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"30 Rock": Season 3 DVD Review

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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By Aaron Wallace

Jay Leno's big move to 10 p.m. isn't the first time that NBC has brought late-night into primetime. "30 Rock", the moderately-watched but lavishly-praised Emmy darling, did the same thing three years ago. While Leno's transition is an economical retread of old ground, "Rock" star Tina Fey's sitcom foray has been a fresh new look at a familiar weekend tentpole: "Saturday Night Live".

One can't talk about "30 Rock" apart from "SNL". After seven years as head writer and co-host of the best stretch of "Weekend Update" that Saturday nights have ever known, Fey left "SNL" to create, write, and star in the series that has become the face of good TV comedy. She brought a bundle of her co-stars along with her. "SNL" alum Tracy Morgan and 14-time host Alec Baldwin join Fey in leading the cast,
which includes other stars from the variety show's canon -- Chris Parnell, Jason Sudeikis, and Rachel Dratch among them. Lorne Michaels, the man who first culled together the Not Ready for Primetime Players, is executive producer of both shows, and the eponymous address refers to the very studio from which we hear the weekly welcome, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!"

The connections to Fey's alma mater run deeper, of course, given that "30 Rock" is about the day-to-day production of a weekly variety show, "TGS" ("The Girlie Show"), for which Liz Lemon (Fey) is the neurotic and nerdy head writer. That concept isn't too unlike another 2006 NBC show, the short-lived "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip". Where "Studio 60" opted for drama, though, emphasizing the fast-paced and demanding nature of live television, "30 Rock" takes a broader look at the quirk collisions and corporate shenanigans that are the cornerstones of almost any workplace. At brass tacks, the show's connection to the entertainment industry is only incidental, but it does allow for an "anything goes" mantra that gives "30 Rock" its outrageous zest.

"30 Rock" has a large cast, but it all centers on Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) and Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin). On "The Girlie Show", the brow is never too low, nor its cast members too proud, for a chicken suit or a gas gag.

Baldwin plays Jack Donaghy, the Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming for General Electric and the corporate face of NBC for Liz Lemon, whose "TGS" show is a low-priority Peacock staple. Lemon's fledgling attempt at wrangling her dysfunctional cast and crew mirrors her own pathetic, uneventful personal life -- the two typically crossing paths at her pride's expense.

Heading up Lemon's starring ensemble are Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) and Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan). The former is a C-list diva with an A-list ego and no sense of propriety. The latter is a distorted send-up of Morgan himself, here a celebrated comedian who indulges in wild spending and reckless impulses that leave NBC (via Jack and Liz) to save face.

While "30 Rock"'s single-camera perspective on an inept boss and a maladjusted staff immediately calls to mind the series' NBC lead-in, "The Office", the two employ disparate tones. Unlike the dry subtlety of "The Office", "30 Rock" plays its laughs fast and loose. In the footsteps of "Family Guy" and "Scrubs", Fey's show revels in flashbacks, fantasy sequences, and the unabashedly random. Innuendo and pop culture references abound. Such a recipe threatens to yield overly broad, pandering results, but this show keeps its humor sharp and witty. Drawing from so many of the best sitcoms and sketches for inspiration, "30 Rock" is a perfect storm of contemporary television comedy.

Kenneth (Jack McBrayer), devoted TV fanatic and dutiful NBC page, has become a favorite among "30 Rock" fans. Lemon gets her Apple on with this Steve Jobs-inspired presentation.

Seemingly cast by chemists, the show's standout roster brings its effervescent writing to the top of the heap. Not since George W. Bush has someone as aptly commanded the art of self-deprecation as Tina Fey, who sacrifices her vanity for lampooning week in and out. Alec Baldwin's deadpan conservatism sells his role as a head honcho, made all the funnier by Baldwin's reputation for real-life liberal activism. There's irony in his being responsible for one of TV's rare, likeable conservatives.

In the third season, the laughs are as big and steady as ever. The show's increasing popularity (at least among critics) is reflected by a cavalcade of major guest stars. Jane Krakowski remains underused, stealing most of her scenes with a hilarious desperation that she plays with complete transparency.
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Some of the funniest material comes from Morgan, whose uproarious storylines this season include an off-the-cuff campaign to travel into space ("If you have a spaceship and you're looking for a hilarious astronaut with an irregular heartbeat and $30 million, I am prepared to leave as soon as tomorrow. I wrote that yesterday.") Of course, I'd be remiss not to sing the praises of the series' innocent, a dutiful NBC page named Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer), his naivetι the perfect compliment to his over-the-top cohorts.

The cast and crew's efforts in Season Three were recently rewarded with another slew of Primetime Emmy Awards (including the top prize: Outstanding Comedy Series). With material this strong, it's probably safe to say that "30 Rock" is at its peak, the third season at least rivaling the second. Each of the 22 episodes comprising that award-winning run are profiled below, with a star () beside my ten favorites.

Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) has a fool-proof plan for avoiding jury duty that involves dressing like Princess Leia. Harry Anderson, Markie Post, and Charles Robinson appear as themselves and then reprise their roles from "Night Court" in this awesomely unexpected blast from the past. Gavin Volure (Steve Martin) is one wild and crazy guy!

Disc 1

1. Do-Over (21:31) (Originally aired October 30, 2008)
When Season Two ended, Jack had been called into service by his friends in the Bush administration while the fate of General Electric hung in the balance. Season Three opens with Jack's return and his plan to climb back to the top of GE.
In the studio, Liz tries to impress an adoption agent (played by Megan Mullally).

2. Believe in the Stars (21:02) (Originally aired November 6, 2008)
While Liz is away in a creative attempt to get out of jury duty, Jenna and Tracy feud over whether a white woman or a black man has a tougher time in life, prompting a Freaky Friday-inspired feud. On her way back to "TGS", Liz finds her plane seat next to none other than Oprah Winfrey.

3. The One with the Cast of "Night Court" (21:10) (Originally aired November 13, 2008)
In one of the all-time great TV crossovers (though it doesn't really qualify as one), Tracy makes Kenneth's dreams come true when the cast of "Night Court" returns to NBC to act out the proper finale they never got to have. Also reprising her role is Jenna Maroney, who apparently had a small role as a werewolf lawyer on the show. Meanwhile, Liz frets when her visiting friend (Jennifer Aniston -- thus the episode's "Friends"-inspired title) stalks Jack for affection.

4. Gavin Volure (21:10) (Originally aired November 13, 2008)
Jack's eccentric business friend Gavin Volure (Steve Martin) falls for Liz. Tracy is concerned by his children's sudden affection for him.

Liz's high school flashbacks suggest she's a prime candidate for Most Improved at her reunion. Jack (Alec Baldwin) and his mother (Elaine Stritch) sing "The Christmas Song" at the piano. Salma Hayek distracts Alec Baldwin in her recurring third season role.

5. Reunion (21:12) (Originally aired December 4, 2008)
Liz dreads her high school reunion and convinces Jack to join her, masquerading as an old classmate. The reunion is a revelation for Liz, who mistakenly believed that she was the victim of other mean kids.

6. Christmas Special (21:16) (Originally aired December 11, 2008)
Jack stages a "TGS" Christmas special to drown out painful memories of holidays spent with his mother (Elaine Stritch) while Liz makes herself feel better by gathering gifts for underprivileged children, only to suspect that she's been scammed.

7. Senor Macho Solo (21:12) (Originally aired January 8, 2009)
Jack makes connections as he helps Tracy and Angie (Sherri Shepherd) patch their marriage (via a "post-nup"), arranges a Janis Joplin biopic audition for Jenna, and falls for his mother's new caretaker, Elisa (Salma Hayek).

8. Flu Shot (21:09) (Originally aired January 15, 2009)
Status warfare breaks out alongside the flu when Liz refuses the vaccine available to her as the boss because it isn't available to those underneath her.

In one of my favorite "30 Rock" moments, Liz and Jenna improvise a date between Sling Blade and Oprah. Jack (Alec Baldwin) is disturbed to find that a Spanish soap opera villain, Generalissimo (also Alec Baldwin) looks just like him. Kenneth falls for the new girl, who, fortunately for him, happens to be blind.

Disc 2

9. Retreat to Move Forward (21:11) (Originally aired January 22, 2009)
Anxious about his fellow CEOs' impression of him following his stint in the Bush administration, Jack coaxes Liz into accompanying him on the high-profile (and hilariously named) Retreat to Move Forward. Back at "TGS", Kenneth tries to persuade a skeptical Tracy that diabetes and diet are related while Jenna employs method acting to get in touch with Janis Joplin (or at least the Joplin she understands from reading Wikipedia's bio).

10. Generalissimo (21:12) (Originally aired February 5, 2009)
Liz mail-stalks a new love interest, Drew (Jon Hamm, "Mad Men"), while Jack discovers that Elisa's mother dislikes him because of his astonishing resemblance to a soap opera villain.

11. St. Valentine's Day (21:13) (Originally aired February 12, 2009)
Liz mistakenly plans her first date with Drew for Valentine's Day while Jack reluctantly attends church with Elisa, a devout Catholic. Tracy plays a game of Cyrano with Kenneth when he's smitten by a blind intern but can't find the words to tell her.

12. Larry King (21:13) (Originally aired February 26, 2009)
Tracy's reckless appearance on "Larry King Live" ignites hysteria in New York City, where Liz tells a white lie to get Kenneth to help her retrieve her missing cell phone.

Frank (Judah Friedlander) sports a different punny hat in each episode, something diehard "30 Rock" fans love to keep track of. For Jenna (Jane Krakowski), any press is good press -- even unfavorable comparisons to Miss Piggy like this one! Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) gets his Armageddon moment in "Apollo, Apollo."

13. Goodbye, My Friend (21:09) (Originally aired March 5, 2009)
Jack gives Frank (Judah Friedlander) hope for a new career, Liz tries to impress a pregnant donut shop worker in hopes of adopting her baby, and Jenna is jealous of the attention Tracy receives during their joint birthday celebration.

14. The Fun Cooker (21:09) (Originally aired March 12, 2009)
Liz is finally forced into jury duty and sits in on a trial that hits a little too close to home.
Kenneth suggests a winning name for a new GE microwave. Jenna finds an energy remedy with the help of Dr. Spaceman (Chris Parnell -- and it's pronounced "Spu-chim-an"). Tracy is freely profane on TV when he realizes he can afford to pay FCC fines out of pocket.

15. The Bubble (21:08) (Originally aired March 19, 2009)
Liz tries to shatter the "bubble" of preferential treatment that Drew's good looks have afforded him and Jenna puts her looks on the line with a public haircut.

16. Apollo, Apollo (21:15) (Originally aired March 26, 2009)
Liz's ex comes clean as a sex addict, revealing more about his past than Liz cared to know. Jack relives his childhood after reminiscing over home movies. Tracy sets out to fulfill his dream of traveling into space.

Buy 30 Rock: Season 3 from Amazon.com

When big-time comedian Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) joins the cast of "The Girlie Show", it becomes "TGS with Tracy Jordan" -- and the behind-the-scenes drama is all about him too. Chris Parnell's recurring role as Dr. Spaceman provides some of the best scenes in "30 Rock."

Continue to Page 2 >>

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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