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April 2011

30 Rock - season 4

cast: Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski

creator: Tina Fey

450 minutes (12) 2009
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Universal DVD Region 2

RATING: 6/10
review by J.C. Hartley

30 Rock - season four

I was well aware of 30 Rock (2006) without ever having watched it; who has time for TV except as a reviewing necessity? Obviously, I know who Tina Fey is, and that 30 Rock, being about a TV comedy show, is based on her time at Saturday Night Live. I'd heard that season four was considered a bit of a quality dip in terms of previous seasons, but the show is still running and season six has already been commissioned.

Season four has 22 shows and the first eight are fairly forgettable. I started getting into the series with episode nine, which features a guest cameo by actor James Franco (127 Hours, Howl), who is set to star in a reboot of 'The Planet Of The Apes'. Franco plays himself as an actor with an obsession with a Japanese love pillow. The series also features Julianne Moore, with a weird Boston accent, as studio boss Alec Baldwin's old flame. Our own, our very own, Michael Sheen (Tron Legacy) features as 'Wesley Snipes' the love-interest of Liz Lemon (Fey). Wesley ticks all the boxes as Liz's ideal companion except that she hates him.

Some annoying writing imagines England as a culture slightly out of synch with the US, Sheen calls a bike a 'foot cycle', wouldn't eat popcorn in a cinema, and claims spring cleaning is called 'sweeps' in England. The tendency to tut at this sort of cultural misrepresentation should be balanced by the fact that the writers depict everything outside of New York as strange and bizarre. The American mid-west is a territory of hicks and racists for example, and the obsessions and behaviour of New Yorkers themselves come in for plenty of barbs. Wesley occasionally resembles Mr Bean but gets the odd good line and does his best with limited material. On expressing his reluctance to return to England, he cites London's lack of preparation for the 2012 Olympics, "Did you see the opening ceremony in Beijing?" he asks Liz. "We don't have that sort of control over our people!"

As someone out of touch with US television I get the impression I was missing some of the jokes and not recognising some of the smaller cameos. The best scenes are between Fey and boss Baldwin, and the show veers from satire to occasional forays into outright bad taste. Will Ferrell makes the odd appearance in the trails for NBC show 'Bitch Hunter'.

A pretty average extras package features commentaries from cast and writers, deleted scenes, a couple of behind-the-scenes making-of featurettes, a music video for 'Tennis Night In America' featuring Jane Krakowski (who I remember as the singing 'fluffer' in Ally McBeal) in her role as diva Jenna. There is also a featurette on the company that makes cakes for the show.

30 Rock seems to have peaked in popularity with the series before this one, possibly on the back of Fey's portrayal of president-in-waiting Sarah Palin for SNL. I didn't hate this, and I quite looked forward to watching the episodes. It's hardly cutting-edge comedy but it is agreeable enough and, this being America, it will probably continue to run way past its sell-by-date.



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