After weeks of opportunity lost as Tina Fey parlayed her dead-on parody of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin into a national sensation, NBC's "30 Rock" belatedly returns tonight at 9:30 following "The Office."
And, questionable programming strategy aside, "30 Rock" is worth the wait. The season premiere, which has been available online for about a week, quickly dispenses with dangling threads from the season finale as former NBC executive Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) returns from Washington after escaping from his government job. How'd he do it?
"I'm not at liberty to discuss that, at least not until Cheney dies," Donaghy tells Liz Lemon (Fey). "And that could be a long time from now. That man is mostly metal."
- When: 9:30 tonight, NBC.
The season premiere is a fast-moving half-hour filled with jokes that whiz past at warp speed. Blink and you may miss a fantastic bit of dialogue, such as the reference to a theme park fire (there was one at NBC-owned Universal Studios over the summer) or Kenneth's observation: "Three of my nine siblings were adopted. And someday I'm going to find them."
Liz tries to adopt a child of her own, but no amount of preparation for her adoption interview can prepare her for the evaluator, played by Megan Mullally ("Will & Grace"), who looks quite Palin-esque herself. Liz may be able to hide the "penis pasta" in her office, but she can't corral her bickering staff, including Jenna (Jane Krakowski), who's jealous over the success Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) had with sales of his pornographic video game.
Next week's episode isn't quite as funny, but it does have a game guest star: Oprah Winfrey. Liz sees her on a flight from Chicago in an episode that also features Jenna and Tracy arguing over whether it's more difficult to be a woman or a black man. Naturally, they try to disprove the other's contention with Jenna dressing up in blackface and Tracy donning a wig and dress.
"30 Rock" is more manic than "Seinfeld," but its smart observations on political correctness, corporate culture and life in Manhattan make it an ideal heir. This "Rock" continues to roll.