The show: 30 Rock
The premiere: Wednesday, Oct. 11 (8:30 p.m. ET/PT), NBC
The concept: Personalities clash behind the scenes of a live TV show.
The challenge: Getting audiences to watch while competing with the new NBC drama Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Both are about Saturday Night Live-type shows.
Tina Fey, who has left Saturday Night Live, is writer, executive producer and star of 30 Rock, which she describes as a half-hour “workplace comedy.”
Fey plays Liz Lemon, a single gal who is head writer on a demanding, live TV program in New York City. All seems fine until the network puts blowhard Jack Donaghy, played by Alec Baldwin, in charge of the show. Donaghy decides to add unpredictable Tracy Jordan, played by SNL alum Tracy Morgan, to the cast of the struggling show.
Kevin Reilly, president of NBC Entertainment, says Fey is a rare female lead in comedy right now. “She has that new voice — I don’t want to saddle her with ‘Mary Tyler Moore for a new generation,’ but I feel like she’s accessible, attractive, confident, but awkward.” And, he says, “she is whip-smart.”
It’s not meant to be Saturday Night Live, Fey says. “None of the actual events are real, just sort of the vibe of the place. And the people are amalgams of people.”
In one scene, Jordan runs down the middle of the street in his underpants swinging a lightsaber, a nod to comedian Martin Lawrence’s hospitalization in 1997 after being found in the middle of a busy L.A. intersection screaming at cars.