By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com February 16, 2011 at 2:44AM
After a brief dip in quality in its fourth season, Tina Fey's "30 Rock" is firmly back on form, reinforcing its position as one of the funniest shows on TV in recent years. The show launched Fey's movie career and revitalized Alec Baldwin's in a big way (Tracy Morgan's, not so much), but the series has always been able to attract big guest stars as well: Jon Hamm, Oprah Winfrey, Alan Alda, Salma Hayek, Peter Dinklage, Michael Sheen, Elizabeth Banks, Matt Damon and, most recently, a brilliant Robert De Niro -- the best he's been in years (watch below) -- have all cropped up, in one-off or recurring roles.
Now, news has come in that a former rival to the show, best known as a behind-the-scenes type, is set for a cameo. Why are we covering it? Because it's the about-to-be-anointed-by-the-Academy screenwriter of "The Social Network," Aaron Sorkin. EW (via Vulture) reports that the writer will crop up in the show in an episode to be aired in March or April. News of the plot is currently under wraps, but Sorkin will play himself.
It's particularly notable because, when "30 Rock" launched, it was the firm underdog to another NBC show with the same premise, set behind the scenes at a "Saturday Night Live"-style TV show: Sorkin's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." But the latter show, which was far more expensive, turned out to be something of a folly -- great in patches, but for the most part, self-important, self-indulgent and not very funny -- and it was canceled after a single series. Fey's show has taken a series of digs at their one-time rival in the intervening years, but it's good to see that Sorkin doesn't hold a grudge.
The writer isn't a total virgin to screen appearances -- he's had cameos in his own work more than once (he plays the New York ad executive that Mark Zuckerberg snorts his way through a meeting with in "The Social Network"), and played himself on "Entourage" as well. The writer, currently the toast of the town, is imminently making a return to TV with "More As the Story Develops" for HBO, set behind the scenes on a cable news show, while he's also got a Broadway musical about Houdini starring Hugh Jackman and a possible directorial debut, "The Politician," about John Edwards, on the way. His words, however, will next be heard onscreen in Bennett Miller's "Moneyball."