"30 Rock: Season Two" DVD Review

October 07, 2008 by James Harvey

30 Rock is just one of those shows that I know will be looked back upon as one of the best prime-time comedies ever made. Yes, it's had a couple weak episodes here and there, but what series hasn't? And here, with the show coming into its second season, the show continues to expand upon its cast without forcing it. And that's what this show does so well. Everything seems natural, no matter how bizarre it may be at times, but it all feels right. And that's what 30 Rock does so well. It gets everything right. Yes, there's been some weak episodes, but, in all honesty, the weakest episode of 30 Rock is better than just about every other comedy program out there.

“Relive the second season of the Primetime Emmy Award-winning comedy 30 Rock, the show 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 naďve 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.”

Wow, where to begin this season? Well, after barely getting a renewal after the first season, and again (it seems) after the second one, Universal Home Entertainment has released the second season on DVD just before the arrival of the third, and it's a good thing, too. Why? Well, who wouldn't want to hear “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” as much as they possible could before they come up with something to top that this coming season?

Season two starts off with a bang, and a clever one at that. After finding out that NBC is digitally inserting him into every episode on the prime-time line-up for a full month, Jerry Seinfeld himself, naturally, finds out and comes down to NBC to put an end to it. A clever start to what's a solid overall season. It really kick-starts a second season that's so addictively watchable. Before you know it, you've watched all the episodes from the first disc. And what's good about this is if you've watched it when it originally aired, then you get a chance to catch all the jokes you've missed, as there's bound to be a few. Every cast member is so solid when it comes to delivering their work that it's easy to miss a lot of the more subtle humor, or one-liners that are just rambled off so quickly.

The second season also ups the ante in terms of guest-stars. Will Arnett returns as Devin, the nemesis of Alec Baldwin's Jack character, Carrie Fisher, David Schwimmer, the aforementioned Seinfeld, Edie Falco, Jason Sudeikis, Dean Winters, Rip Torn, Tim Conway, Matthew Broderick, and I'm sure there's a couple I'm missing. But look at that solid line-up. Look at that! I would have never thought actors like Fisher and Falco could be so hilarious, and they pull it off here. And the best part is, the guest-appearances don't feel forced. They feel natural, most of which is thats to the solid writing by the series staff and creators. Fisher has an unforgettable stint as a mentor to Tina Fey's Liz Lemon character, and it unravels in such a comically bizarre way.

If there's any real thing to complain about for this season, it's the lack of episodes. That was, of course, due to the infamous Writer's Strike last year, which cut this season from twenty-two episodes down to fifteen, forcing them to make changes to the final second half of the season. Personally, I found the show still seemed as good as it ever did before and after the strike, in terms of how strong the episodes are. The only shame is that we get only fifteen episodes.

To wrap up this blathering and somewhat awkward review, 30 Rock continues to be one of the best shows on television, usually rivaling The Office for the top spot. The situations are hilarious, the characters are entirely three-dimensional and, well, you actually care about them. It goes without syaing that 30 Rock comes Highly Recommended. Tina Fey and Alec Bladwin are just perfect in their respective roles and, if anything, after seeing the final episode of this season, there's no doubt in my mind you'll be back for the third season. Just watch the absolutely hilarious and bizarre “Three Months Later” epilogue and I dare you not to laugh. It had me rolling on the floor, and anxiously awaiting the next season.

The DVD:

Universal Home Entertainment Canada has released 30 Rock: Season Two in a great, streamlined packaging. Based on what I heard about the American packaging for 30 Rock: Season Two, Canadians managed to get something much better. Universal Home Entertainment Canada has packaged the two-disc 30 Rock: Season Two set in two separate slimcases housed in a cardboard slipcase. That's it. A compact and very efficient package, much better than the bulky package the American release apparently got. Cover and back art is still the same, however.

As for the set itself, well, the audio transfer seems fine enough to me. Frontloaded, as one can expect, but crystal clear and great. As for the video, not so much, I'm afraid. I think this is possibly one of the worst video transfers I have ever seen on a DVD release. The interlacing found here is just horrible, and it gets to the point where, yes, it's both very noticeable and very distracting. I'm sure it sounds like I'm over-reacting, but seeing how a transfer like this got approved is mind-boggling and I absolutely agree with WF DVD Report co-reviewer Zach Demeter when I say this is likely the worst transfer in modern TV DVD releases. Why they couldn't space out th episodes more evenly across the discs to try to avoid this is beyond me. We get 10 episodes on one disc and five (plus bonus materials) on the other. Wha? They couldn't have spread things out a bit more? Or even made this a three-disc release? The video is just flat-out bad. Now, depending on what TV you watch this release on, it may not be as noticeable, but, well, every single episode, to me, it was exceedingly noticeable, and it's a shame, too. This show deserved better. And where are the chapter stops?

Still, the extras do make up for it a little bit, as Universal Home Entertainment has given us some nice bonus features. The major bonus are, of course, the commentaries on ten of the episodes. The participants vary from each commentary, but they all manage to be quite enjoyable and are all worth checking out. After that we get five deleted scenes, a table read for the finale episode “Cooter,” a “30 Rock Live at the UCB Theater” performance, a short “Tina Fey hosts SNL” featurette, which goes behind-the-scenes of her hosting episode, and “The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Presents: An Evening with 30 Rock” panel discussion. All of which are solid and all should be enjoyable for 30 Rock fans. Personally, I would've liked to have seen the actual episode of SNL that Tina Fey hosted, but oh well.

Now, this should be the easy part – whether or not I recommend the 30 Rock: Season Two release, but I just can't get over how weak the video transfer is. But, given how great this show is, I am going to give this set the Recommended stamp. It's still a hilarious series and the bonus features are worth it. If the video transfer is too distracting, there are countless places online where this show is available to view legally. 30 Rock: Season Two continues the strong track record set by the series in the first season and anyone who loves comedy and excellent writing really should have this collection on their shelves.

30 Rock: Season Two is now available to own on DVD.

 

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