After winning 3 consecutive Outstanding Comedy Emmys, how do you stay fresh? This was the question facing NBC’s 30 Rock going into its 4th season. For it’s 3rd season, 30 Rock revolved most episodes around a big-name guest star each week. The show took a different approach for its 4th season, focusing on more overarching storylines, with typically hilarious results. Even though it was shut out of it’s 4th consecutive Emmy by Glee, 30 Rock totally delivers in it’s 4th season. Hit the jump for my review:
The 4th season of 30 Rock is really the show’s first season to feature many season-long storylines. This season saw TGS search for and cast a new castmember (Cheyenne Jackson), Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) and his wife try to make a baby, Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) juggle two girlfriends (Elizabeth Banks and Julianne Moore) and Liz (Tina Fey) search for a boyfriend. As usual, the 4th season had plenty of great guest stars. James Franco, Michael Sheen and Matt Damon play potential love interests for Liz while Will Forte plays Jenna’s (Jane Krakowski) boyfriend/impersonator.
While many sitcoms start to go downhill by their 4th season, 30 Rock avoids this by staying true to its quirky, scatter-shot sense of humor while avoiding being overrun by guest stars. Even though the 4th season featured all the guest stars mentioned above and more, the long term storylines allow the guest stars to play real characters, not just bit parts. In the 3rd season, the guest stars were somewhat distracting, with episodes devoted solely to Oprah Winfrey or Steve Martin’s characters. In this season, the guest stars become apart of the 30 Rock mythology and shine in their deeper roles. Julianne Moore and Elizabeth Banks, who play Jack’s two potential love interests, stand out as we get to check up on them almost every episode in the second half of the season.
James Franco’s guest role deserves special mention. Even though his character is doesn’t follow my above guidelines and only appears in one episode, the role is central to probably my favorite episode of the show – “Klaus and Greta”. Franco plays a fictionalized version of himself who engages in a make-believe relationship with Jenna for the tabloids. Franco agrees to the fake relationship so he can dispel the rumors that he is in love with a Japanese body pillow. This running gag throughout the episode is one of the funniest jokes of 30 Rock and the episode remains hilarious after multiple viewings.
The DVD set of the 4th season of 30 Rock features 10 (yes, 10!) episodes with commentary tracks, deleted scenes and behind the scenes featurettes for 2 episodes. Additional featurettes include “Tennis Night In America” which showcases Jenna’s funny singing performance promoting NBC’s fictional attempt at gaining viewers for tennis and a Food Network “Ace of Cakes” special revolving around 30 Rock.
30 Rock is presented 1.85:1 with Dolby sound. Make sure to check out 30 Rock every Thursday on NBC at 8:30.