Without Alec Baldwin, '30 Rock' Would Struggle to Survive

With the season finale of 30 Rock airing this evening, speculation over the offseason is bound to focus on its future, now that Alec Baldwin has gone public with his desire to leave the show. In a taped segment for The View to air on Friday, an emotional Baldwin said that in light of his public embarrassment over the released voicemail sent to his 11 year-old daughter in anger, he’d like NBC to release him from his contract so that he may devote his time to parental-rights issues. Later, NBC released a statement saying “Alec Baldwin remains an important part of `30 Rock.’ We look forward to having him continue his role in the show.” The network recently renewed the sitcom for a second season, and the AP says that sources claim Baldwin will honor his obligation. But with the actor so fully entrenched in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, and seemingly crumbling under the scrutiny, it’s hard not to wonder if he’ll ultimately receive his wish to leave the show.

30 Rock was built on a three star platform of Tracy Morgan, Baldwin, and Tina Fey. The two camps on SNL alum Morgan, probably designated before the first show aired, are either loving or hating him – it’s Fey that’s the surprise commodity. Her original deal with the network was just to write the show, but was encouraged by execs to slide into a leading role, gradually becoming a key to its critical success as confidence in her acting chops developed over time. Mouthing her own scripted words, she has an unforced, matter-of-fact delivery that serves as balance to Morgan’s non sequiturs and Baldwin’s monotone pomposity. With the focus shifting far from the original behind-the-scenes of SNL concept (that rival Studio 60 so clearly hung itself with) to a more Liz Lemon-centric narrative, Fey, a reluctant participant at the onset – now a full season in, is on a Mary Tyler Moore-like rise.

Regardless of contributions made by Morgan, Fey, and company, much of the outside attention has been on Alec from the start. Playing a broadcast network Daddy Warbucks of sorts, Baldwin can boast in offering most of the show’s most memorable moments each week, generally in one-on-ones with Fey as her boss slash self-appointed mentor. Easily the most recognized name of the bunch, with concurrent film projects to help keep his name in the papers (for more dignified reasons), and a Golden Globe win for his turn on 30 Rock, – it’s Baldwin that shoulders a large part of the show’s weight.

Can 30 Rock tread water, quality-wise, without Baldwin? Absolutely. The writing, and remaining cast is that good. The real question is whether NBC can afford to lose him. With the network having just hit its all time lowest prime-time ratings mark, for the second week in a row, and the Thursday night lineup struggling to find new viewers despite the critical love for Earl, The Office, and 30 Rock, losing more than a third of its star power could be a deathblow to the show. Which is a shame, because as The Office seems to be running in place at the moment (probably to do with the over-fixation in bringing aboard guest-writers like Gervais, Josh Whedon, and J.J. Abrams), 30 Rock has become the new top-destination for smart, broadcast network comedy.

Related: Deadline Hollywood suggests Studio 60‘s Steven Weber as a replacement for Alec. Why? Other than playing a similar role to Baldwin as a net exec (although a flaccid, uninspired one at that) the best thing Weber has going for him is not being among the worst problems with Aaron Sorkin’s doomed show.

Posted by Ted Zee on April 26th 2007 | Home Page | 8 Comments Subscribe to this site's feed

8 Responses

  1. den Says:

    If he does leave (and I really hope he doesn’t) Will Arnett’s Devon Banks character would be a perfect replacement. He’s practically a Donaghy clone – albeit a gay karate chopping version. But the attitude is all there.

  2. Only choice Says:

    Umm…. Christopher Walken?

    He’d probably be even better than Baldwin. That’s saying alot… but, it’s Christopher Walken. It just works.

  3. Bob Dole Says:

    Christopher Walken would be awsome!!! Yes!!! thats a brilliant plan – hed fit in perfectly if (god forbid) Baldwin decides to leave.

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