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Tina/Sarah to Tina/Sarah/Oprah to Tina/Oprah -- and Oprah/Tina (updated 4:12 p.m.)

Liz Lemon and Oprah as her ownself on Thursday's 30 Rock.

At last the stars are perfectly aligned. Literally.

The most under-appreciated and currently the best comedy series on broadcast or cable television is getting a mega-boost tonight courtesy of a path that has taken star Tina Fey through Saturday Night Live, Sarah Palin and now a highly advantageous outcome of Tuesday's presidential election.

Tonight's episode of NBC's 30 Rock (Thursday, Nov. 6th, 8:30 p.m. on KXAS-TV locally) has literally everything going for it. And it's about time in a season where NBC otherwise has done just about everything wrong -- except for the very notable exception of that dying broadcast TV art form known as weekly comedy. Here's the highlight reel for 30 Rock in just the last month-and-a-half.

***On Sept. 21st, the show won its second consecutive Emmy Award as prime-time's best comedy series. That's no small achievement, considering that 30 Rock has only been on the air for two seasons.

Still, the increasingly little-watched Emmys lately haven't lit a fire under anything except the paper trail leading to the prime-time awards ceremony on ABC. The Academy of Television Arts & Science's brain trust, after apparent due deliberation, decided to name five reality show hosts to gang-emcee Emmy's annual crowning moment. Howie Mandel of Deal or No Deal by far made the biggest ass of himself, with ample help from numerous others. But we tarry.

**Fey has what now turns out to be the great good fortune to greatly resemble the Republican Party's former vice presidential candidate. Unclebarky.com first noted this on the late morning of Aug. 29th, just a few hours after watching John McCain shock the world with his announcement that Palin would be his Batgirl. And no, I didn't have time to check any other Web sites. Clearly, though, this eventually proved to be a no-brainer.

Things simmered, percolated and eventually caught the nation and world by fire on the now landmark night of Sept. 13th. That's when Fey as Palin and Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton teamed in a sendup that very well could end up being the most pivotal and funniest political sketch in the storied show's 34-year history. Better yet, it opened the new season. Ratings soared, and pretty much have stayed sky-high. SNL has been reborn. Wow, you can trust some things over 30. In the late 1960s, coming-of-age Barky of course thought exactly the opposite.

***Meanwhile, NBC stayed with its prime-time game plan, filling 30 Rock's Thursday, 8:30 p.m. slot with three special editions of Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday. All did very well in the ratings, at least on still struggling NBC, where Sunday Night Football has been the only consistent, weekly big draw.

SNL's last Thursday special, on Oct. 23rd, drew 8.78 million viewers nationally and, of more importance to all networks,
5.32 million advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds, according to Nielsen Media Research. That's not exactly a hit. But among NBC's still struggling Thursday night comedy incumbents -- (acclaimed The Office and My Name Is Earl and so far awful newcomer Kath & Kim) -- SNL's trio of first-run prime-time outings were ratings smashes.)

As long-planned, though, 30 Rock would and did return on Oct. 30th. But did the Peacock wait too long to seize the momentum? The network already had the first two shows fully completed (they were sent to unclebarky.com and many other TV critics a full month ago), so are NBC's corporate programming executives in fact even dumber than many now believe?

30 Rock co-star and fellow Emmy-winner Alec Baldwin (who plays the fake but all too-real NBC studio boss Jack Donaghy), definitely thought so and made his feelings public, as he regularly does. But through no particular fault of its own, NBC's waiting game proved to be doubly brilliant because . . .

***Tina Fey and company returned on Oct. 30th with their biggest national audiences ever in both total viewers (8.66 million) and 18-to-49-year-olds (5.42 million). That ranked 30 Rock a stratospheric 15th among the week's heaviest hitters, in reasonably close proximity to NBC's most consistent, year-long demographic hit, The Office (No. 8 with 6.39 million viewers).

Maybe that doesn't sound so hot. But in complete overall ratings for the 2007-'08 TV season, 30 Rock in its sophomore year ranked a subterranean 65th among 18-to-49-year-olds (an average of 4.06 million) and a sub-subterranean 111th in total viewers (5.98 million).

In comparison, The Office respectively finished 23rd and and 85th with 5.55 million viewers in the 18-to-49 demo and 7.30 million total viewers.

But wait! As we approach the old-school living room showing of the Nov. 6th episode, things get much, much better for 30 Rock. That's because:

No. 1 -- Barack Obama is the new president-elect.

No. 2 -- As almost everyone knows, Oprah Winfrey strongly backed his candidacy in very public fashion, but kept her promise to abstain from politics on her daily afternoon talk show (4 p.m. weekdays on WFAA-TV) locally.

No. 3 -- She declared herself officially liberated on Wednesday's first post-election show. On election night, though, Oprah wisely joined a crowd estimated at 125,000 in Grant Park to hear Obama's speech. Cameras of course caught both her and fellow Chicagoan Jesse Jackson in tears as they watched. Countless billions have seen those images worldwide.

But both Winfrey and Jackson were part of the crowd and never went onstage to join Obama as his extended family, now including VP-elect Joe Biden and his kin.

So Oprah had the common touch, which of course made her famous in the first place. Very smart. Countless gab shows now are making much of the fact that she actually stood right next to a completely unknown guy who hopefully won't emerge as another Joe the Plumber, only not as _____. Well, you fill in the blank if you'd like.

No. 4 -- Her guests on today's Oprah are Will Smith and -- Tina Fey.

No. 5 -- As scheduled more than a month ago. Winfrey will play herself on tonight's "Believe in the Stars" episode of 30 Rock, with Fey again brilliantly funny as oft-hapless but still very brainy TV producer Liz Lemon.

No. 6 -- Everyone also should know by now, that no one promotes herself better than TV's reigning queen. Despite a gradual ratings downturn in recent seasons -- including here in D-FW -- Oprah is still the very active First Lady of TV as we now know it. Period.

By the way, Fey is planning to "retire" her Palin impression -- for the near future at least -- because she's the 38-year-old mom and married mother of a daughter who turned three last month. She simply can't and shouldn't pick up this pace. In other words, she's got her priorities straight, and there's no rush right now anyway.

On Winfrey's show just a few minutes ago, Fey said live from the 30 Rock's Manhattan set, "I'm gonna pack up my (Palin) wig." She also suggested some current SNL cast members, one of them the show's burgeoning new female star, Kristen Wigg, as great candidates to succeed her as Palin. My bet's on Wiig to start wearing that wig.

Meanwhile, Palin's still licking her wounds while no doubt planning a tell-all book and a tell-all interview with -- if she's wise -- Oprah.

***Finally, I've been touting 30 Rock for a long time and love the show even more now. Tonight's Oprah-fueled episode is extremely funny -- but you'll be the judge of that. I've seen it and won't spoil it.

Prediction: The Nov. 6 episode will draw at least 10 million viewers nationally, and very possibly as many as 15 to 20 million. So no matter how well it does in D-FW -- one of the worst major markets for the show -- it seems to be finally on its way. We can only hope. Tell a friend! Chicago sure as hell will be watching.

Next week Jennifer Aniston is returning for her second guest star stint on 30 Rock. And on the Thursday after that, Steve Martin makes his first 30 Rock stop. So the time is now. And "if there's anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible . . ."

Maybe that phrase sounds a little familiar, too.

OK, the frosting. Enjoy this extended clip from hulu.com, which you definitely should visit if you haven't already. It's a treasure trove.