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Seinfeld guest stars on Emmy-winning ’30 Rock’

Cassie Belek | Thursday, October 4, 2007

“30 Rock,” the best least-watched comedy on television, premieres its second season tonight at 8:30 on NBC. The series avoided cancellation last season through a combination of critical acclaim and former NBC president Kevin Reilly’s good faith and now it has an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series to add to its comedy clout.

Tonight’s episode follows the cast and crew of “TGS” as everyone returns from hiatus. Head writer Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) spent the summer getting over ex-boyfriend Floyd, best friend Jenna (Jane Krakowski) starred in a musical version of “Mystic Pizza” on Broadway, and Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) separated from his wife after he was photographed doing a good act gone wrong.

Tonight also marks the return of Jerry Seinfeld to NBC and prime time. After boss Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) unveils his plan for SeinfeldVision, which will insert a digitalized Seinfeld in every NBC show from “Medium” to “Law & Order: SVU,” Seinfeld shows up in person to protest the exploitation of his image. Playing himself, he negotiates with Jack (Jack’s favorite activity) and counsels Liz as she quickly self-destructs after realizing she is not over Floyd.

By guest starring in tonight’s episode, the sitcom giant has deemed “30 Rock” worthy. After all, from his own series’ struggles, Seinfeld understands better than anyone the struggles to find an audience and appease network executives.

Seinfeld’s blessing may not save the show in the long run, but it should at least pique interest in “30 Rock,” especially among dedicated fans of “Seinfeld.”

“30 Rock” has been given the NBC timeslot traditionally reserved for struggling shows. The series will hope to retain the audience of “My Name is Earl” while catching the eye of fans of “The Office” who tune in to the network early. If “30 Rock” can bridge the gap and keep the audience between “Earl” and “The Office,” then it has a chance of surviving for a third season.

“The Office” and “Scrubs” survived in the 8:30 time slot, but failure is more common than success, as shows like “Inside Schwartz,” “Leap of Faith” and “Cursed” all perished relatively quickly. But “30 Rock” has an Emmy, and those other attempts at sitcoms don’t. In a perfect world, an Emmy would be enough to save a series, but one mention of “Arrested Development” and it is clear that our world is far from perfect.

For a series with high-caliber comedy and such lovable and endearing characters, failure to attract an audience is an exasperating mystery. Kenneth the Page should be incentive enough. But for now, “30 Rock” is banking on Seinfeld’s appeal as it starts its second season as strong as ever.