Salma Hayek and Alec Baldwin, <I>30 Rock</i> Salma Hayek and Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock

Did NBC's 30 Rock, akin to Saturday Night Live's recent (and well-scrutinized) partnership with Pepsi, cross a line by conspicuously incorporating McDonald's into a storyline?

As this week's episode opened, Jack (Alec Baldwin) and lady love Elisa (guest star Salma Hayek) reveled in the glory of "the world's greatest dessert," the McFlurry. Later, after their romance went south (blame the Catholic church), the couple patched things up at an actual McDonald's, even giving props to the fast-food franchise's founder, Ray Kroc.

Organic storyline progression (Elisa's affection for the McFlurry had been established weeks ago) or overt product placement? In the following statement, 30 Rock lead and executive producer Tina Fey (winningly) sets the record straight:

"It gives me great pleasure to inform you that the references to McDonald's in last night's episode of 30 Rock were in no way product placement. (Nor were they an attempt at product placement that fell through.) We received no money from the McDonald's Corporation. We were actually a little worried they might sue us. That's just the kind of revenue-generating masterminds we are. 

"Also, the upcoming story line where Liz Lemon starts dating Grimace is just based on a recurring dream I have.

"Seriously, though, it's not product placement.

"Also, whoever is writing my Twitter account is pretty funny, but it's not me."

What's your take, readers? Product placement or not, does weaving real-life brands into a TV show bother you? And when it actually is orchestrated and paid for, is it but a wee price for the viewer to pay in the name of helping keep a show on the air?