channel hop

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 May, 2008, 12:00am

After spending most of last summer playing poster child for American television's 'newest' phenomenon, smart and sexy comedienne - she writes her own material and knows what shade of MAC lipstick works with her complexion. Wow! - Tina Fey finally buckled down to what she does best and wrote and produced a new series of 30 Rock (Star World; Mondays at 10.30pm).

In the face of less-than-impressive ratings, the workplace comedy enjoyed a critically acclaimed first season - 10 Emmy nominations, with a win for outstanding comedy series. There were Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild awards, Writers Guild of America accolades and even a Peabody ... talk about pressure for repeated or, to please the ratings-obsessed big bosses at NBC, greater success second time around.

As audiences have come to know, Fey is right at home with semi-autobiographical satire on corporate media. As former head writer for NBC's Saturday Night Live, she knows where to pinch and twist till it hurts - and she's not afraid to turn the jokes on Liz Lemon, the single, thirtysomething producer she plays on 30 Rock.

In the season premiere, Lemon comes back to work after the network's summer hiatus to find fustian executive Jack Donaghy (a well-cast Alec Baldwin) with new tricks up his sleeve. Using footage from the entire nine years of Seinfeld, Donaghy has digitally inserted its star, Jerry, into all current NBC shows, including sci-fi drama Heroes and soap opera Days of Our Lives - without Seinfeld's consent.

Meanwhile, the stars of The Girlie Show (which Lemon and her team produce) have been busy during the break: Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan; SNL) was kicked out of the house by his wife and has taken Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer) as his 'office wife'; Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski; Ally McBeal) has gained 14kg from eating 32 slices of pizza a week as part of a Broadway show. All this is explained within the first six minutes and Lemon shifts into damage-control mode. Then Seinfeld (oh yes, he's the first guest star of the season) arrives for a showdown with Donaghy, who hits the panic button.

Fey can be a little lacklustre as Lemon but that's forgivable given her impeccable instinct and generosity as a writer. She feeds Baldwin the best lines and puts Morgan in killer situations that showcase his loose-cannon act. In one scene, Jordan (Morgan) reveals how he converts she-male prostitutes into office workers by saying, 'You don't have to do this. You can be freaky deaky and do data entry.'

Leaving the world of verbal gibes, we enter the realm of hand-to-hand combat. In Last Man Standing (right; BBC Knowledge; Wednesdays at 10.10pm), the BBC has found yet another creative way to disseminate knowledge - it's part reality TV, part sports programme and part documentary on the anthropology of fighting. Six male athletes, each an expert in his chosen discipline (such as weight lifting, BMX mountain biking, kickboxing), travel around the world, make friends with the natives, learn their customs, then pick fights with them.

In each episode, the athletes - who come from Britain and the US - try to beat native competitors and each other in local combat events, including Zulu stick fighting, Nagaland kickboxing, Mongolian wrestling, Trobriand cricket and Wolof wrestling, until the 'last man standing' is chosen from the six. The producers take care to familiarise the audience with each athlete, using background interviews and on-site testimonials.

It's a very likeable show and there is something for everyone - the primal scream of battle, touching moments of cross-cultural bonding, taut and toned male specimens and interesting factoids about remote parts of the world.