30 Rock: Season 1
It’s difficult to write a bad word about 30 Rock, last year’s finest sitcom, and I’m not going to be the one to do it. The show, about the inner workings of a TV sketch-comedy series, is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Jokes planted in the pilot — like Honky Grandma Be Trippin’, the fake film credit for Tracy Morgan’s Tracy — blossom throughout the year. And some of the strongest episodes reward on second and third viewings, particularly ”Hard Ball” (Jane Krakowski’s Jenna says she ”hates the troops” and mistakenly stumps for ”Osama in 2008”) and ”The Break-Up” (Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon dumps the last remaining beeper salesman in Manhattan). There is no other program on TV that can make a joke about the Carlyle Group one minute and Jessica Simpson the next.
No, I won’t criticize the show, but wow, the bonus features on this three-disc, 21-episode set are disheartening; they feel like slapdash efforts thrown together so the DVD would be available to attract new viewers before Rock‘s second-season premiere on Oct. 4. The 10 minutes of deleted scenes look like they’re from an entirely different (and not very funny) series. The ”Evening With Kenneth” mini talk-show parodies — in which Rock‘s brilliant breakout, Kenneth the Page (Jack McBrayer), tries to go all Conan O’Brien — are hit-and-miss. And the ”Fake Hollywood Story” is a head-fake. What a great idea it would be to do a mockumentary about 30 Rock. Too bad the headline is used to house an underproduced 13-minute blooper reel. So DVD Gods, I ask: Where is the original pilot with Rachel Dratch as Jenna? Where is the full-length music video of Krakowski’s hilarious performance of the ”Muffin Top” song? Where is the faux trailer for The Rural Juror or Honky Grandma Be Trippin’?
The extras are saved from total failure by creator Fey’s commentary on ”Black Tie” — a great outing for her to select, considering it features Paul Reubens as the demented, grotesquely deformed Prince Gerhardt, and Isabella Rossellini as the demented, Herculean ex-wife of Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin). ”Isabella Rossellini [is] very much committing to beating the crap out of me,” explains Fey in a voice-over. ”She’s a little scary.” (Couldn’t they have taped Fey’s audio on a day when she didn’t sound like she has a cold?)
Speaking of Rossellini, with all of the kudos — deservedly — heaped on the Rock stars, the set is a good reminder of the quality of guests the show lured in its first season, including Elaine Stritch (as Jack’s mom) and Will Arnett (as Jack’s NBC rival). One of the visitors is responsible for the best cameo on any sitcom all year — and it’s just nine words. ”My vagina is a flower. A weird ugly flower.” Thanks, Joy Behar! Rock: A; Rock extras: C+
Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan star in the Emmy-winning comedy. You want to go to there.