An eight-month hiatus can be difficult for any primetime, network TV show to overcome. Fans may have changed their viewing habits or lost their place in the story line or simply forgotten that the series was coming back. It’s hard to know how the break will affect 30 Rock, which has a couple million deeply loyal viewers yet is always struggling to maintain its humble ratings. But one thing is sure: Despite some promising preview clips, Tina Fey’s wonderful sitcom will be faced with a few unusual obstacles when it returns January 12th.
For one thing, the show’s cast — which was universally beloved around the time of 30 Rock’s season finale — hasn’t exactly been earning it great press over the break. Sure, everyone still adores Fey. If anything, her stock went up in 2011, which saw the release of her excellent book, Bossypants. But how about Tracy Morgan, who we’ve had reservations about since his homophobic outburst in June? Will 30 Rock, which is so great at addressing real issues in the world of comedy, find a way to make us love him again, or will each Tracy Jordan line remind us of the actor’s stabby gay jokes?
Then there’s Alec Baldwin, whose Jack Donaghy character has long been one of our favorites. Although he hasn’t done anything that remotely compares to Morgan’s rant, his American Airlines temper tantrum did embarrass him in the eyes of many. In fact, today word is getting around that Wegman’s pulled a series of TV ads the actor shot for the supermarket chain in 2010, which they had planned to re-air over the holiday season, as a result of his bad press. Is this a sign that viewers are beginning to tire of Baldwin’s self-righteous antics?
And finally, there’s the whole Kim Jong-il thing. The fate of Donaghy’s wife, Avery Jessup, was one of the first things on our mind after the North Korean dictator died last month. A few days ago, we learned that Fey and her writers will indeed need to modify 30 Rock‘s story line as a result of the news — but they don’t know yet how they’re going to do it.
Listen, we don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade. We’ve missed Liz Lemon and co. like crazy over the hiatus, and from what we’ve seen, another great season is in store. But 30 Rock’s recent crop of troubles certainly bears considering, especially at a time when a floundering NBC has hit pause on another smart, under-performing sitcom, Community. At this point, all we can really do is cross our fingers that Tina Fey will work her magic, as usual, and all our fears will be for naught.