TVision: ‘30 Rock’ in a hard place

Monday, October 19, 2009 at 12:48am
Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin in '30 Rock.'

30 Rock still doesn’t draw huge audiences, because in its Thursday night at 8:30 time slot (WSMV-4) it’s slotted in between heavyweights CSI on CBS and Grey’s Anatomy on ABC. But no program better combines slashing, provocative satire with dumb, silly humor and outrageous personalities.

Thus far NBC also doesn’t seem to mind the fact that often they are on the other end of the joke, especially when Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) is on the loose.

But despite being a network with troubles rapidly approaching epic doom proportions in terms of audience loss and critical disdain, NBC is hoping that 30 Rock may at least generate some good publicity for a change.

The opening episode of the fourth season brought back a favorite recurring villain in Devin Banks (Will Arnett), a clueless type whose ignorance is surpassed only by his arrogance. He’s back to spar with Donaghy, the kind of match that ensures both thematic fireworks and outstanding comedy.

As long as it keeps winning industry honors, NBC will no doubt stick with 30 Rock. But hopefully they will also find a way to increase its mass appeal, because it’s one of the few really smart sit-coms whose humor can be both silly and cerebral.

New USA show

USA has done so well with offbeat crime shows that they’ve got a new one on tap. Ironically, now it looks like they’ve decided to do the same thing that CBS did with The Mentalist, borrow a page from the Psych playbook. Once more they’ve got two unlikely guys that become partners in solving cases, only the variation this time is a bit trickier.

White Collar, which begins Friday at 9 p.m., teams an uptight, by-the-book FBI mainstay Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) with the outlandish, very clothes conscious con man Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer). Burke captured Caffrey after lots of effort, but knows his skills and has a grudging admiration for his skills. More importantly, he views Caffrey as a secret weapon, someone who knows how others in his profession think, can predict moves and break down the most intricate schemes.

USA has added some big name female talent to the cast with Diahann Carroll and Tiffani Thiessen, with Willie Garson playing Caffrey’s longtime friend and conduit to the underworld and his past. Given the massive amount of promotion it’s already received from USA and a favorable time slot, White Collar could prove their next breakout hit, or at worst another pleasant diversion.

Letterman success

So far it seems that David Letterman’s revelations about past affairs gave his show a boost. The audience for Late Show with David Letterman has increased to nearly five million viewers a night, making him the unquestioned late-night leader. The program also hasn’t lost a single advertiser, despite the threat of conservative boycotts or fallout from women’s groups.

Of course the trial of his alleged extortionist Robert “Joe” Halderman hasn’t begun yet, and Halderman’s attorney keeps insisting that there are details coming that will turn the public against Letterman (though how that helps a suspected extortionist escapes me).

But right now David Letterman continues to weather the storm, suffering only a few stings from his peers in the comedy world.

There’s not a lot of good news around NBC these days. The network doesn’t currently have either a scripted or reality show in the Top 20 and The Jay Leno Show is getting beat some night by reruns of cable shows. But Thursday night one of their few crown jewels returns to the lineup, bolstered by yet another Emmy win as best comedy (making it three in a row).