Ellen Gray: Palin? Fey's '30 Rock' also makes a good impression

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Tina Fey as Sarah Palin on "Saturday Night Live," left, and as Liz Lemon on "30 Rock."

30 ROCK. 9:31 p.m. tomorrow, Channel 10.

TINA FEY wants out of the Sarah Palin business.

And if you're a Palin supporter, you'd probably like to see that happen, given that Fey's dead-on impression of the Republican vice presidential candidate helped shape some voters' opinions of the Alaska governor just as they were getting to know her.

So if you want what's best for Sarah Palin, you owe it to yourself to laugh yourself silly over the return of NBC's "30 Rock" tomorrow night.

Because this is no time for Fey to be losing her day job.

The season premiere finds TV comedy producer Liz Lemon (Fey) scrambling to make her insane workplace look child-friendly to a social worker (Megan Mullaly) who's evaluating her as a prospective adoptive parent.

It's a gutsy beginning, given that next week's show features a decent-sized cameo by Oprah Herself, but a good introduction to "30 Rock," a screwball comedy that's married Fey's responsible and subversive sides and harnessed the power of Alec Baldwin for funny, not fear.

Things have been going so well for Upper Darby's Fey lately that it might be hard to imagine that all those Emmys for the show she created and stars in, combined with the praise for pitching in to play Palin on "Saturday Night Live," wouldn't push "30 Rock" closer to the top of the Nielsens in it third season.

Or even just higher up in the middle.

It's easier to imagine that not happening, though, if you follow NBC, which first lost an opportunity by holding "30 Rock's" premiere to the end of October, after all its other Thursday night comedies came back, and then last week decided to put it online before airing it.

Take it from someone whose words hit the Web before the paper hits the front steps: This is the mainstream media equivalent of the Bridge to Nowhere.

Oh, I love it that more and more I can find the shows I forgot to watch or record online the next day. Don't even mind the unzappable commercials. But there's something considerably less special about watching something in real time on my actual TV, knowing that it's been in the ether for a week.

That said, most of my advance screening's still done on good old-fashioned DVDs, which arrive with increasingly hysterical warnings about seizing firstborns - or barring that, family pets - should any critic be brazen enough to upload what the networks have already uploaded themselves.

Maybe they should just encourage us to share.

 

'Pushing' & Obama

Malia Obama probably isn't the only TV viewer who doesn't want her daddy interfering with her freedom of choice tonight.

Malia Obama probably isn't the only TV viewer who doesn't want her daddy interfering with her freedom of choice tonight.

Her mother, Michelle, told Jay Leno Monday night on NBC's "The Tonight Show" that the couple's 10-year-old expressed concern that Barack Obama's plan to buy time on all the major networks and some cable channels at 8 p.m. might interrupt her viewing. She apparently was reassured to learn the half-hour buy didn't include the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon.

As of yesterday, it also didn't include ABC, which, according to Washington Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes, did eventually offer to sell the time to the Obama campaign, only to be turned down.

Should this lead to the highest ratings ever for ABC's "Pushing Daisies" (8 tonight, Channel 6), the Disney-owned network will no doubt feel happy with its original decision to hold out - reportedly, it had offered the Obama campaign other time slots - and if it doesn't, the writing could be on the wall for one of my favorite shows.

Either way, I'm not sure prime-time pre-emptions are the smartest move for Obama, who's also scheduled to appear tonight via satellite on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" (11 p.m., Comedy Central).

Yes, record fund-raising has left his campaign with the kind of wealth he has no intention of sharing with John McCain - and he has to spend it somewhere.

Yes, it's hard getting beyond the soundbites of the typical political ad.

And, yes, the pre-emption of NBC's "Knight Rider" might constitute a public service.

But it feels like piling on.

Maybe McCain, who's scheduled to appear on "Larry King Live" tonight (9 p.m., CNN), wouldn't have chosen to take a half-hour of prime time at any price (though his proposal for 10 "town hall"-style debates suggests he'd have grabbed all the free face time he could get).

I don't think anyone should be forced to watch anything, ever - hey, I didn't even condone torture in support of "Arrested Development" - but I do think the broadcast industry, which is essentially subsidized by all of us through its use of the public airwaves, can afford to give a half-hour every four years to each of the major parties' candidates in the week before the election to say or do whatever he or she wants, regardless of how much money's been raised.

And if that makes me a socialist, so be it. *

Send e-mail to graye@phillynews.com.