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Reilly Aims To Keep 30 Rock Rolling

Tina Fey got a prime indication late last week that NBC is expected to bring back 30 Rock for a second season: a vote of confidence from network Entertainment President Kevin Reilly.

"I literally just got off the phone with [Reilly], and he still tells me he will do everything in his power and feels strongly about it," says Fey, the show’s star and creator. "We really are lucky to be one of the handful of shows he feels personally responsible for—us and Friday Night Lights."

Reilly’s decision to bring back the well-regarded but low-rated shows would put some teeth into his stated desire to return the "quality" to NBC.

Before the decisions are finalized, 30 Rock will get a tryout at 9 p.m. ET on Thursday, a half-hour earlier than its current slot.

"I think it will be very telling as to whether we really had a tough time slot or whether people just aren’t interested in the show," Fey says in her signature deadpan tone.

The serious answer—unfortunate though it may be for one of the season’s best newcomers—could be both.

Despite heavy critical acclaim, 30 Rock is averaging a modest 2.7 rating/6 share this season at 9:30, although it does retain a quite respectable 81% average out of lead-in Scrubs. It is doing so in an absolutely brutal time period, against heavyweights Grey’s Anatomy on ABC and CSI on CBS and, most recently, the surprising Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? out of the massive American Idol lead-in on Fox.

Although 30 Rock will still battle Grey’s and CSI in its new home at 9, it will get some relief as Fifth Grader shifts to 8.

Even given the show’s numbers, Fey says, network executives have not been too hands-on with the creative. Outside of encouraging her not to make 30 Rock "too snobby or too New York," they have just let her make her show. "They haven’t made us try and cast Miss USA, thankfully."

While beauty-pageant winners are kept at bay, a slew of stars have made "appearances" in name only, and are frequently cast in a less than flattering light.

One ongoing character is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who in the world of the show is an often ridiculed ex-love interest of Jack Donaghy, the bombastic General Electric executive played by Alec Baldwin. Fey says these mentions have yet to ruffle too many feathers.

"Thankfully, we haven’t had trouble yet," she says. "I don’t expect to run into Condi anytime soon, so I think I’ll be okay there."

Ratings aside, the move to a sitcom for the long-time Saturday Night Live veteran has been a big adjustment. "I miss the people and the camaraderie," she says of SNL.

"But," she adds, "I would much rather shoot a scene in my show about sketch-comedy writers staying up all night than actually be back staying up all night writing sketches again. That I don’t miss."