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Welcome Back, NBC Thursday Night -- Especially "30 Rock"
April 10, 2008  | By David Bianculli
How long does it take for NBC's 30 Rock to re-establish itself, in its first fresh post-strike episode, as the funniest comedy on TV right now? One second. Literally, one second.

That's because the new episode, shown tonight at 8:30 ET, begins with a fake promo for the finale of the fake show mentioned once before on 30 Rock -- a show that Alec Baldwin's smarmy NBC exec, Jack Donaghy, was developing with 30 Rock guest star Jerry Seinfeld. The show concept, a tossaway punch line in that 30 Rock episode, has been expanded in this new episode into a TV phenomenon of Survivor proportions, with all the 30 Rock writers and staffers gathered together to enjoy the finale of the show within the show.

What's the name of this ersatz Survivor-style reality show? See for yourself. Here's the image, the false promo for the faux program, that opens tonight's hilarious 30 Rock:


Audacious? You bet. Especially since, in the subsequent scenes from "MILF Island" inserted into 30 Rock, the obvious target of the satire is not only reality shows in general, but NBC and its on-air promotional style in particular. And it goes without saying -- or it would, if I didn't say it right now -- that the fake reality show on 30 Rock displays a lot more imagination than many of the real reality shows on NBC.

The episode is a riot from start to finish, and three cast members -- Alec Baldwin as Jack, Tina Fey as head writer Liz, and Jack McBrayer as Kenneth the NBC page -- get a chance to really shine. Kenneth is relentlessly and hilariously moral, Jack reacts to an unfavorable story in the press by adopting a stutter, and Liz, to save her job, adopts some of the same scheming tactics of the "MILF Island" contestants.

Fey, I'm sure, always will think of herself as a writer first, but she's gotten so good as Liz that she's blossomed into one of the best comic actresses on TV. Only Julia Louis-Dreyfus, whose testosterone-fueled antics on the season finale episode of The New Adventures of Old Christine were absolutely brilliant Emmy-worthy material, performs with as much self-deprecating confidence and commitment.

So welcome back, 30 Rock. And welcome back, too, The Office, Scrubs and ER, which also return tonight. Added to My Name Is Earl, which returned last week, it puts most of NBC's good shows in one easy-to-find, easy-to-watch place. Without changing the channel, that's five entertaining shows in a row.

Six, if you count "MILF Island."




Eileen said:

"30 Rock" is consistently funny, exceptionally well written, and boasts the best cast -- EVER. If there is a funnier character on tv than Alec Baldwin's Jack, I've yet to see him. Kudos to everyone, especially Tina Fey for her superb writing and delightful acting skills. Tracy Morgan is wonderful in a perfectly cast role. What can one say about Kenneth? Adorable. "30 Rock" is the place to be on Thursday night.

Comment posted on April 10, 2008 11:05 AM

Diane said:

So Fey and Louis-Dreyfus are the "only" comic actresses of self-deprecating confidence and commitment? Somebody isn't watching "Samantha Who?," which returned this Monday with a fresh episode that was laugh-out-loud wonderful. Christina Applegate and Jean Smart take an amnesia premise that sounded dud-like and make it stud-like (to mix my gender metaphors). You go, girls!

Comment posted on April 11, 2008 9:51 AM

L. Mateas said:

Glad to see you give a shout out to Louis-Dreyfus' great performance in the finale episode; she was hilarious and brilliant! With Fey, Louis-Dreyfus, and perhaps Applegate and Smart (I haven't caught them yet) on TV now, the grrrl gods of comedy are being well served.

Comment posted on April 15, 2008 12:11 PM

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