Show, and every episode essentially deals with her having to manage the over-the-top situations that occur between her eccentric cast and crew. Much like Jason Bateman in another of my favorite comedies, Arrested Development (RIP), Fey has the difficult task of playing the straight man while still portraying an eccentric character herself. She does a brilliant job of creating this balance.
Every cast member is fantastic, but there are standouts. Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey get most of the credit, but my personal favorite character is Jenna Maroney, played by Jane Krakowski. Egotistically delusional star of The Girlie Show, every moment she’s on screen is a highlight. She is completely believable as an over-the-top diva who doesn’t get the respect she feels entitled to. The show also features hilarious performances by Tracy Morgan as Jenna’s costar Tracy Jordan, and Jack McBrayer as starstruck NBC page, Kenneth Parcell.
Season 3 of 30 Rock featured a huge, over-the-top number of guest stars. Somehow, they managed to get Oprah Winfry, Jennifer Aniston, Jon Hamm, Steve Martin, Alan Alda, Salma Hayek, etc. This is just a partial list and none of them were brief cameos (Oprah’s was the closest). They actually played fully developed characters, with some of them appearing in several episodes. If I had any complaints about this season, it would actually be the over-abundance of guest stars. While they were almost all great roles, sometimes the sheer amount of guests proved distracting and made me wish they would focus on their own terrific group of characters.
The DVD itself is pretty well put together. My favorite feature is the entire table-read of the series finale. While I love the slickly produced behind-the-scenes packages included on most DVD’s and Blu-Rays, I also love seeing a naturalistic look at the day-to-day workings of a show or movie; something not being filmed specifically for the disc. While the table read doesn’t feature anything truly exciting, it’s kind of neat seeing the cast and crew just doing what they do week in and week out.
There are also several commentary tracks. Usually, I tend to dismiss these outright as self-congratulatory filler, but these stand out a little more than usual. They actually got several of their guest stars to record tracks, creating a fresh perspective on what is usually a fairly routine feature.
Also included are several deleted scenes, a too brief look at a sequence showing the making of a Muppet-filled fantasy sequence, a pretty funny video spoofing the Christian Bale outburst, etc. There isn’t a lot of insight into the behind-the-scenes world of 30 Rock, but this set focuses mostly on the fun of the show.
Far from your standard sitcom, 30 Rock is like a weird hybrid of Family Guy, Scrubs, News Radio, Arrested Development, etc. It’s entirely unique, and that’s why I love it so much. The Emmy’s got it right. The third season of 30 Rock is definitely the year’s best television comedy.