INSIDE THE BOX
The evolution is being televised: Queen Tina reigns over Emmys, tooCan anyone be hotter than Tina Fey right now? The "Saturday Night Live" alumna is an Internet sensation as Sarah Palin in the "SNL" sketch that propelled the show's season premiere to huge ratings.
On Sunday, Fey was crowned the new queen of TV comedy when she won three Emmys for her NBC comedy "30 Rock": best comedy series, lead actress and writing.
While several comedies, including "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "All in the Family" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," have swept these categories in the past, never before had the winner in all three been the same person.
In her usual modesty (Fey rarely does interviews and practically never gets on the phone for reactions on nomination days) and trademark deadpan style, Fey downplayed her role for "30 Rock's" best series Emmy on Sunday, saying that "it belongs to everyone." So "I don't like it as much (as the other two)," she added.
But in reality, she created the show, and the submitted episode that clinched its second consecutive best comedy series win was "Cooter," the season finale written by Fey that also earned her the writing trophy.
While her writing chops have been proved time and again on "SNL," where she became the first female head writer, her acting skills weren't always a sure thing; doing a series is very different than performing in a sketch or co-anchoring "Weekend Update." The critics' initial reaction to her acting on "30 Rock" was lukewarm at best.
But the best actress Emmy wrapped a rare trifecta for Fey this year — she also won acting honors at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards — completing the evolution of the bespectacled comedian who has become a top-notch comedic actress.
What's more, she's a true Renaissance woman of comedy, a triple threat as an actress, writer and producer who joins an exclusive group of multihyphenates like Alan Alda, who won Emmys for writing, directing and starring in "M*A*S*H" (though in different years).
In his acceptance speech Sunday, "30 Rock" co-star Alec Baldwin, a winner for lead comedy actor, gushed about Fey, anointing her as "the Elaine May of her generation."
Fey and May — an actress, screenwriter and director probably best known for her onstage collaborations with Mike Nichols — have much in common beyond their rhyming names and love for comedy. Both hail from Philadelphia and honed their improv skills at Chicago's Second City.
For her work, May has earned two writing Oscar nominations and four WGA noms (winning in 1979 for "Heaven Can Wait," which she co-wrote with Warren Beatty).
Fey also has successfully navigated the treacherous transition from a sketch and improv player to the big screen. Her first feature writing effort, 2004's "Mean Girls," was a sleeper hit and earned her a WGA nomination to go with her two WGA wins for "30 Rock." She followed that this summer with her first feature starring vehicle, "Baby Mama," another boxoffice success, turning her into a bankable comedy movie star.
Fey also remains one of the top sketch writers/performers and in crucial times is summoned back by "SNL" honcho Lorne Michaels to land a hand. She hosted the first "SNL" after the WGA strike, which drew big ratings and was submitted by the show in almost all categories of eligibility, netting five nominations, including one for Fey as host.
And then she helped kick off the "SNL" season with the much-talked-about Palin skit.
There is only one thing missing: Despite its critical acclaim, "30 Rock" hasn't gotten traction with viewers. Last year's best series Emmy didn't help much, and neither did guest appearances by such big-name TV stars as Jerry Seinfeld, Edie Falco and David Schwimmer this past season.
But in the wake of the big ratings boost CBS' underrated gem "How I Met Your Mother" got from Britney Spears' guest shot in the spring, "30 Rock" is keeping at it, booking Jennifer Aniston and the leads from the CW pop culture hit "Gossip Girl" for stints this season.
And in probably its biggest coup, the show got the stamp of approval from the undisputed queen of all television, Oprah Winfrey, who agreed to do an episode.
If anyone needs further proof that Fey is TV comedy royalty, that's it.
Nellie Andreeva can be reached at [email protected]