- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2006

‘Rock’ rolls on

NBC’s new sitcom “30 Rock” hasn’t set the Nielsen meters afire, and that’s a shame. Tina Fey’s reconfigured “Saturday Night Live” comedy proves laugh-out-loud funny week in and week out — even if few tune in to witness it.

That may change tonight, when the comedy settles into its new berth on the network’s Thursday-night lineup with a frisky, supersized 40-minute episode beginning at 9:20.

On tonight’s show, Jack (“30 Rock’s” head honcho, played by Alec Baldwin) wants to appear in a “Girlie Show” sketch to plug General Electric products — a bit of heavy-handed product placement, considering that NBC is owned by GE — but show producer Liz (Miss Fey) doesn’t want the program to become one big infomercial.

Meanwhile, Tracy (Tracy Morgan), feeling put upon because of a heavy workload, feigns illiteracy to make his bosses feel guilty enough to give him more time off for “tutoring.” The episode also features some snarky commentary about prejudice, white guilt and creative compromises.

Ratings for “Rock” are lackluster — and hopefully, its sharp writing, talented ensemble cast and NBC’s decision not to pull the plug will eventually attract more viewers. Moreover, Mr. Baldwin’s surprising comedic turn is sure to attract Emmy voters when next year’s awards are handed out for best supporting actor in a comedy series. Who knew this handsome leading man would blossom as a superior comic talent?

More extended laughs

Like “30 Rock,” two other NBC sitcoms, “My Name Is Earl” and “The Office,” also will benefit tonight from the supersize 40-minute treatment.

Christian Slater, who can be seen on the big screen in “Bobby,” which opens Thanksgiving Day, guest-stars on “Earl” (at 8 p.m.) as a pothead whom Earl (Jason Lee) robbed in the past. Later, fans of “The Office” (airing after “Earl” at 8:40 p.m.) who have been waiting to see Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) back together may get their wish. Tonight’s episode centers on the merger between the Stamford and Scranton offices of Dunder Mifflin. Die-hard “Office” fans will recall that Jim left Scranton and fled to the Stamford branch of the fictional paper company after he and Pam shared a passionate kiss on last season’s finale — but Pam insisted they could only be friends and nothing more.

‘Thick’ crosses the pond

Fans of “Arrested Development” soon may have a reason to watch TV again.

ABC has given a pilot order to “The Thick of It,” a half-hour comedy from Mitchell Hurwitz — creator of the canceled Fox sitcom — and Richard Day, a producer and writer on the series, Reuters news agency reports. Mr. Day will write the pilot script and serve as an executive producer along with Mr. Hurwitz.

“The Thick of It” will be adapted from a BBC political satire about a put-upon member of Parliament who’s harassed by incompetent bureaucrats. (Needless to say, the American version will transplant the characters to Congress.)

The original “Thick” was seen stateside on cable’s BBC America.

‘Dinner: Impossible’

A former chef to Britain’s royal family and four American presidents has become the Food Network’s newest star.

Robert Irvine will star in “Dinner: Impossible,” the Food Network announced yesterday. The show and Mr. Irvine — described by the network as “a culinary James Bond performing miracles on a grand scale” — debut Jan. 24 at 10:30 p.m.

On one episode, the chef must make dinner for 150 passengers aboard a luxury train, doing all the prep work in just four hours. On another, he has just eight hours to cater a wedding reception for 200.

Mr. Irvine, a British-born chef who began cooking when he joined the Royal Navy at 15, is executive chef at Resorts Atlantic City in New Jersey.

Compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance and Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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