Why we can’t help but love Alec Baldwin

This time last year, two TV shows on NBC’s fall lineup were the cause of endless chattering among people who chatter about such things — both were about the behind-the-scenes shenanigans at a Saturday Night Live–esque program. Conventional wisdom said that 30 Rock, written by and starring Tina Fey (and produced by Lorne Michaels), would be no match for Aaron Sorkin’s hour-long, West Wing–like Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. But here we are a year later and Studio 60 is deservedly no more, while 30 Rock — a comedy about a comedy show (duh) — has become a critical success and must-see TV.

The first season of 30 Rock (out on DVD September 4) was smart, witty, and absurd; each episode was funnier and zanier than the one before it. The show’s not-so-secret weapon? Alec Baldwin, who’s at his scene-stealing best, playing a silken-voiced network suit (“I like you,” he says upon meeting head writer Liz Lemon [Fey] in the pilot. “You have the boldness of a much younger woman”). Maybe this shouldn’t come as a surprise — for years he’s been SNL’s most reliably excellent guest host.

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