Baldwin: ’30 Rock’ Will End After Next Season

Actor says NBC likely to cancel most of its prime-time lineup

Alec Baldwin said he’s game to sign on for an eighth season of NBC’s self-referential comedy 30 Rock, but he fears the network will cancel the show after the 2012-13 campaign.

Speaking at a National Press Club luncheon in Washington, Baldwin said that he and his 30 Rock co-stars are willing to extend their contracts for yet another season, but are unlikely to be given the opportunity.

“We all signed for six years, and I did sign a contract extension for a seventh season,” Baldwin said. “I would’ve done it next year and the year after that, but the truth of the matter is that NBC is in its predicament. … They’re in this tough place, and we’d like to see them get out of it. But unfortunately to do so they’re probably going to have to cancel most of the shows they have on their air now.”

While NBC has not officially renewed 30 Rock for next fall, as an integral part of the network’s Thursday comedy lineup the series is a shoo-in for at least one more go-around.

Beloved by people within the TV industry, the show remains a niche enchantment. Season to date, 30 Rock is averaging 3.6 million viewers and a 1.5 in the adults 18-to-49 demo, finishing fourth in its Thursday 8:30 p.m. time slot behind Fox’s American Idol, CBS’ Rules of Engagement and ABC’s flailing D.C. drama Missing.

That said, 30 Rock does get a boost from the DVR. Per Nielsen live-plus-seven-day ratings data, time-shifting improves 30 Rock’s 18-49 deliveries by some 40 percent (2.1).

Baldwin regularly makes noise about leaving 30 Rock, which bowed on NBC in October 2006. Early in the series’ fourth season, he said he would quit acting altogether when his contract expired in 2012.

He admitted he grew “really sick” of the show during its fifth season (2010-11). “For all of us who did the show, we all had the feeling that we were on to something in Season 1, and Seasons 2, 3 and 4 were great,” Baldwin said. “Season 5 really didn’t feel great; everybody felt pretty crappy after Season 5, like we ran out of gas. So when they came to me about doing a seventh season … I said, ‘Hell, no.’ I was like, ‘Please, I want a meteor to hit this building right now and put us all out of our misery because I can’t do this another day.’ ”

Having soldiered through, Baldwin said the show rallied creatively on the strength of “the greatest sitcom writers on television since the Seinfeld era.” He also took a jab at CBS’ lowest-common-denominator comedies.

“A lot of sitcom programming is more cute than funny, and there’s a whole network that will remain nameless whose monolithic sitcom lineup is just one frat boy sex joke after another,” Baldwin mused, before allowing, “It works—they’re printing money over there.”

Baldwin concluded his remarks on 30 Rock with a warm assessment of NBC, saying the opportunity to work for the Peacock was “not insignificant” in his decision to accept a regular TV gig.

“NBC is, I think, the greatest of the three networks in the long term,” Baldwin said, giving the cold shoulder to Fox, the CW and Univision. Praising the network’s Olympics coverage, news organization and hallowed comedy legacy, the actor said it would take a very long time for NBC to reach the heights it once scaled.

“They hit this tough place, and we’d like to see them get out of it,” he said. “They need to probably scrape all the paint off the building now and start all over again. The Roberts family and the Comcast people who’ve taken over, they’re like anyone else in media, and they want to win. They don’t want NBC to stay in this predicament.”

Baldwin briefly addressed his latest Twitter outburst, which was provoked by the discovery of a Today show camera crew camped outside his Manhattan apartment building. Enraged by the perceived violation of his privacy, Baldwin on April 11 tweeted, “I think I’m leaving NBC just in time.”

Warming to the subject, Baldwin noted that the “interest in the personal lives of people in my business is, to a degree, strange,” adding that his antipathy toward Today developed some time ago. 

“I remember a special Halloween episode of the Today show, [in which] Katie Couric was dressed in a kind of Marilyn Monroe get up, a revealing dress and a blonde wig,” Baldwin said. “She did a musical rendition of ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.’ And that was the day I turned off the Today show and I never watched it again. It was over. I just didn’t need to see people lip-syncing at 7 o’clock in the morning.”

Baldwin spoke to the National Press Club as a guest of the New York-D.C. nonprofit organization, Americans for the Arts.

Through 30 weeks of the 2011-12 broadcast season, NBC remains mired in third place, averaging a 2.6 in the demo. That puts it behind Fox (3.2) and CBS (3.1) and ahead of ABC (2.4), Univision (1.5) and The CW (0.8).