The fall of 2006 was a ripe time to have a show exploring the behind-the-scenes details of a sketch comedy show. Oddly enough, most eyes were on the more dramatic of the two shows debuting at the time; Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. The series was Aaron Sorkin’s follow-up to the landmark political drama The West Wing, and expectations could not be higher. On the other end of the spectrum tonally was Tina Fey’s first major project after her long-running stint at Saturday Night Live. Fey had helped to completely revitalize the show during her tenure, and she had gained some nice notices a few years prior for her cult-favorite Mean Girls. Even more wild than two shows with similar premises debuting in the same season was the fact that they were both airing on NBC. Turns out, audiences decided they only needed one fictional sketch comedy show in their lives, and Studio 60 was lost to the sands of time. Thankfully, the world got to experience 30 Rock for seven glorious seasons, during which time it won three Emmys for Best Comedy. As Mill Creek Entertainment brings all of them together for the first time in high definition, let us take a look back at one of the best comedy series of all time.
As a writer, it is often said that you should write what you know. Tina Fey was the Head Writer of Saturday Night Live for years, and you don’t let that kind of experience go to waste. 30 Rock centers on Liz Lemon (Tina Fey), the head writer and showrunner of TGS (The Girlie Show), a struggling sketch show on NBC. The Girlie Show stars Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski), Liz’s neurotic, attention-seeking best friend, until the show is forced to bring on the equally erratic Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan). This is all at the behest of network executive Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), who develops a familial relationship with Lemon throughout the series. Some of the richest scenarios that the show mines from is the differing experiences between the suave, conservative Donaghy and the haplessly liberal Lemon. The beauty of this show is that it does not take an overtly political stance; it just takes the inherent absurdity in the corporate power structure and magnifies it to a hilarious degree.
The series’ strength is the deep bench of hilarious characters that they can pull from, each with their own rich backstory that only grows over the run. The four main actors are delivering performances that will probably be noted as career-defining by the end. That being said, the talent on display amongst Liz’s coworkers should not be discounted. Scott Adsit stealthily steals the show much of the time as the “sane” person in Liz’s orbit, Pete. The show would not be the same without Judah Friedlander, the usually wildly inappropriate writer who you can always trust to be wearing an amusing new trucker hat. Although they have much smaller roles, Grizz (Grizz Chapman) and Dot Com (Kevin Brown), the key members of Tracy’s entourage, are hilariously complex individuals who only get more interesting with each new discovery. Then there is fan-favorite Kenneth (Jack McBrayer), the ceaselessly cheerful page who cares about the show more than just about anyone. That’s not even mentioning all of the insane guest stars you get throughout the run like Matt Damon, Jon Hamm, Oprah, Jason Sudeikis, Salma Hayek, Steve Buscemi, Peter Dinklage and so many more. Seriously, this was the show everyone wanted to be on, and they delivered the goods.
Why was 30 Rock so good? It is because it is one of the smartest and most incisive shows to ever grace our television screens. It also does not hurt that it is utterly bananas and is unafraid to function almost as a live-action Looney Tunes cartoon, especially in their cutaway gags. As a society, we could all see that reality television was getting out of hand, but only these brilliant writers could have thought up something as hilariously delightful as MILF Island. We all know Oscar-bait when we see it, but could you have come up with a satirical send-up as memorable as The Rural Juror. I can’t tell you the number of times I sing “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” or “Milton Greene Needs A Kidney” around my house. These jokes didn’t just make you chuckle. This is a show that made you cry from laughing on a regular basis. While the show did grow even better after the debut season, the series was great from the beginning and never really hit a rough patch. Few comedies have come as close to having a perfect run as 30 Rock did over its seven seasons. This is a show that will continue to be discovered and appreciated by hardcore comedy fans and average television viewers alike. This is a series that connects due to the fact that it is not malicious when it is skewering necessary targets. At its core, 30 Rock is a show about love and friendship, and spending time with these characters is like spending time with old friends.
30 Rock: The Complete Series arrives on Blu-Ray courtesy of Mill Creek Entertainment with a really strong AVC encoded 1080p transfer. The series is pretty bright with a lovely, natural color palette revealing vibrant colors within the elaborate production design. The whites of the show are luminous, but do not fall victim to any blooming in this presentation. Black levels are nice and deep, giving way to a pleasing amount of detail in more dimly lit scenes. Skin tones appear very natural throughout the series, revealing a good amount of textural nuance in the face. Mill Creek has done a nice job of not overstuffing each disc with too many episodes, which allows this series to mostly avoid compression artifacts that plague some shows. This transfer has some minor inconsistency to be sure, but, upon spot checking it with some of the older DVDs I have, I can say the Blu-Ray presentation is a pretty significant step up.
This Blu-Ray comes with a wonderful DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track that recreates the sounds of this world with ease. Dialogue is the driving force of the show, and it always comes through crisp and clear without being clipped by any competing sounds. The music on the show is used sparingly, but often fills the room during transitional moments. The jaunty opening theme music always hits hard in a really exciting way. There is not much in the way of action on this show, but the environmental sounds of the world engage the surround speakers in a really pleasing way. The sounds of the streets of New York or the office environment at TGS are powerful in the mix. Ambient sounds are precisely placed in the rear channels. The audio track will not bring the house down, but it serves as a top-notch presentation for the fans of the series.
- Audio Commentaries: Five episodes are provided with commentary tracks featuring the likes of Tracy Morgan, Tina Fey, Lorne Michaels, Jack McBrayer and Alec Baldwin. Participants are mostly doing the commentary solo, which doesn’t allow for much in the way of banter, but these tracks are still fun and informative.
- Deleted Scenes: Ten minutes of unused footage from nine episodes are provided here featuring additional scenes of Frank perving out on Jenna, Tracy Jordan greeting a tour group and more.
- The Wrap Party: A thirteen-minute gag reel featuring hilarious flubs and forgotten lines from throughout the season. The best part is hearing the various insane things Tracy Morgan spouts off between scenes.
- An Evening With Kenneth: A ten-minute video where Kenneth Parcell takes a stab at hosting a late night show under a limited budget. I’m never mad to see more Kenneth, and watching him interact with Jenna, Frank and more is the best.
- Behind-The-Scenes: A fifteen-minute informal look behind the scenes of the show at first hosted by Judah Friedlander, and later by Jack McBrayer. Mostly you get to watch these guys joking around on set and interviewing various crew members. It is not wildly informative, but it is a good deal of fun.
- Makin’ It Happen: Three additional “episodes” of the fake show Makin’ It Happen which totals about 30 seconds. This is brief, but quite amusing.
- Audio Commentaries: Ten episodes are provided with commentary tracks featuring the likes of Will Arnett, Jane Krakowski, Jack McBrayer, Fred Armisen, Judah Friedlander, Tim Conway and more. There is more of an effort to have pairs of people this season, which provides an even more lively experience.
- Deleted Scenes: Four minutes of unused footage from nine episodes are provided here featuring the crew talking about their summer, Jenna finding an opportunity to sing, Frank and Lutz having a bathroom encounter, Pete eating an expired candy bar and more.
- ‘Cooter’ Table Read: A 32-minute filmed table read of the episode with the actors reading from the scripts while the text from the script is provided at the bottom of the screen. This is a fun look behind the curtain that fans should enjoy. Someone from the creative team steps in to read for Matthew Broderick, who is absent.
- 30 Rock Live at the UCB Theater: A 47-minute staged version of episode 208 performed a few weeks before the episode aired to benefit the production assistants during the writer’s strike. Tina starts out by getting the audience up to speed and joking around a bit before inviting all of the cast members out. This is a blast to watch!
- Tina Hosts SNL: An 8-minute behind the scenes look at Fey returning to SNL to host. This gives a fascinating look at how the week unfolds for a typical host of the show. You also get a brief chat with Fey’s husband.
- Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Present – An Evening With 30 Rock: A 23-minute panel hosted by Brian Williams in which the cast and crew discuss the series. Another essential bit of content that I’m really glad they included in this set, as you get a lot of fun anecdotes.
- Audio Commentaries: Five episodes are provided with commentary tracks featuring the likes of Jack McBrayer, Jon Hamm, Jane Krakowski, Alan Alda, Tina Fey and more. There are two additional episodes listed as having commentaries on disc two of the season, but they do not actually seem to have the track on the disc.
- Deleted Scenes: Nearly seven minutes of unused footage from seven episodes are provided here featuring additional scenes with Jack and Kathy, the Night Court cast, Jenna getting an intern, Tracy playing the cello poorly and more.
- Behind-The-Scenes With The Muppets: A three-minute look at the Muppets on set as introduced by Tina Fey. It is always interesting to see performers bringing puppets to life.
- 1-900-OKFACE: An amusing minute-long parody of a phone sex TV ad with Tina Fey.
- ‘Kidney Now!’ Table Read: A 32-minute filmed table read of the season finale with a rough version of the ending song. As an added bonus, you get Donald Glover joining in as one of the participants.
- The Making of ‘Kidney Now!’: A 12-minute look at the ending finale benefit song that explores how the song came together and what individual artists brought to the song like The Beastie Boys and Cyndi Lauper. This is one of my favorite moments from the series, so it was really cool getting a deep dive into it.
- Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery: A collection of photographs detailing the production of the season.
- Alec Baldwin’s SNL Monologue: A five-minute look at Baldwin’s monologue from that year which featured some of the 30 Rock crew popping up to ask questions from the audience.
- Tracy Jordan’s Rant: A two-minute fake in-character rant from Tracy Jordan in which he goes off on the crew in a hilarious way.
- Awards Acceptance Speeches: Four minutes of acceptance speeches from the Emmys and Golden Globes featuring Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan.. I’m an awards show junkie, so I love getting to watch these speeches again.
- Audio Commentaries: Ten episodes are provided with commentary tracks featuring the likes of Donald Glover, Gillian Jacobs, Alec Baldwin, Lorne Michaels, Jack McBrayer, John Lutz and more. This season is fun because you have the show inviting famous superfans like Jacobs to give some insight alongside her Community co-star, Glover.
- Deleted Scenes: Six minutes of unused footage from six episodes are provided here featuring Jenna planning her change to country, Steve Buscemi sleuthing, Liz shopping for a present and more.
- Behind-The-Scenes of ‘The Moms’: A seven-minute look at this episode which brought together all of the famous moms on the show for one special Mother’s Day episode. This goes a bit into how SNL traditions inspired the episode and how fun it was having all of these icons on the set.
- Behind-The-Scenes of ‘I Do Do’: A five-minute look at how complicated it was to stage three weddings in one episode. My favorite part was getting some candid interviews with Grizz and Dot Com.
- Tennis Night In America: A funny minute-long parody of Hank Williams, Jr.’s opening theme for Monday Night Football courtesy of Jenna Maroney.
- Food Network’s Ace of Cakes – 30 Rock (and Roll): A full 21-minute episode of the Food Network show in which the participants have to make 30 Rock-inspired desserts. An unexpected but really fun inclusion.
- Photo Gallery: A collection of photos from the making of the season.
- Audio Commentaries: Ten episodes are provided with commentary tracks featuring the likes of Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, Will Forte, Val Kilmer, Aaron Sorkin and more. Probably the highlight of the season would be the episode in which Jack McBrayer brings his parents along to share their thoughts.
- Deleted Scenes: Twelve minutes of unused footage from sixteen episodes are provided here featuring Pete trying to reclaim his youth, Grizz and Dot Com teaming up with Kenneth, additional scenes between Jenna and Paul (Will Forte) and more.
- Live Show (West Coast Version): The full alternate version of the live show is provided here. It is fun to see the small ways in which the performances differed between the two airings.
- Behind-The-Scenes of ‘Live Show’: A 13-minute look at all of the complications that cropped up by shifting to a live format for an episode. It is interesting to see who was more comfortable with the process due to their time on SNL.
- Jack Donaghy Executive Superhero: Three animated shorts totaling six minutes are provided here depicting Donaghy as a literal superhero. In these shorts he stops Brian Williams from taking the last frozen yogurt, proudly represents his passion for hockey and deals with a real Al Roker problem.
- Jenna’s Obituary Song: A minute-long tribute to the legacy of Jenna as performed by Jenna.
- Audio Commentaries: Four episodes are provided with commentary tracks featuring the likes of Tracey Wigfield, Judah Friedlander, Jack McBrayer, Jane Krakowski and more.
- Deleted Scenes: Nearly seven minutes of unused footage from twelve episodes are provided here featuring Pete suffering the pain of fatherhood, Liz dealing with groin issues, Jack celebrating the joys of Leap Day, Jenna getting fresh with an Ewok, more Queen of Jordan cutaways and more.
- Live From Studio 6H (West Coast Version): The full alternate version of the live show is provided here. Once again, it is fun to see the ways in which the performances differed between the two airings.
- Behind-The-Scenes of ‘Live From Studio 6H’: A seven-minute look at the cast and crew preparing for this year’s live episode. It is interesting to see how they wanted to top themselves by upping the level of difficulty in every way.
- Cheyenne Jackson & Jane Krakowski – ‘Live From Studio 6H’ Warmup: A nine-minute audience warm-up in which Fred Armisen introduces a Stevie Wonder-singing Cheyenne Jackson. Armisen then introduces the cast followed by a showstopping performance from Krakowski singing some Janis Joplin.
- Audio Commentaries: Four episodes are provided with commentary tracks featuring the likes of Tom Ceraulo, Jane Krakowski, Robert Carlock, Tina Fey and more. It is nice to hear Fey send off the series after so many years of greatness.
- Deleted Scenes: Six minutes of unused footage from seven episodes are provided here featuring Kenneth confronting his mom (Catherine O’Hara) and her new “friend” (Bryan Cranston), Liz arguing over garlic knots, Kenneth being a bad boy maintenance man and more.
- The Donaghy Files: Five minutes of more animated adventures with Jack Donaghy with appearances from Ryan Adams, Michael McDonald and Childish Gambino.
- Tina Fey Studio Tour: A 26-minute guided tour with Tina Fey in which she takes you around the set before the show ends. This gives Fey an opportunity to supply many fun anecdotes and reveal little tidbits that you otherwise may have overlooked. This is both informative and a nice walk down memory lane.
If there is justice in this world, 30 Rock will be remembered as one of the all-time great television comedies. Everything about the show works from the writing to the performances to the at-times elaborate production design. This is also the rare long-running show that does not experience a dip in quality. Mill Creek Entertainment has released the complete series on Blu-Ray with a fantastic A/V presentation and all of the original special features from the DVDs, of which there are many. If you don’t add this set to your collection, you are living life wrong. If you are a streaming-only person, do not forget that the show recently pulled some controversial episodes that you can find waiting for you here in the Blu-Ray set. This is one series you are going to want to revisit for years to come. Highly Recommended
30 Rock: The Complete Series is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD..
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Mill Creek Entertainment has supplied a copy of this set free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.