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How long can we keep urging you to watch underdogs like '30 Rock'?

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101122__rock_lImagine the excitement around the EW offices today when the news came down that NBC’s low-rated (just 5.8 million viewers on average) 30 Rock was renewed for next season. Nearly everyone here — at least the RIGHT-thinking staffers — loves Tina Fey’s hilarious and increasingly absurd (in the best possible way) sitcom, and we’ve incessantly advocated it in our pages. The lower the ratings sink, the harder we push. We know what’s right for you readers in the same way that the seatbelt alarm in your car knows what’s best for you: we don’t care how annoying we are, we won’t stop making noise until you buckle up for entertainment. (That said, I alone at EW would rather go through a windshield than read anything else about American Idol. Complex in my trend-bucking, aren’t I?)

NBC entertainment president Kevin Reilly says he’s planning on rerunning the sitcom over the summer, hoping potential fans will discover it in the slow months, and then make it a hit in season 2, much like what happened with The Office. And we’re right there behind him on this quest: we won’t rest until you’ve sat down, enjoyed it, and made it a smash like it so rightly deserves.

And yet, what if you don’t? At what point should we finally shut up?

addCredit(“30 Rock: Eric Liebowitz/NBC”)

For three years, we at EW harangued our readers to watch Arrested Development.We got downright pissy about it, too, so personally insulted that thisclever comedy would be taken away from us just because a few millionmore TV viewers were too lazy to recognize it for the genius that itwas. By its last year, we started getting exasperated letters fromreaders begging us to stop, saying, in effect, “We get it: you lovethis show. But we don’t, so shut up about it already.” At a certain point, ADfans like us had to come to terms with the fact that everybody who wasgoing to love this show was already watching it, and everyone else hadeither tried it and disliked it, or would never ever try it at all.Fox, which no one could accuse of being trigger-happy with this show,finally acknowledged this as well, and canceled it.

When great shows like Freaks and Geeks and The Tickare prematurely axed, often after being moved all over the schedule, wecan righteously froth at the mouth about how network execs don’t knowhow to nurture a special series. We can point to shows like Cheers and Seinfeldthat started small but grew into monster hits because they were giventhe time to cultivate an audience. But then, whom do we blame whenthese pearls are left on for longer than their ratings warrant, andnobody new ever gives a damn? You can set up all the “Save our show!”blogs and petitions you want, but at a certain point, it’s up to theviewers, not the networks.

So what do you do, blame the American public for being too simple to “get” it? But they “got” Seinfeld. So who’s next on the blame food chain? TiVo? Faulty remote controls? Al Qaeda? If 30 Rockhad been yanked, network execs and analysts would have been able tocome up with plenty of Monday-morning-quarterback theories of why itfailed: because the mutual debut with Studio 60 confused viewers? It shouldn’t have been pitted against Grey’s Anatomy?Tracy Morgan (pictured) was just too silly? The show was centeredaround a woman, and “Thursday” sounds too much like “Hersday,” adouble-whammy of estrogen that turned off the valuable 18-34 misogynistdemo? But the unsatisfyingly vague but true bottom line is, it’s toosubjective to say people “should” like a show. Sometimes they justdon’t.

So how about this. As a general rule for any new, wonderful,dangerously low-rated show, we set a three-season rule: We have untilthe third season premiere to browbeat you. We can hype it, praise it,and Must-List it, but if that first episode airs and tanks, we give.It’s in your and the network’s hands.

Which gives us about a year and a half for 30 Rock. So get watching. Oh, and watch Friday Night Lights, too. Up until October 2009, you’re a bastard if you don’t.

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