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A Long Weekend, Fall Pilots, Desmond Dekker

By RD Heldenfels Published: May 30, 2006

It's Tuesday morning and I am sitting here laughing -- yes, laughing -- at ''30 Rock,'' the Tina Fey sitcom premiering this fall on NBC.


Please note that my laughter is purely a visceral reaction based on a casual viewing of a ''30 Rock'' and not a review. Networks hate it when you review a fall show based on the pilot sent out in May. After all, they may change the title, the cast, the basic premise, the time slot and everything else that made them want to put the show on in the first place -- because, well, they can. Sometimes, too, they stick to the original vision of the show. Either way, you could end up with ''Emily's Reasons Why Not.''


Anyway, as I said, the networks don't want too early reviews of their pilots and even put warnings on the review, er, preview copies of the shows they send out in May -- so we can see them before interviewing the cast and producers, who will then tell us how they've changed the title, cast, basic premise  and -- well, you've already heard that.


So when I tell you that this is fall-down funny and Fey is charming and Alec Baldwin is hilarious,  I'm not reviewing ''30 Rock.'' I'm just saying, as if we were chatting at a party, that you might want to mark your calendar for this one.


Also giving you a hint of what the days ahead will be like.


The 2005-06 television season is over. This does not mean television is over, since the networks fill their summer time with new programs (reality mainly) and the cable folks bring out some of their goodies (''Rescue Me,'' ''Entourage,'' ''Deadwood,'' for example). But I won't be spending every night trying to figure out what to record and what to watch of the four or five shows that are on that night's must-check list. And I might actually be able to get caught up on all those episodes of ''The Unit'' sitting in my DVR.


And I will have time for the fall pilots. So far I have gotten through CBS's four new shows, and some of Fox's, and the CW's two new shows await, and this morning brought a very big box containing NBC's. While there has been some interesting stuff here and there -- Brad Garrett on Fox's '' 'Til Death,'' for one -- ''30 Rock'' is the first show that has me saying, yes, I want much, much more of it.


But that's not a review. And I'll have some more not-reviews as things go along.


As for the weekend, it was pretty good. Although it was too hot by far, we found ways to work in the morning and late-afternoon, to trim some shrubs and hang some flower baskets and plan what else the yard will need before fall. Cleaned up the grill, then put it to use Monday night.


Not much TV in those days, other than some pilots and about half of the Matthew Broderick-Nathan Lane version of ''The Producers,'' which didn't really work for me. That may be because seeing the original, with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, was such a big experience for me when I saw it at the movies in New York City in 1967. If memory serves, my mother and sister went shopping, and my dad and I were looking for something to do. I have no idea how we picked ''The Producers'' -- but I watched it with shocked, choking awe. (I can't remember my father's reaction, but I suspect he was amused.)


I have cherished the movie ever since, and the newer version is never going to top that. (I watched Broderick do lines I had mentally stored with Wilder's inflections, and it just didn't work.) Also, my father has been dead for 10 years now, I like to hold to the memories I have of him. ''The Producers'' is one.


Though it doesn't remotely match what I feel about my father, I did feel some sadness over the weekend about the passing of Desmond Dekker. (An obit is here.) Dekker made the infectious, if at times incomprehensible, recording ''Israelites,'' which went Top 10 on the U.S. charts not because of its social message but because of its fabulous beat and variety of stick-in-your-head phrases (''Oh, oh, oh -- the Is-uh-raelites, suh,'' ''I don't want to end up like Bonnie and Clyde,'' ''Gets up every morning, slavin' for bread ... so that every mouth can be fed''). I ended up buying a Uni records LP of ''Israelites'' and other Dekker songs and played it often. After hearing about his passing, I dug out my CDs of '"This Is Reggae Music: The Golden Era 1960-1975.'' In his cultural context, Dekker sounded as fine as he did all those years ago coming out of the radio.

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