30 Rock & r & & r & by TED S. McGREGOR JR. & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & hey're killing 30 Rock -- with love. After a debut season as the critics' fave -- punctuated by winning the Emmy for best comedy -- now the show means business. And that means... lots and lots of famous guest stars?
Well, at least it will be an ironic demise. After all, one of 30 Rock's many running inside jokes is how bumbling NBC can be. Now the real network is trying to "save" the real show, but it looks like they're sacrificing what made it great last year -- the characters. Instead of getting to spend more time with Kenneth the Page (Jack McBrayer) or degenerate writer Frank (Judah Friedlander), we get (on the Season Two premiere) Jerry Seinfeld doing his faux outrage bit. And now we're told to keep watching as Steve Buscemi, Edie Falco and Al Gore will take up even more precious screen time.
The laughs started last year with The Girlie Show -- the lifelong dream and brainchild of BFFs Jenna (Jane Krakowski) and Liz Lemon (Tina Fey, who created 30 Rock -- get it, it's like a Shakespearean play within a play). But Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), the new man from GE, took over and he didn't like The Girlie Show. So to spice things up, he hired tabloid bad-boy/fading movie star Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan from Saturday Night Live). Thus was born TGS with Tracy Jordan -- and 30 Rock was off.
The show runs on Baldwin's deadpan delivery and sharp writing -- Jack's romance with Condoleezza Rice last season was hilarious, and his efforts to mentor Liz create plenty of women-in-the-workplace anxiety for her. Her relationship with dippy Dennis, the last pager salesman in Manhattan, was delightfully loopy.
I like Jerry Seinfeld fine, but he kind of takes over the entire episode -- the writers can't develop the characters we already like when Jerry's getting all the screen time. It's nice that the execs want to get an audience for the show -- and the lead-in slot before The Office certainly won't hurt -- but here's hoping they leave 30 Rock alone. The guest slots should be more like last season -- so quick that if you blink you miss them.
Sometimes when the network steps in to "save" a show, they only succeed in killing it sooner -- something real NBC execs and Jack Donaghy seem to be doing simultaneously.
Expedition Pacific Abyss
This five-part BBC series about diving the Pacific Ocean gets its stateside airing on Discovery. In this installment, a group explores Truk Lagoon, where scores of Japanese ships were sunk during World War II, making it one of the most legendary dive sites on the planet. (Sunday, 10/14, 9 pm, Discovery)
Aliens in America
You knew it was coming -- a sitcom with a lovable Muslim everybody can be confused about. Not sure if this is good clean comedy or the latest example of the Great Satan dissing another religion? That's the question, but it's asked with a classic rock soundtrack and the familiar backdrop of high school angst. (Monday, 10/15, 8:30 pm, the CW)
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
The guys promise this is their last season. Oh, you thought it had already been cancelled? Nope, but their 15 minutes of makeover-with-a-twist fame did go by fast. Think of it as their reunion season, if that helps. But who will help macho America find its softer side when they're gone? (Tuesday, 10/16, 9 pm, Bravo)
The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.