In 10 Words or Less
The end of the hilarious road
Loves: Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Likes: Tracy Morgan, SNL, Jane Krakowski, when Bravo aired operas
Dislikes: When my favorite shows end/get cancelled
Hates: When shows I enjoy hang on too long
The Story So Far...
Tina Fey's 30 Rock went behind the scenes at an SNL-style sketch comedy show, headlined by a likely insane Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) and an equally-insane diva (Jane Krakowski), operating under the corporate oversight of Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin). Surreal and hugely clever, the show developed into a critical hit, earning a load of awards during its seven seasons it ran on NBC. The first season was released on DVD in October of 2007, followed by annual releases for the remaining seasons. DVDTalk has reviews of all six collections.
2013 could be the scene of one of the biggest losses in acclaimed TV comedy history, as NBC's Thursday night comedies threaten to change from top to bottom, with The Office calling it a day, while Parks and Recreation and Community's ongoing fates remain up in the air. And of course, 30 Rock has already wrapped its final victory-lap half-season, which gave the low-rated yet beloved (on the coasts and in middle-American liberal enclaves like Austin) series a chance to put its affairs in order before saying goodbye.
Part of that was paying off Liz Lemon's story. After watching her struggle professionally under the mentorship of NBC head Jack Donaghy for so many years and personally under a series of other men, the show's seventh season sees her make advancements on both sides, especially with an impending marriage to Criss (James Marsden) and talk of children. However it's unclear if she'll be able to balance this new Liz life with the chaos of work, where she already has two kids to take care of, in the form of her series' egomaniacal stars, Tracy and Jenna. The two of them keep Liz busy with their various madness, including Jenna's secret wedding plans and her obsession with her age and looks; and Tracy's battles with Jack over his Tyler Parry-like movie franchise. On top of that, the rest of the crew remains ever infuriating to her, right to the very end, where their inability to simply order lunch risks ruining life for Liz.
Jack's story is just as important to the show at this point, and with Hank, the head of NBC's new owners, Kabletown, ready to retire, Jack is positioning himself to take things over, which is not easy, since it will leave a void at NBC, potentially filled by "bleached turd" Kenneth the ex-page/janitor (Jack McBrayer), not to mention the presence of Hank's granddaughter, the scheming Kaylie (Chloe Moretz), the only real rival Jack has besides his mother Colleen (the amazing Elaine Stritch.) Both storylines let Baldwin shine (and the Kabletown storyline brings back the great Will Arnett.) When he has to deal with Colleen's death, it results in one of the most amazing stretches in the show's entire run. Thankfully, knowing the show's end date allowed the relationship between Liz and Jack to come to a natural and fulfilling end, a key to putting a proper bow on the series.
Though short, this season features some great arcs, including a continuing theme built around the 2012 Presidential election, but Kristen Schaal's turn as insane page Hazel Wasserman stands out among the best, as her lunacy butts up against Tracy and Kenneth's nuttiness resulting in brilliance. The season often feels like it's at its best when two characters are paired off in battle, be it Liz and Jenna ovfrer Liz' marriage. Liz and Jack fighting over Jack's attempts to tank NBC or even Tracy trying to rein in a very Tracy Jordan-like Octavia Spencer, who is acting up on the set of Tracy Jordan's Harriet Tubman movie (which also lets Baldwin add yet another impersonation to his arsenal.) However, conflict wasn't necessary, as the show could and does snag a laugh from just about anything, from creating ideas like the "sex idiot" and the "cupcake sandwich," to having fun with meta jokes about on-screen promos and long-running gags.
30 Rock has been a magnet for fantastic cameos for almost as long as it's been on the air, but this season, with the show coming to a close, it feels like everyone and their mom made it onto the show for the first time or made a final return appearance, including Jimmy Fallon. Conan O'Brien, Al Roker, Matthew Broderick, Catherine O'Hara, Bryan Cranston, Julianne Moore, Salma Hayek, Ice T, Richard Belzer, John Hodgman, Florence Henderson, Gayle King, Andrea Martin, Will Forte, Judy Gold, Wendy Williams, Sue Simmons, Ryan Lochte, Gary Cole, Amy Sedaris, Don Cheadle, Kellan Lutz, Megan Mullally, John McEnroe, Steve Buscemi, Tim Meadows, Tony Bennett and even Kermit the Frog. The amazing thing is, thanks to the industry portrayed in the show and the talent all over the show, this wide array of special guests integrates neatly into the show and never feel out of place. It just further shows how much 30 Rock was a world unto itelf that fans will miss severely.
The 13 episodes from the shortened final season of 30 Rock are spread over two DVDs, packed in a two-panel, slipcase-clad digipak, which has episode descriptions. The discs feature static, anamorphic widescreen menus (with fun show-clip transitions) offering options to play all episodes, select shows, adjust languages and check out the special features. Though the box says otherwise, audio options include English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks, whgile subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish.
Delivered via anamorphic widescreen transfers, these episodes don't look as good as the HD broadcasts, but they hold their own, offering a nice presentation of one of the last network sitcoms shot on film. Fine detail is quite nice and colors, including good fleshtones (check out the "witch ubndertones" gag), like the black levels, are solid across the board. No noticeable digital artifacts are present.
Nothing much has changed about the audio when it comes to 30 Rock, and these Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are mostly dialogue, which sounds great from the front of the room, while the show's great music cues get pick-up in the side and rear speakers, where some sound effect work can be heard as well. Though there's nothing dynamic about the presentation, everything is crisp and clean, keeping the rapid-fire wordplay easy to understand.
After last season cut the audio commentaries down to just four, this season gets a bump to five episodes, despite the set's overall reduction in episodes by half. There are no stunt commentaries this time around, with just one non-30 Rock person involved, and he's in the industry and a long-time friend of Fey's. The tracks are light and enthusiastic, full of little bits of trivia about the episode (like the identity of the Reverend Gimp) though a sense of finality is often present as they take their last tour around the memories. That's especially true in the final three episodes, where Krakowski, Fey, Richmond and Carlock wrap things up neatly. Here's the lineup:
- "Mazel Tov, Dummies!": writers Tracey Wigfield & Tom Ceraulo
- "My Whole Life is Thunder": TV Guide's Damian Holbrook & writer Colleen McGuiness
- "A Goon's Deed in a Weary World": Krakowski & executive producer, composer & director Jeff Richmond
- "Hogcock!"/"Last Lunch": Fey & executive producer/writer Robert Carlock
Reduced from last season, we get 10 deleted scenes (a total of 5:44, ranging from 15 seconds to a minute long.) Though they wouldn't have changed the world, by a vast majority these ridiculous moments are better than most of what's on network sitcoms, including a final gag about SNL tropes that's pretty amusing.
"The Donaghy Files" (4:40) is an animated mini-episode starring Baldwin as his 30 Rock character. Though it doesn't reach the surreal heights of the live-action show, the storyline, which features the Super Bowl, Michael McDonald, Ryan Adams, Cee-Lo and Childish Gambino is pretty funny. Oddly though, there were more episodes of "The Donaghy Files," including one about hockey, so it's curious why they weren't included.
The 26:19 "Tina Fey Studio Tour" is basically the final word on the show, as Fey walks the viewer through the show's soon-to-be dismantled sets, going over little details you'd never catch on TV, sharing trivia from the show's production and talking about her favorite scenes that took place in each location. Considering how many people view the series as mainly Fey's baby, it's only fitting that she gets to offer the most substantial send-off, and she makes it a good one.
The Bottom Line
It may be the end of the line for 30 Rock, but in its seventh season the show remained as or was even more entertaining than it was when it first started, and these final 13 episodes are an excellent send-off for the show's memorable cast of characters. The set looks and sounds nice, and offers up a decent number of extras to enhance the experience. This is the kind of show you'll want to return to again and again, enjoying the rich cast of characters, though this 13-episode run is a nice encapsulation of the overall series.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.