Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey, <EM>30 Rock</EM> Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey, 30 Rock

You can really taste the SNL. When we hear the gang of NBC's 

30 Rock (returning with a supersized episode tonight at 8:40 pm/ET) cracking wise about everyone from Dakota Fanning to disgraced congressman Mark Foley, it does our heart good to know that former Saturday Night Live head writer Tina Fey (who created Rock and stars as comic scribe Liz Lemon) still has a little Weekend Update in her. "Those things are so ingrained in me," she admits. "[I need] to have the show exist in the actual world." Costar Jack McBrayer (NBC page Kenneth) has a blunter take: "She's not afraid to make fun of people, without remorse or regret." Ya gotta love that.

2. She can turn the world on with her smirk. They're women of their times — strong but insecure, sexy but modest — who toil under macho bosses. Liz Lemon, meet Mary Richards. "We try to make it a truthful portrayal," says Fey, flattered by the comparison to Mary Tyler Moore's iconic newswoman. "It's a mixture of confidence and hiding from conflict." Despite her frequent mortifications (her name is Lemon, after all), Liz has spunk. And we love spunk.

3. Those very special guest stars. Rock brings out the best in its day players, from ex-SVU stunner Stephanie March as Liz's short-term lesbian pal to Paul Reubens as an inbred European prince (you had to see it to believe it). But the show really outdid itself with the March 8 screamer that featured Nathan Lane as Jack Donaghy's ne'er-do-well brother and SNL alum Molly Shannon as their squabbling sis. Fey was impressed by that episode's "exploration of Irish family dynamics." Us, we just laughed like hell.

4. Oh, how the mighty do fall. All the supposed winners on Rock eventually get brought down to earth. It turns out that ruthless GE exec Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) is a lovesick mama's boy, would-be playa Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) is a henpecked husband, and peroxided starlet Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) is a vapid, neurotic mess. Nowhere is the revenge-of-the-nerds theme more sweetly executed than via McBrayer's Kenneth. "I like to think that Kenneth is part magic," he says. He's certainly got a bewitching power over Jack, who's always deliciously stymied by the lad's subversive innocence. Which reminds us....

5. Two words: Alec Baldwin. It still seems too good to be true: Alec Baldwin's doing a sitcom? We can't remember the last time a movie star created such an instantly classic TV character as Baldwin's Jack, and his coworkers are certainly thanking their lucky stars. Fey, who observed Baldwin's comic brilliance during his 13 guest-hosting appearances on SNL, remains impressed by his ability to adapt from big screen to small. "We have to work so quickly here compared to making movies, and he's just got that skill set of being able to be really good at a very fast pace." Morgan gushes, "It's an honor to be working with someone like that... our generation's Marlon Brando." Now, that's an offer we can't refuse.

For a Q&A with Old Christine star and recent SNL host Julia Louis-Dreyfus, pick up the April 9 issue of TV Guide for the scoop. Click here to subscribe.

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