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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Various
Cast:
Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, Jack McBrayer, Scott Adsit, Judah Friedlander
Writing Credits:
Various

Synopsis:
Re-experience the complete fifth season of the Primetime Emmy® and Golden Globe® Award-winning comedy 30 Rock, heralded as “funny” by some random Twitter user and “a bitterly merry comic jihad against corporate stupidity and mendaciousness” by Glenn Garvin of the Miami Herald - which is pretty much what the Twitterer said in 140 characters or less. Primetime Emmy®, Golden Globe® and SAG® Award winner Tina Fey stars as showrunner Liz Lemon and Primetime Emmy®, Golden Globe® and SAG® Award winner Alec Baldwin is corporate executive Jack Donaghy in this behind-the-scenes romp about sketch show “TGS;” its neurotic stars, Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) and Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski); hapless NBC page Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer) and the rest of the befuddled crew working to create the “magic of television.” Brought to you by the folks at GE Kabletown, it’s a season of video obituaries, cross-dressing love, page showdowns, Canadian births and other strange events in 22 blerg-worthy episodes from executive producer Lorne Michaels.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 489 min.
Price: $49.98
Release Date: 11/29/2011

Bonus:
• Audio Commentaries for 10 Episodes
• Deleted Scenes
• “Live Show” West Coast Version
• “Behind the Scenes of ‘The Live Show’” Featurette
• “
• “The Making of ‘He Needs a Kidney’” Featurette
• Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery
• Alec Baldwin’s SNL Monologue
• Tracy Jordan’s Rant
• Award Acceptance Speeches
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


30 Rock: Season 5 (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 13, 2012)

Today we take a look at 30 Rock’s Season Five. I’ll examine all 23 episodes in broadcast order, which is how the shows appear here. The plot synopses come straight from TV.com – thanks to them.

DVD ONE:

The Fabian Strategy: “Jack decides to help Liz hang onto Carol and clashes with Avery over redecorating his apartment. Meanwhile, Tracy finds it tough to cope without Kenneth, and Jenna becomes a TGS producer.”

While I could live without some of the show’s self-referential moments – like nods toward 30 Rock’s tenuous ability to get renewed every year – “Strategy” launches S5 pretty well. It takes four separate threads and balances them nicely, though I must admit I kind of wish they’d kill off the Carol story sooner than later; since it’s clear Matt Damon won’t be a regular, I’d rather the series get rid of him and move on.

When It Rains, It Pours: “Liz puts her newfound self-confidence to use by assisting Pete with the issues he's been having with an NBC video editor. Jack feels the best way to teach he and Avery's impending child whose life he fears he'll miss most ofhow to live is to make DVDs of life lessons. Tracy wants to be there for the birth of his next child, and Kenneth keeps sneaking into 30 Rock to perform his old page duties.”

Unlike the first episode, “Pours” doesn’t do a ton to advance the series’ character narratives. That’s a good thing, though, as the various storylines offer rapid-fire comedy. We get some delightful guest turns from Paul Giamatti and some NBC News staff to help make this a strong program.

Let’s Stay Together: “Jack appears before Congress looking to win approval for the merger with Kabletown. Liz pushes back against the writers' mockery of her. Jenna helps Kenneth with his application to rejoin the NBC Page Program.”

While most of its guest stars aren’t as entertaining as the prior show’s, “Together” still sparkles. Yeah, making bad racism gags isn’t brain surgery, but the jokes are still funny, and an end-credit capper with a cameo from the star of a 1970s sitcom finishes matters on a positive note.

Live Show: “As the show is set to air its weekly broadcast, Liz is agitated when it seems her 40th birthday has been forgotten by her TGS co-workers. Tracy decides that breaking character is so hilarious that he'll do it on purpose all show. Jack regrets his vow to go sober during Avery's pregnancy.”

This episode’s title has nothing to do with its story – it’s a literal description of the program’s production, as it ran live ala SNL. That’s a gimmick that doesn’t work here. After so many laugh-track-free episodes, it’s disconcerting to hear an audience hoot and chortle, and the actors tend to ham it up more than usual. Some mirth still emerges, but the gimmick overwhelms the program and makes it a relative clunker.

Reaganing: “Jack hopes his day of perfect success will allow him to help out Liz with Carol. Jenna and Kenneth get Kelsey Grammer to help them run a con with Carvel's celebrity ‘Black Card’ program. Tracy shoots an ad for the Boys and Girls Club.”

Kenneth/Jenna plots aren’t usually highlights, but they’re especially good here. I like their grift scheme, and Grammer’s guest spot helps sell it. The Liz/Jack and Tracy areas aren’t quite as much fun, but they’re still enjoyable enough to help make this program a rebound after the lackluster “Live Show”.

Gentleman’s Intermission: “Avery wants Jack to be less involved in Liz's life, leaving Liz without Jack's help when her father visits and Jack searching for someone else to mentor. When Tracy sees his pre-made video obituary, he gets Kenneth to help him make some changes to his life. Meanwhile, Jenna's distraught to discover no one's bothered to make an obituary for her and takes matters into her own hands.”

With “Intermission”, we find three good storylines, but none of them become great. The confluence of the Jenna/Tracy one probably works best, though that might be simply because I like the cat who dials 911. All of this adds up to an enjoyable episode but not a stellar one.

Brooklyn Without Limits : “Liz finds a pair of jeans that make her look amazing. Jack throws his weight behind a loopy independent congressional candidate running against Regina Bookman. Jenna helps Tracy organize a gathering to secure a Golden Globe nomination.”

30 Rock gets more political than usual here, with reasonably good results. The Tea Party is an easy target, but John Slattery’s delightful turn as the nutbag candidate makes the material more palatable. Throw in a few amusing glimpses of Tracy’s “serious” movie and this is a good show.

College: “Jack tries to find flaws in GE's latest microwaves. Liz joins a crew lottery, even though she's been warned against it. The writers learn Jack is the voice of an online dictionary.”

Is it sad that I got the “TK-421” reference? Yeah, probably. Despite the nerd-related depression that comes from the episode, it has more than a few strong moments. Like the Tea Party aspects of the prior program, the pranking use of Jack’s online voice is a cheap gag but it’s a funny one, and the show works in clever ways to hearken back to its characters college days.

DVD TWO:

Chain Reaction of Mental Anguish: “Liz starts talking to Kenneth about Carol after Jack suggests she see a therapist. Tracy wants Jack to invest in his son's Times Square theme restaurant. Jenna and Paul celebrate a half-year together.”

All the attempts to work on relationships and counseling get a little too much at times. I do like the bits with Tracy’s “son” Donald, though; he adds delightful absurdity to the episode. It’s still decent otherwise, but not great.

Christmas Attack Zone: “At the urging of Liz and Avery, Jack reveals some secrets to his mother over her Christmas visit. Liz tries to get Jenna and Paul back together. Tracy hopes to improve his chances of winning a Golden Globe for a serious film by preventing a comedy of his from being released.”

I’ve always loved Elaine Stritch’s take on Jack’s mother Colleen, and she continues to be a bitter delight here. Alan Alda’s brings terrific wit to his role as Jack’s hippie-dippie “real father”, and the Eddie Murphy-influenced bit in which Tracy tries to “go serious” offers fun, too. Still, the Jack theme fares the best and helps make this a strong episode.

Mrs. Donaghy: “A mix-up at Jack's wedding to Avery leaves him actually married to Liz. Budget cuts at TGS force Jenna and Danny to share a dressing room. Angie ponders a new career due to some health news that Tracy receives.”

While the Liz-Jack marriage smacks of “high concept”, the manner in which they square off does work pretty well; Liz is unprepared to deal with negotiations so we get good comedy. Other relationship-related topics seem less satisfying, though; they’re not bad, but they’re a bit lackluster.

Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning: “Jack stages pre-made telethons for disaster relief. Angie's reality show camera crew follows Tracy around the TGS studios, and Liz hopes to use the camera's presence to force him into working harder. Lutz fibs to make himself indispensable.”

For once, some of the secondary characters come to the fore here, as the episode’s best elements look at the writing crew’s attempts to deal with potential disaster. Other elements do nicely as well, especially when Tracy and Liz bicker ala "Uptown Girl”; it’s never a great program, but it’s a good one.

Qué Sorpresa!: “Jack is mortified to discover Kabletown's corporate culture is far more employee-friendly than he's used to. Liz fakes pregnancy to help Avery land a big promotion. A gift from their new bosses puts Jenna and Tracy at odds.”

Probably the most fun here comes from Ken Howard’s chipper turn as Jack’s perky new boss Hank; he’s such a low-brow goof that he’s a delight. We also get Tina Fey shirtless; she tries not to be sexy, but it doesn’t work. Add to that a bizarre Tracy/Jennna battle over a sweatshirt and this one’s a winner.

Double Edged Sword: “Avery's going into labor during a getaway with Jack leaves them in peril of their child being Canadian. Meanwhile, trouble brews when Liz learns just how easily Carol manipulates the passengers during a takeoff delay. Tracy realizes achieving EGOT status comes with a lot of responsibility.”

While most episodes have some strong elements and others that are noticeably weaker, “Sword” provides one of the season’s more balanced shows. If forced to pick a strongest thread, it’d be Liz on the plane, but as the friend of a decades-long airline employee, I must admit I’m a sucker for humor in that vein. Still, all of the bits succeed in this strong program.

It’s Never Too Late For Now: “With the TGS staff afraid Liz will become a spinster, Jenna tries to find love for her. Jack's lack of sleep puts him at a disadvantage when negotiating. Pete and Frank form a band.”

An episode that gives a subplot to Pete is off to a bad start; he’s easily my least favorite character among the show’s regulars. While I could live without his moments, the rest of the episode works pretty well, especially when we see Liz’s complex battle related to spinsterhood.

TGS Hates Women: “Liz hires a woman to the TGS writing staff when the show's accused of being anti-woman. Jack starts a quest to become CEO of Kabletown, even though it's always been family-owned.”

While it sounds fun in theory, “Women” just tries a little too hard to be edgy. Cristin Milioti is fun as the new hire, but the rest of the episode's a bit flat. It’s not bad – it’s just not high-level 30 Rock.

DVD THREE::

Queen of Jordan: “Presented as an episode of Angie's Queen of Jordan reality show, Jack needs Liz to coerce Angie into getting Tracy to come back from Africa. Meanwhile, Jenna schemes for the camera's attention, Frank gets a visit from teacher who seduced him, and Jack has the camera continually catch him saying things that make him seem gay.”

I wasn’t wild about “Live Show”, but “Jordan” takes a gimmicky concept and soars. It still manages to forward plot elements, but it uses the reality show framework for a clever alternative to the usual 30 Rock MO. It’s one of the year’s best.

Plan B: “When it seems TGS will be cancelled due to Tracy's absence, everyone scrambles to find new employment, but Kenneth is certain he can save the show. Jack looks to Devin to help revive TWINKS, a flagging gay cable network.”

Guest actors help elevate “Plan B”. I still love Ken Howard’s absurdly cheerful Hank Hooper, and Aaron Sorkin comes in with an inspired cameo. The return of Will Arnett’s Devon Banks also adds charm to this solid program.

I Heart Connecticut: “Liz and Kenneth scramble to find Tracy before TGS is cancelled. Jack makes sure Jenna's latest project is a success. Frank proposes an arm wrestling competition contest over who gets to pick lunch, which Pete excels at.”

Episodes with a strong Pete element usually sag, and that’s the case here; the arm-wrestling component almost becomes funny, but Adsit’s performance drags it down. The search for Tracy amuses, though, as does Jenna’s awful horror flick; those components redeem the show reasonably well.

100, Part 1: “With TGS facing imminent cancellation, Jack asks Hank Hooper to allow them to do their 100th episode as a final chance to prove they deserve a place on the air. Meanwhile, a gas leak threatens the production, Jack questions if he's been all he could be, Tracy tries to lose his newfound public respect, and Jenna wonders if motherhood is for her.”

Whenever we get a “Part 1”, I don’t comment until I get to “Part 2”. That’s not gonna change now!

100, Part 2: “Needing a great episode to save the show, Liz deals with getting Tracy his confidence back and Dennis Duffy's return to her life. Meanwhile, Jack continues wondering if his life is on course, and Jenna relishes the prospect of the career boost motherhood could provide.”

Big events like a 100th episode tend to try too hard, and that happens here. Some good moments emerge, but the show seems a little too self-consciously goofy. It’s not a bad program, but it’s ordinary.

Everything Sunny All the Time Always: “Liz runs into problems when trying to fix her dream apartment. Meanwhile, Jack deals with Avery being taken hostage, and Tracy is agitated to discover that Grizz, Dotcom, and Kenneth share an inside joke.”

The inside joke bit works well in a goofy way, but the rest of the show tends to fall flat. Sending Avery to North Korea goes nowhere – a cameo from Condoleezza Rice lacks zing – and even Liz’s dream home theme fizzles. It’s a lackluster episode.

Respawn: “With TGS done for the season, Liz relaxes in the Hamptonsuntil Tracy moves in next door. Jack turns Kenneth into a surrogate for the absent Avery. Jenna's spokesmanship of the Wool Council and their desire for complete normalcy creates friction with Paul over his desire for them to be able to freely be their odd selves. The writing staff plays an endless game of Halo.”

Season Five ends with a moderate dud. Since “Plan B”, the year’s been average, and that doesn’t change here. As always, we get a reasonable number of laughs, and I like the Wool Council moments, but overall, this is a fairly mediocre episode.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B

30 Rock appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The shows never looked great, but they seemed fine for the most part.

Sharpness tended to be decent. Wider shots tended to look a bit fuzzy, but the show mostly featured close-ups and two-shots, so overall definition was pretty good. No real issues with jaggies or moiré effects popped up, and I noticed no edge haloes. Print flaws were also absent.

For the most part, colors looked fine. The series went with natural hues, and they came across as reasonably vivid and full. Blacks seemed tight and dense, while shadows looked acceptably concise. Not that we got a lot of low-light shots, but when they occurred, they showed decent delineation. Overall, the mix of good and bad left this as a “C+” presentation.

As usual, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of 30 Rock seemed acceptable but unexceptional. I didn’t expect a vivid soundfield from a chatty comedy like this, and the audio remained within the limits I anticipated. Music and general ambience dominated. A few scenes used the spectrum a bit more vividly, but nothing memorable occurred along the way.

On the positive side, the overactive surrounds of the past weren’t an issue here. I thought S2 used the back speakers too heavily and became a mild distraction. S3 integrated them in a more natural manner, so they weren’t as prominent.

No issues with sound quality emerged. Dialogue sounded clean and concise, with no edginess or other issues. Music was lively and full. Some variations occurred due to the various song sources, but I thought the music was consistently solid. Effects also appeared clean and offered decent dynamics. No one will mistake the audio as demo quality, but the material was fine for this series.

With that we head to the set’s extras. 10 audio commentaries span all three discs. Here’s the breakdown:

“Brooklyn Without Limits”: Actor Tracy Morgan and Producer Jerry Kupfer. A few seasons back, I referred to a track with produce Lorne Michaels and his son as the worst I’d ever heard. This Morgan/Kupfer chat might be just as bad. Literally no useful content appears, as the only material we get consists of praise. Morgan throws out gems like “that’s great!” and “we are so edgy!” This is an utterly worthless waste of space.

“Chain Reaction of Mental Anguish”: Actor Jack McBrayer and His Parents. Though not packed with info, at least this one provides some charm. I’d like to hear more from McBrayer’s folks about his early life and how he connects to Kenneth; really, we don’t learn much here. Still, it’s breezy enough and mildly entertaining – maybe I just like it because it’s so much more interesting than the Morgan/Kupfer fiasco.

“Christmas Attack Zone”: Actors Will Forte and Val Kilmer. While Forte had a recurring guest part on the series, Kilmer never had anything to do with 30 Rock. So why is he here? I guess he was hanging out with MacGruber co-star Forte and had nothing better to do.

Kilmer’s presence adds an odd – but welcome – off-kilter vibe to the commentary. Do we learn much from this discussion? Not really, but it’s fairly amusing. I find it funny that Forte claims he got an erection every time he kissed Jane Krakowski but then makes sure we know he didn’t and fears his earlier claim was “rude”. Doesn’t it actually seem more negative to say that kissing Krakowski didn’t give him a boner? Not sure, but whatever the case, this is a moderately enjoyable chat.

“Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning”: Actors John Lutz and Sue Galloway. Married in real life, the pair offer a genial, reasonably amusing chat. Like the Forte/Kilmer piece, this one’s light on facts; it throws in a few nuggets, but not much. Still, it’s enjoyable enough in its own right; I wish these commentaries proved to be more informative, but at this point, I’m just happy when they’re not atrocious ala the Morgan/Kupfer commentary.

“It’s Never Too Late for Now”: Actor Judah Friedlander. In the past, Friedlander’s commentaries have been above-average – compared to the other 30 Rock tracks, that is – and that continues to be the case here. While not packed with details, Friedlander throws out enough decent notes to keep us interested, and his humor helps make the discussion enjoyable.

“Queen of Jordan”: Writer Tracey Wigfield and Director Tom Ceraulo. Finally – a legitimately good commentary, not just one that’s good by 30 Rock standards! Wigfield and Ceraulo deliver a slew of useful thoughts about the episode and add funny remarks along the way. This might be the best 30 Rock commentary I’ve ever heard.

“Plan B”: Actor Tina Fey and Director/Composer Jeff Richmond. With this, we go back to the usual spottiness found with most of the series’ commentaries. Fey and Richmond contribute occasional insights but mostly just joke and banter with each other. It’s a likable enough chat but it’s light on details.

“100”: Director Don Scardino and Guest Actor Aaron Sorkin. Though Sorkin has nearly nothing to do with the series, he helps contribute to an enjoyable commentary. He and Scardino offer interesting notes about cast and crew as well as some episode specifics in this breezy chat.

“Respawn”: Actors Jack McBrayer and Jon Hamm. Hamm worked as an occasional guest star on the show but didn’t appear in this episode; he comes along just for the heck of it. Which is probably a good thing, as he enjoys a nice rapport with McBrayer. They don’t deliver much – if any – real info about the show, but they give us a reasonably enjoyable chat.

“Live Show (West Coast Version)”: Tina Fey and Director Beth McCarthy-Miller. We learn a bit about the challenges involved with shooting live, but don’t expect a ton of details. The commentary mixes insights with a lot of notes about what’s “great” and “exciting”. McCarthy-Miller is the primary culprit there, as Fey tends to be more on-task. Still, we do get a reasonable amount of info here, so it’s not a bad piece.

A few ads open DVD One. We get clips for The Big Lebowski, Bridesmaids, and Parenthood.

The remaining extras show up on DVD Three. As alluded to in the commentary area, we get the West Coast Version of “The Live Show”. It runs 22 minutes, 53 seconds and works virtually the same as its predecessor; a few minor differences occur, but not much. It’s no funnier but it’s still nice to have as a bonus.

We can also go Behind the Scenes of “The Live Show”. This one lasts 12 minutes, 39 seconds and features Fey, McBrayer, Friedlander, Kupfer, Morgan, McCarthy-Miller, Richmond, director of photography Matthew Clark, executive producer John Riggi, and actor Scott Adsit. As expected, we get details about the design and execution of the challenging “Live Show”. It tends to be a little self-congratulatory, but it still has enough details – and good background footage – to make it worthwhile.

23 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 11 minutes, 32 seconds. These go across 15 episodes and last between six seconds and one minute, 24 seconds. Most of these deliver brief tidbits, and they often just extend existing moments. A few good snippets appear, though, so they tend to be enjoyable.

Annoyance: the absence of a “Play All” function. Given the brevity of these clips – nine last 15 seconds or less – the necessity to constantly go back to the menu gets irritating.

Two minor tidbits complete the set. Jack Donaghy, Executive Superhero lasts five minutes, 53 seconds, while Jenna’s Obituary Song occupies one minute, six seconds. “Superhero” gives us an animated riff on the Donaghy character. It uses the original actors as the voices, and it’s a silly but fun oddity. “Obituary” tosses in a full version of the tune Jenna recorded back in “Gentleman’s Intermission”. It’s nice to get it in its entirety.

Season Five probably doesn’t deliver the best of 30 Rock, but it shows that the series continues to be pretty good. Some episodes falter, but we find more wheat than chaff. The DVDs offer perfectly acceptable picture and audio along with a decent set of supplements. 30 Rock fans will want to give this release a look.

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main