30 Rock: Season 2
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Relive the second season of the Primetime Emmy Award-winning comedy 30 Rock, the show that the guy who writes stuff on DVD boxes calls “my current assignment” and that Gillian Flynn of Entertainment Weekly has named “simply the best TV.” Created by Golden Globe and SAG Award winner Tina Fey, 30 Rock features Fey (as TV writer Liz Lemon), Golden Globe and SAG Award winner Alec Baldwin (as corporate executive Jack Donaghy), Tracy Morgan and Jane Krakowski (as Lemon’s unpredictable stars, Tracy Jordan and Jenna Maroney) and Jack McBrayer (as the naive NBC page Kenneth Parcell). Co-workers and friends, they are all trying to balance work and life, with the inevitable result of failed relationships, disastrous parties, at-work drunkenness, hard-core coffee addiction, world-class sandwich eating and occasional attempts to chop down Christmas trees. Join in the behind-the-scenes fun with lots of exclusive content and all fifteen episodes of the acclaimed second season of 30 Rock from executive producer Lorne Michaels.
"I really feel like this is going to be my year," an uncharacteristically optimistic Liz Lemmon proclaims in 30 Rock's season two opener. Reality quickly intrudes on the hapless Liz, but for Tina Fey and 30 Rock, the year couldn't be better. Nominated for 17 Emmys, the series repeated for Outstanding Comedy Series and earned Outstanding Actress and Actor honors for Fey and co-star Alec Baldwin as GM CEO-in-waiting Jack Donaghy. TV icon Tim Conway was also honored as Outstanding Guest Actor as Bucky Bright in "Subway Hero"--just one of the strike-shortened season's benchmark episodes--as a faded TV star from the 1940s and '50s who shatters the illusions of television-loving NBC page Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) with appalling (and unprintable) stories about "the good old days." If you're going to make a television show, Bucky tells him, "things are going to get weird." And from one of Kenneth's lame parties that turns dark and twisted to the "Page Off" between Kenneth and his nemesis (Human Giant's Paul Scheer) things get really weird behind the scenes of TGS, the SNL-ish sketch show where Liz oversees a motley crew of writers and her tempermental, demanding stars, insecure diva Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) and all kinds of crazy Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan). 30 Rock is rarefied television, each episode brimming with quotable dialogue ("Never go with a hippie to a second location"), brilliantly absurd bits (Tracy Jordan's novelty hit, "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah," the TV series "MILF Island," Liz's Cathy moment), and edge of the frame silliness that rewards close attention ("Anne Heche Leaves Husband for Pony," reads a network news scroll in the episode, "Somebody to Love"). Stellar guest stars rise to the occasion. Edie Falco was an Emmy nominee for her recurring role as "C.C.", the liberal Democratic Congresswoman who becomes conservative Republican Jack's "hippie dippy mama," as was Carrie Fisher as former Laugh-In writer Rosemary in the instant classic episode, "Rosemary's Baby." It's this episode which features Tracy's therapy session during which Jack channels Fred Sanford and J.J. from Good Times. Making welcome returns this season are Will Arnett as Jack's corporate rival, Devon Banks, Chris Parnell as unethical Dr. Spaceman, Elaine Stritch as Jack's castrating mother, and Dean Winters as Dennis Duffy, Liz's sleazy former boyfriend and New York's unlikeliest hero. But the real muffin top on this two disc set are the awesome bonus features, including a revelatory table read of the season finale, "Cooter," the benefit live performance of the episode "Secrets and Lies" (complete with an improvised commercial), a 30 Rock panel discussion with cast and creators moderated by Brian Williams, and a backstage look at Fey's Saturday Night Live homecoming last season. Most sitcoms are as bad for you as the offbrand Mexican Cheetos that Liz gorges herself on, and as Jenna tells Liz at one point, employing "a weak metaphor," you deserve a good meal. 30 Rock is a feast. --Donald Liebenson
Stills from Season Two of 30 Rock (click for larger image)
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Most comedy shows, when the writers get a funny joke or idea, they massage it and call attention to it, perhaps even taking a pause to allow everyone to notice and appreciate it. Not 30 ROCK. The jokes just tumbled out and sometimes they were only there if you looked hard for them. The humor came in waves, in layers. For instance, in one episode Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) is watching Celeste Cunningham (Edie Falco), with whom he has just had a passionate romantic encounter, get interviewed on a news network. The main point in the scene is that the right-wing Republican Jack is horrified to learn that his flame is a left-wing Democrat, but if you look very carefully at the ticker tape along the bottom of the TV screen, you will see the words "Anne Heche leaves husband for pony" scroll across. And shot after shot during the season features in-jokes concerning the Shinehardt Wig Company ("NOT Polluting Rivers since 1997"), which somehow manages to be the parent company for GE. This is not to say that the main jokes aren't great as well (I mean, just how funny is the idea of the fake reality series MILF ISLAND?). The key point is that it isn't just that they jokes are plentiful and unrelenting; they are GOOD. It is humor with an edge, but it is never less than brilliant.
This year Alec Baldwin will almost certainly win what should have been his second Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy series. Last year news broke about an abusive message he left on his daughter's phone mail service. It unquestionably cost him the Emmy he deserved. But there is simply no question that he is the most outstanding lead actor on a comedy series today. And Tina Fey not only matches him scene for scene in her self-effacing portrayal of GIRLIE SHOW head writer Liz Lemon, but gets additional major kudos for serving as head writer on the show itself. The two of them are backed by a deep and talented cast, from Tracy Morgan in his inspired role as the literally insane Tracy Jordan to Jack McBrayer in his scene stealing role as Kenneth the page (I would love to see him get an Emmy nomination). And in addition to the regular cast there was an endless string of wonderful guest appearances, including return visits from Dean Winters as Liz's horrid (but very, very funny) ex-boyfriend Dennis and Will Arnett as Jack's company rival Devon Banks. But there were some great one-time guest appearances as well, perhaps none as delightful as Tim Conway's portrayal of a TV veteran who shatters all of Kenneth's illusions about the Golden Age of TV. Oddly enough, the one guest appearance that misfired was that by Jerry Seinfeld. It was as if the show ceased doing what makes it so brilliant to accommodate Jerry's guest spot.
The lone mystery about 30 ROCK is why it doesn't attract a larger audience. I won't name names, but there are hosts of truly lousy series that get far larger audiences than 30 ROCK. This show gets the critical acclaim and wins the awards, but it simply doesn't pull in the large ratings. This distresses me. It makes me wonder if America is clueless about great comedy. I don't get it. Never have and perhaps never will. But trust me: this is as brilliant, as funny as TV can get.
To make up for the shorted season, the producers are augmenting the strike-shortened season with many more extras than the S1 DVD set had. Check out the listings here: [...]
TEN of the fifteen episodes will have commentary tracks (compared to only six of S1's 22 episodes). Then there's a table-read, Tina hosting SNL, an ATAS evening, and the item I'm really dying to see: "30 Rock Live" at the UCB theater (an on-stage sneak-preview performance of Ep. 8, "Secrets and Lies" that occurred during the strike). Can't wait for this set's release on Oct. 7!