Catch up with a pair of quirky sitcoms in this week’s new releases
September 4, 2007
Though there are a few traditional sitcoms on the air these days that are filmed in front of a live studio audience, like CBS’ “Two and a Half Men,” the three-camera format is more the exception than the rule.
These days, the majority of comedies on both the broadcast networks and cable are not studio-bound and are shot in the same method as a drama series — they are filmed over several days without an audience.
Two of these new-wave comedy series ” NBC’s “30 Rock”and FX’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” make their DVD debuts this week.
Tina Fey from “Saturday Night Live” is the creative voice ” and frequent writer ” of the snappy, sophisticated “30 Rock,” in which she stars as Liz Lemon, the harried producer of a live musical variety show who butts heads with the new network executive (Alec Baldwin) when he interferes with her series by forcing her to add a crazy comic actor (Tracy Morgan) to the cast.
Despite being nominated for five Emmys, including best comedy series, “30 Rock” struggled in its premiere season to find an audience. Thankfully for fans, NBC decided to renew the farce for a second season.
Extras, though, are a mixed bag. The wrap party gag reel is truly a hoot, but the faux talk show featuring the eternally sunny page Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) becomes old very quickly.
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“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” which will be returning this month for its third season, is a darkly comedic ensemble piece about four friends (Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, Glenn Howertown and Kaitlin Olson) who run an Irish pub in the City of Brotherly Love. Danny DeVito joined the cast last year as the loudmouthed father of two of the characters.
Extras on the first and second season set include a look at the series’ genesis , Olson’s audition tape, a lackluster gag reel, a Fox Movie Channel featurette on how the series had to cope with DeVito’s narrow window of opportunity to film and R-rated commentary with the cast .
: Probably the best — and maybe only reason — to check out the DVD of this poorly received dramedy starring Jane Fonda, Lindsay Lohan and Felicity Huffman is for director Garry Marshall’s commentary. The reason? Fonda sums it up in the behind-the-scenes documentary ” that for an Italian, he’s a mensch. Marshall is gregarious, funny and larger than life.
: Cillian Murphy headlines Ken Loach’s demanding drama set in 1920 revolving around Irish freedom fighters trying to break free of British rule. Extras include an extensive documentary on Loach and sturdy commentary from the veteran British filmmaker.
: Better than average made-for-video Halloween chiller based on the story by the popular author of the young-adult “Goosebumps” novels.
: Joe Clokey, the son of “Gumby” creator Art Clokey, selected these 15 episodes from the classic “The Gumby Show,” starring the green clay character and his best friend, Pokey, complete with the original soundtracks. Also included are “Gumbasia,” Art Clokey’s clever animated short featuring clay figures set to jazz , and the “Gumby” pilot.
: George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh were the executive producers of this uneven ghost story . Despite story flaws, the film offers fine performances from Emily Blunt and Ashton Holmes as a pair of college students who find themselves stuck on a road with a ghostly past in the dead of winter. Extras include a behind-the-scenes documentary and commentary from director Gregory Jacobs.
: Atmospheric 1929 gangster film directed and co-written by Roland West, whose vision was influenced by German Expressionism. Chester Morris plays Chick Williams, a Prohibition gangster supposedly on the straight and narrow after being released from prison, who is the chief suspect in a police murder.
: Barbra Streisand played the legendary singer-comedian Fannie Brice on Broadway in “Funny Girl” and then received the best actress Oscar for the 1968 movie version. But what was the real Brice like? Delightful. At least in this 1930 musical comedy in which she plays a nightclub singer in love with a broken-nosed fighter (Robert Armstrong).
: Three bumbling Army reservists ” played by Larry the Cable Guy, Bill Engvall and DJ Qualls ” bound for Iraq are accidentally dropped at Mexican village besieged by hostile forces.