Chastened Alec Baldwin Changes Tune On End of ’30 Rock’

Alec Baldwin (Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Alec Baldwin (Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

UPDATED: Alec Baldwin seems to be back-pedaling on the statements he made the other day in which he insisted that Tina Fey is ready to shut down “30 Rock” after next season and move on to a movie career. Seeming both chastened and a little bit defiant, Baldwin posted a brief message about the show’s future on “I want to take the opportunity to state that although my days on network TV may be numbered, I hope ’30 Rock’ goes on forever, or at least as long as everyone involved desires,” said Baldwin, who has made no secret of the fact that he himself intends to leave the show after next season.

PREVIOUSLY: Next season will be the last for “30 Rock,” self-appointed spokesman Alec Baldwin announced Wednesday.

The outspoken actor didn’t exactly issue a press release like NBC might have done, but he disclosed in an impromptu interview with New York magazine that, not only would next season be his last on the Tina Fey-NBC sitcom, but that the whole show will wrap as well. Baldwin’s unplanned “announcement” apparently took NBC by surprise since the network had no statement or announcement of its own on hand to deal with the story when it broke Wednesday morning.

However, Baldwin’s statement sounds definitive. He first confirmed that next season, the show’s sixth, would be his final season on the show – something he’d already said in previous interviews. But then he said Fey is also ready to end “30 Rock,” indicating that the whole show will end next spring.

“Our contracts are expired [in 2012], and Tina is gonna have a big career directing films and writing. She’s going to be the next Elaine May. She’ll be great,” the mag quotes Baldwin as saying. Elaine May, now 78, is, of course, the best-known female comedy writer of her generation. Once partnered with Mike Nichols in the comedy team of Nichols & May, she went on to direct “The Heartbreak Kid” (the original Charles Grodin version) and “Ishtar,” and wrote the screenplays for “Primary Colors,” “Heaven Can Wait” and other films.

There was no reaction from Fey to Baldwin’s surprise announcement. Indeed, the New York magazine story said “her reps declined to comment.” But in her new memoir-ish book, titled “Bossypants” (check out the somewhat disturbing cover here), Fey seems resigned to the fact that her show – which has won multiple Emmys and received unanimous critical acclaim – nevertheless continues to struggle in the ratings. And she even thinks her impressions of Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live” in 2008 actually wound up hurting “30 Rock” because the Palin impersonations marked Fey as a liberal, thus alienating half the country.

“Some may argue that exploiting Gov. Palin and her family helped bring attention to my low-rated TV show,” she wrote, in an excerpt quoted in a story on “I am proud to say you are wrong. My TV show still enjoys very low ratings. In fact, I think the Palin stuff may have hurt the TV show. Let’s face it, between Alec Baldwin and me, there is a certain 50 percent of the population who think we are pinko Commie monsters.”

While we all love “30 Rock,” there aren’t enough of us. The most recent original episode of the show – on March 24 – drew 4.359 million viewers, ranking 61st among all prime-time shows that week. Fey’s never said this publicly, but she might also be frustrated by NBC’s scheduling of the show at 10 p.m./9c as part of its all-comedy experiment on Thursday nights.

It’s a totally untraditional time slot for a sitcom and it probably hurt “30 Rock,” which would likely get better ratings at 9:30/8:30c with “The Office” as a lead-in. And now, after five seasons, and heading into a sixth, it’s doubtful that “30 Rock” will suddenly realize a growth spurt in its audience. So maybe, Tina Fey is ready to move on. The scenario sounds credible.

As for Baldwin – love him or hate him – the guy’s always been a straight shooter. Why would he say the show’s over if it’s not true?

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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