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Tina Fey has last laugh in world of TV comedy

Television comedy is Tina Fey’s world these days. Is there room for anybody else?Fey and “30 Rock,” her series about the backstage world at a late-night network show, swept both the Emmys and Golden Globes in the past year, and she’s set up to do it again at this year’s Emmys.“30 Rock” earned 22 Emmy nominations on Thursday, shattering a record of 17 for best comedy series that it ha
/ Source: The Associated Press

Television comedy is Tina Fey’s world these days. Is there room for anybody else?

Fey and “30 Rock,” her series about the backstage world at a late-night network show, swept both the Emmys and Golden Globes in the past year, and she’s set up to do it again at this year’s Emmys.

“30 Rock” earned 22 Emmy nominations on Thursday, shattering a record of 17 for best comedy series that it had set only last year. And Fey was The Associated Press’ entertainer of the year in 2008, in part for her gut-busting impersonation of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

“30 Rock,” which won the last two Emmys for best comedy, is appearing as dominant as “Frasier” was in the 1990s, when it won the best comedy Emmy for five years straight.

Fey, who wasn’t available to talk about her nominations, seems to recognize the roll she’s on. When she picked up a Golden Globe award in January, she said, “I want you to know that I really know how very lucky I am to have the year that I’ve had this year.” On both awards shows, she was named best actress in a comedy.

Other Emmy nominees for best comedy this year are NBC’s “The Office,” “Flight of the Conchords” and “Entourage” on HBO, Fox’s animated “Family Guy” and Showtime’s “Weeds.”

While “30 Rock” is very funny, it also benefits from being popular at a relatively down cycle for TV comedy, said Rob Long, a former writer at “Cheers” who runs his own comedy blog.

“‘30 Rock’ is a lot better as a show than it really needs to be,” Long said. “It doesn’t have a lot of competition.”

The series had the kind of surrealistic season finale this year that showed its hip cache. Guest included Mary J. Blige, Clay Aiken, Elvis Costello, Wyclef Jean, Moby, Ad Rock and Sheryl Crow.

It’s the type of show that everybody in the comedy business wishes they had on their resume, Long said.

Still, it can leave rivals feeling crowded. Four of the five nominations for best writing in a comedy series went for episodes of “30 Rock.” One episode of “Flight of the Conchords” was the only exception.

“I think it’s a very good show, a very funny show,” said Greg Daniels, executive producer of NBC’s “The Office.” “I think in the writing category, we could have gotten a nomination, too. I think that’s a little excessive there, the enthusiasm of the writer’s wing.”

“30 Rock” was moved in NBC’s Thursday night lineup this season to a slot after “The Office,” because Daniels’ ensemble comedy has a bigger audience.

In fact, Fey used her Emmy platform last fall to plead for more viewers. It worked. The series had an average audience of 7.8 million viewers this season, up 20 percent over the year before. “The Office” went up, too, to 9.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.

“30 Rock” is now in that “Frasier” sweet spot of adulation, even if it seems to have gotten “a little stale,” said Tim Brooks, a television historian and author of “The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows.” The Emmys like repeat winners; “Frasier” star Kelsey Grammer and John Lithgow of “3rd Rock From the Sun” won three Emmys each as best comic actors in the 1990s.

“When they latch on to a show like that, especially if it’s by a Hollywood producer they like, then year after year they tend to go back to the well,” Brooks said.

The last thing NBC’s Ingold is worried about is any kind of Emmys backlash.

“We like winning and we hope to have a lot of wins this fall with the Emmys,” he said. “I can’t think of a downside to winning as many Emmys as we can.”