Is all the Emmy love for “30 Rock” justified? Hell, yes!
The New York sitcom set behind the scenes of TV’s most dysfunctional comedy show is likely the smartest thing going on the tube — network or cable. It’s not that you need a college degree or a Mensa membership to enjoy “30 Rock” — God knows it resorts to the scatalogical on occasion, when the situation calls for it — but it’s brainier than your average (I’m looking at you, Charlie Sheen) show that follows the set-’em-up/knock-’em-down joke template.
Love — and the lack of it — is a recurring theme in the third season. The increasingly fallible NBC executive Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin, in the role of his lifetime) finds it … for a while, at least, with a sexy caretaker played by Salma Hayek. Not sticking around for quite as long, but with much funnier results, is “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm, as a would-be suitor for harried sitcom writer Liz Lemon (Tina Fey).
No one used guest stars better than “30 Rock.” Will Arnett reprises his shoulda-been-Emmy-nominated turn as a sleazy rival to Jack, as does Chris Parnell’s ever-hysterical Dr. Spaceman. Also worth noting are a terrific Jennifer Aniston (whom I normally find repellent) as “crazy putty” (trust me, you’ll be quoting it), a deceptive Steve Martin, a genial Alan Alda who may or may not be Jack’s father, and a whole host of music stars wrangled in to record a charity single to wrangle that maybe-daddy a new kidney. Hell, even half the cast of “Night Court” shows up as themselves in one memorable episode, out of 22 memorable episodes.
The supporting cast does wonders throughout. Tracy Morgan gets better every year as Tracy Jordan, a thinly veiled version of himself, and Jane Krakowski does self-absorbed as good as anyone with her portrayal of selfish actress Jenna. Jack McBrayer’s farm-nerd network page Kenneth may be a one-joke character, but it’s a joke that works.
A lot of special features exist, but not all of them are worth the time. Exceptions lie in the full cut of the 1-900-OKFACE commercial and Morgan’s off-the-cuff acceptance speech when “30 Rock” took home the Golden Globe. —Rod Lott