A TWIST OF LEMON

Why turn in early when the fun­ni­est show on TV is wait­ing for you af­ter dark? Guy Davis rec­om­mends stay­ing up for 30 Rock.

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Their witty barbs pro­vided a marked con­trast to the stilted com­ments pro­vided by most of the other pre­sen­ters, mak­ing their team-up one of the high­lights of the night.

Gosh, wouldn’t it be great if you could en­joy that kind of de­li­ciously sharp and silly repar­tee week in, week out?

Well, here’s the thing: if you’re will­ing to per­haps stay up a lit­tle later than usual on a Mon­day night, you can. Be­cause that’s when Chan­nel Seven is air­ing 30 Rock, cre­ated by and star­ring the afore­men­tioned Fey.

I have been vo­cal in my love and ad­mi­ra­tion of this su­perb sit­com in the past, and I’ll con­tinue to strain my vo­cal chords to give 30 Rock its due.

Do a bit of chan­nel-surf­ing and you’ll find funny shows from all over the world on your TV screen, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that hits the mark as con­sis­tently as this one.

Like many sit­coms, 30 Rock has tran­scended its orig­i­nal premise to fo­cus on the foibles of its cen­tral char­ac­ters.

It started off as a be­hind-the-scenes look at a sketch-com­edy show, writ­ten and filmed at the 30 Rock­e­feller Plaza stu­dios of US tele­vi­sion net­work NBC ( hence the ti­tle), but in its third sea­son the episodes are looking more at the per­sonal mis­ad­ven­tures of head writer Liz Lemon ( Fey), com­edy star Tracy Jor­dan ( Tracy Mor­gan) and net­work ex­ec­u­tive Jack Don­aghy ( Alec Bald­win).

De­spite be­ing re­newed for a third year though, 30 Rock is still not ex­actly a rat­ings pow­er­house, which is why the show has pulled out the big guns in its most re­cent episodes and fea­tured an ar­ray of A-list guest stars.

For­tu­nately for us, how­ever, the show is not al­low­ing folks like Oprah Win­frey, Jen­nifer Anis­ton or Fey’s Os­cars co-pre­sen­ter Martin to sim­ply coast through. Its given them in­spired roles ( even when they’re play­ing them­selves, as in Oprah’s case), tangy di­a­logue and juicy bits of busi­ness to play with.

And even when the guest stars aren’t ex­actly house­hold names, they still add ter­rific tex­ture to 30 Rock’s big pic­ture. Take short-statured Peter Din­klage as one of Liz’s lat­est beaus. Or the ridicu­lously sexy Salma Hayek as Jack’s new love in­ter­est. Or Mad Men’s charis­matic Jon Hamm, show­ing fine, un­der­stated comic form in fu­ture episodes as Liz’s new neigh­bour.

But 30 Rock still re­volves around its core cast, and sup­port­ing play­ers like Jack McBrayer and Jane Krakowski pro­vide mar­vel­lous back-up to the cen­tral trio.

Mor­gan is tuned into a comedic fre­quency all of his own. Fey is so fear­less in ex­pos­ing Liz’s flaws and neu­roses that she be­comes more adorable as she be­comes more de­plorable.

And Bald­win … well, in a just and fair world, they’d sim­ply re­name the Emmy “ the Bald­win” and be done with it. He’s that funny, and so is 30 Rock.

Com­edy spec­tac­u­lar: Tina Fey, cre­ator and star of 30 Rock, has at­tracted a range of A-list stars to her show in­clud­ing Jen­nifer Anis­ton ( inset top, with Fey and Alec Bald­win) and com­edy king­pin Steve Martin ( bot­tom, with Fey dur­ing their 2009 Os­cars ap­pear­ance).

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