No doubt a lot of work goes into the daft, delirious comedy of 30 Rock
, but it seems to spring fully formed from the brow of Tina Fey. Ridiculous plot turns and giddy wordplay unfold organically in every episode. Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, Jack McBrayer, and the supporting cast turn every episode into a nimble dance--punctuated by pratfalls. There's something truly elegant about 30 Rock
, a sense of flow and delight that runs under the surface of every episode. Over the course of season five, Liz Lemon (Fey), the eternally floundering head writer of sketch comedy show TGS
, struggles to maintain her relationship with airplane pilot Carol (guest star Matt Damon); unflappable and domineering network executive Jack Donaghy (Baldwin) navigates life as a husband and father while fighting to maintain his status within the new hierarchy of Kabletown; erratic star Tracy Jordan (Morgan) lusts after awards while his wife gets a reality show (one entire episode is presented as an episode of Queen of Jordan
); greedy, grasping Jenna (Krakowski) does her best to weasel her way into celebrity; and eternally cheerful page Kenneth (McBrayer) glides above all the chaos with a blissful smile.
Guest stars are as wildly varied as Susan Sarandon (as a newly released sex offender), Queen Latifah (as a congresswoman ordering more diversity on NBC), and Condoleezza Rice (as herself, a former lover of Jack). Highlights include an episode performed live (in which Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Liz Lemon in her memories), dozens of inspired tossed-off bits like Kenneth being used as a human sushi platter, and celebrities' will to mock themselves mercilessly, like Matt Lauer fawning over Tracy in an interview. Extras include audio commentaries by completely inappropriate guests like Aaron Sorkin, deleted scenes, animated shorts of Jack Donaghy as a superhero, and more. 30 Rock: Season 5 combines lunacy and surefooted rhythm. --Bret Fetzer