Seasons in the Sun

The Office Steve Carell 30 Rock Tina Fey Stranger Than Paradise Night on Earth Jim Jarmusch Up in Smoke Cheech & Chong
Like The Office, Tina Fey's 30 Rock has overcome awkward beginnings.
Like The Office, Tina Fey's 30 Rock has overcome awkward beginnings.
The Office: Season Three (Universal)
After a shaky first season and a better-with-every-episode second, The Office proved itself one of the most consistent comedies in the history of the medium. The show has long since escaped the shadow of its BBC forebear and boasts an ensemble from which you could pick a dozen leads. This was the season during which Jim left for Scranton, where he met and fell for Karen; Pam and Roy broke up; Michael and Jan hooked up; Dwight and Angela kept up; and the rest of the staff cracked up in the margins. And it all came together brilliantly, till it fell apart for some in one of the most satisfying season finales ever. And stick around for the deleted scenes and myriad bonuses, which will satisfy till season four reports to work. -- Robert Wilonsky

30 Rock: Season 1 (Universal)
There was little indication early on that Tina Fey's loving dig at her old homestead -- Saturday Night Live, where she was head writer during a rare upswing -- would play so surreal. But around the time Tracy Morgan whipped out his "stabbing robot" on Conan O'Brien and Jane Krakowski started pimping her appearance in The Rural Juror and staffers started referring to Fey as "the c-word" and Alec Baldwin proved himself a mama's boy and Paul Reubens showed up as inbred German royalty, the show became a brilliant addendum to NBC's Thursday lineup. The boxed set's a great way to play catch-up: Not only is it loaded with details worth pausing for -- the copious Star Wars references, the fact every piece of scrap paper's littered with a visible-in-high-def gag -- but there are a good dozen deleted scenes worth keeping. -- Wilonsky

Stranger Than Paradise/Night on Earth (Criterion)
There are actually three films among these two well-supplemented Jim Jarmusch releases: Stranger Than Paradise's second disc contains among its bonuses the filmmaker's 1980 debut, Permanent Vacation, in which nothing happens for 77 minutes. But the centerpiece of that collection is 1984's Stranger, in which John Lurie, Richard Edson, and Eszter Balint wander the gray, grimy wastelands in search of little more than shoplifted smokes and TV dinners; it's as dreary as it is deadpan as it is depressing as it is hilarious. Night on Earth, 1991's offering populated by bigger stars (Winona Ryder, Rosie Perez, Gena Rowlands), is less successful; it's a series of short stories, some better than others. But it's always been worth a look for Roberto Benigni's Rome segment, in which he's a taxi driver stiffed by a stiff; "Touch my balls," he mutters in Italian. The man's a diamond among lumps of charcoal. -- Wilonsky

Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke: Special Collector's Edition (Paramount)
Funny how humor changes as it ages -- except for Up in Smoke, which is pretty much the same as it ever was. Much like the dope it idolizes, Smoke inspires hilarity for its first 15 minutes, followed by a long period of blank-faced staring. But now the movie serves as a time capsule of the post-hippie era, a fact played up by the making-of doc, which is worth watching just to hear Tommy Chong speak without his stoner voice. Most of the other bonuses -- a computer-animated video for the awesome "Earache My Eye," a compilation of the movie's countless uses of the word "man" -- are strictly for the chemically enhanced crowd. -- Jordan Harper

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