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Shipper Nation: A Valentine's Day treat for 'Fringe' lovers and a salute to TV's most romantic, creative (and arguably strangest) fans

Last Friday, Fringe fans were treated to an instant-classic installment of the Fox sci-fi series, one that significantly advanced the season’s defining storyline: Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) — marooned in a new rendering of history in which he has not existed since he was a child – trying to return home to his own timeline. Yet for one particular, peculiar subset of loyal Fringe viewers, “Welcome to Westfield” was nothing short of an early Valentine’s Day gift. They’re the fans for whom the dream sequence spectacle of Peter and Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) making love was a dream come true. They’re the fans that got goosebumps when Olivia planted a kiss on Peter, as if this “reboot” version of his ladylove had suddenly reverted back to the original iteration of her. They’re fans known as ‘shippers, and if you’re a Web-chatty TV watcher or pop culture aficionado who tends to fixate on romantic relationships in your favorite fiction or fantasize about the mere possibility of amorous activity between your favorite make-believe people, then you’re probably one of them.

In the current issue of Entertainment Weekly, we explore how the shipper phenomenon — which began with The X-Files and until recently has been more associated with sci-fi and fantasy fandom — has gone mainstream and how shippers themselves can impact the creative process. An added bonus for Fringe fans: Exec producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman tell EW that an episode scheduled to air next month, entitled “A Short Story About Love,” will be a shipper milestone. READ FULL STORY

'30 Rock' first look: Jack meets his match in his mother-in-law -- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

With Jack Donaghy’s wife Avery in the grips, quite literally, of a North Korean dictator, you’d think he would take some comfort in getting to know her mother. Of course not. This is 30 Rock. In an exclusive clip, Jack and Charlotte Jessup (Mary Steenburgen) make a terrible, barb-trading first impression. Watch Steenburgen go toe-to-toe with Alec Baldwin after the jump. READ FULL STORY

Ratings: '30 Rock' hits low; 'Idol' vs. 'Big Bang'


This is becoming the ratings equivalent of Ali vs. Foreman.

Once again, Fox’s American Idol and CBS’ Big Bang Theory delivered the exact same adult demo rating to top Thursday night. Idol‘s rating dropped a tenth from last week — and so did Big Bang‘s. CBS points out (just like it has for the past three weeks) that Big Bang was higher rated during its half hour. Yet the sitcom can’t quite topple Idol where it counts: Show vs. show to win the night. Can we get Jim Parsons and Ryan Seacrest in a cage match?

Fox led Thursday overall with Idol (17.9 million viewers, 5.4 adult demo rating) and The Finder (6.9 million, 2.4). With the 9 p.m. competition returning last night, the Bones spinoff slipped 14 percent from last week’s surge. READ FULL STORY

'Big Bang' battles 'Idol'; 'The Finder' ratings improve

It’s on: Fox’s American Idol and CBS’ Big Bang Theory battled for Thursday ratings supremacy, with each coming away with claims for the crown.

Idol drew 17 million viewers and a 5.4 rating. That’s down just a few notches from last week. This is a bit of a relief for Fox since it’s less of a drop than Wednesday’s edition, so it suggests the reality hit’s declines could be slowing down. Still, this is the lowest-rated Idol telecast since a results show in the first season, which aired during the summer.

Big Bang had 16 million viewers and also had a 5.4 rating. The usual way to compare shows is against each program’s overall average rather than trying to split them up, in which case Big Bang and Idol are deadlocked in the demo. But another way is to compare Big Bang to Idol‘s first half hour, when the shows were in direct competition. During that period, Big Bang won in the demo and viewers. In either case, this race is getting tighter. For more on this, see Will American Idol get overthrown as TV’s top show? READ FULL STORY

Tracy Morgan returns to work after hospitalization

30 Rock star Tracy Morgan is back at work in New York after a brief hospitalization in Utah, his publicist said Wednesday.

“He appreciates everyone’s support and concern,” Lewis Kay said in an email to The Associated Press. READ FULL STORY

'30 Rock' teaser: Will Arnett returns... and he's coming at Jack!

We interrupt our wall-to-wall coverage of Oscars 2012 to bring you this very important bulletin: Will Arnett (Devon Banks) returns to 30 Rock on Thursday and he’s got something to show Jack!

Actually, it’s just a picture from Alec Baldwin’s hottie days — but it sounds like Devon’s got something else up his sleeve. “You’ve got bigger things to worry about,” Devon says to Jack (Baldwin). READ FULL STORY

'30 Rock' takes on Tracy Morgan's antigay comedy routine -- VIDEO

In case you missed it (and judging by those ratings, you did), Thursday’s episode of 30 Rock addressed the scandal involving Tracy Morgan and his antigay slurs last June. In the episode, Morgan’s character Tracy Jordan ignites a protest after he angers audiences with his homophobic stand-up routine.

Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) reacts by telling Tracy he’s a public figure and “believe it or not, the dumb things you say may influence or hurt people. You need to apologize.”

So in true 30 Rock fashion, Jordan apologizes to the makers of Glad bags rather than GLAAD, a.k.a. the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Liz ends up apologizing for Tracy by saying “he’s not capable of hate…he’s just an idiot who doesn’t know what he’s saying.”

“I thought it was hilarious,” GLAAD’s senior director of programs Herndon Graddick told The New York Times. “We’ve been called worse than trash-bag manufacturers and forward to seeing the second part next week.”

Morgan came under fire last summer for an antigay rant during a weekend gig at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. He issued apologies (“I’m not a hateful person and don’t condone any kind of violence against others”) and met repeatedly with GLAAD. See the clip: READ FULL STORY

Emma Stone, Andy Samberg, and Nick Cannon to guest on '30 Rock' -- EXCLUSIVE

How fitting to have a Stone on a Rock: Emma Stone will make a cameo in an upcoming episode of 30 Rock, along with Andy Samberg and Nick Cannon, series creator-star Tina Fey tells EW.

In the Jan. 26 episode of the NBC comedy, Jenna (Jane Krakowski) stars in “a movie from the producers of Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve called Martin Luther King Day,” says Fey. “I want to lay claim to that bit before anyone gets it. It’s a movie that has everyone in the world in it.” That includes the aforementioned actors from The HelpSaturday Night Live, and Up All Night, who will be seen in a trailer for the faux film.

30 Rock, which kicks off its sixth season Thursday at 8 p.m., will also feature such guest stars as James Marsden, Mary Steenburgen, Will Arnett, Denise Richards, Kelsey Grammer, and Kristen Schaal.

UPDATE: NBC has moved the airdate of the episode to Feb. 2.

(Twitter: @dansnierson)

Read more:
’30 Rock’ preview: Liz Lemon has a (weiner) man
Welcome back ’30 Rock': It’s a Ludachristmas miracle! — EXCLUSIVE VIDEO
Mary Steenburgen takes a trip to ’30 Rock’ — EXCLUSIVE

Alec Baldwin renews '30 Rock' deal

Jack Donaghy will remain in charge: Alec Baldwin has renewed his deal with 30 Rock, confirmed NBC’s entertainment chairman.

“We have Alec for this season and next season,” Robert Greenblatt said. “We quietly did that in the fall.”

But how, asked a critic, did the famously outspoken Baldwin keep quiet about it? READ FULL STORY

'30 Rock' preview: Lemon's got a weiner (man)!

Can you believe 244 days have passed since the last episode of 30 Rock? That’s nearly 3.5 Kim Kardashian weddings! According to a new teaser from NBC, Jack Donaghy has continued subjugating Kenneth to creepy role play since Avery’s abduction by a North Korean dictator seven months back, while Liz Lemon has learned Spanish on a chain gang, brought back the dickey, and, yes, picked up a new boyfriend (we called it!).

Though it’s still to be determined whether Lemon’s new beau — ultra laid-back hot-dog vendor Chriss (James Marsden) — will ever measure up to “doorman to the sky” Carol Burnett (Matt Damon), one thing is certain: Jack does not approve. Also? Lemon’s new love celebrates really strange anniversaries with equally strange gifts. See what else the new season holds, including a full array of guest stars (welcome back, Devon Banks!), in the five-minute preview after the jump. READ FULL STORY

Welcome back '30 Rock': It's a Ludachristmas miracle! -- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

One of the saddest casualties of 30 Rock‘s belated season 6 is that audiences have been robbed of the sitcom’s annual Christmas episode. There was no Ludachristmas this year. No Lemon party. No Verdukian Holiday of Mouth Pleasures. Fortunately, when 30 Rock kicks off in three weeks, Liz Lemon makes up for it by eagerly sharing her family holiday stories with an unimpressed Jack. After six years, Donaghy knows his protegé well — too well, judging by the accuracy with which he can guess the highlights of Lemon’s trip home to Pennsylvania. But Lemon now understands there are some things you should keep close to the vest with your boss — or anyone with eyes. To Donaghy’s horror, it turns out the Lemons didn’t exchange tacky Christmas sweaters this year.

Watch an exclusive clip from the long-awaited season premiere, and tune in when 30 Rock returns Jan. 12 at 8 p.m. on NBC. Liz Lemon is back! And most likely, a little chilly. READ FULL STORY

'30 Rock' season 6 teaser trailer: What the what is going on with Liz Lemon?

Vacation’s over, Liz Lemon. The trailer for the upcoming sixth season of 30 Rock teases that everyone’s favorite “Night Cheese” crooner has got a secret that apparently only Kelsey Grammer can get to the bottom of. (Maybe he’ll also be running against Jack Donaghy for mayor of New York. Twist!) So what’s being kept so hush-hush? That she’s playing (and/or possibly cheering) for the WNBA team the New York Liberty? That her behavior has gotten so erratic (singing in public, grabbing her own boobs in an elevator) that even Tracy Jordan is concerned? We’ll have to wait until Thursday, Jan. 12, to find out. Until then, check out the promo, nerds: READ FULL STORY


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