Alec Baldwin and Jeff Zucker talk TV

Alec Baldwin riffs on other other networks, and interviews NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker in character. Fortune's Patricia Sellers reports.

By Patricia Sellers, Fortune editor-at-large

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- In early April, shortly before Alec Baldwin committed his voicemail eruption (calling his 11-year-old daughter a "rude, thoughtless little pig"), the star of NBC's 30 Rock yukked it up with NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker on the 52nd floor of the real 30 Rock - Manhattan's GE Building.

Baldwin stopped by for a photo shoot with Zucker for Fortune - photos that we decided, amidst the subsequent Baldwin controversy, not to use in the magazine. But you can see them here.

Alec Baldwin (left) and NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker

For a guy who said on ABC's The View that he wants out of his NBC contract to focus on his personal problems (30 Rock executive producer Lorne Michaels told him no way), Baldwin certainly was enthusiastic about the show at our meeting. At one point, he burst into a riff on NBC's rivals - and why he prefers the peacock network even with its fourth-place ranking.

"I like the tone of NBC shows," Baldwin told me. "You know, on one other network, every show can be summed up with a certain one-line descriptive sentence, and then for the next six months, the shows are all about sexual relations between the main characters."

Might that be ABC, Alec? The actor simply smiled, and went on: "Another network has shows that are very loud. Driving! Thumping! Pulsing! They grab you by the lapels right through the commercials." Ahem, CBS? Another grin.

"NBC is much more - what's the word? It leaves the viewer to make choices. The word is subtle. With comedies - like the Office - they're not banging you over the head. That's because of Jeff Zucker."

As for 30 Rock, Baldwin figures that the program is a hit with critics, if not the masses, because "they love that we're spoofing the GE culture."

I asked Baldwin if he would put on his Jack Donaghy hat and ask the NBCU chief a few questions. He obliged.

Sitting across a desk from one another, the Vice President of East Coast Television & Microwave Oven Programming assessed how authentic a GE (Charts, Fortune 500) man Zucker is.

Donaghy: Have you ever considered adding a 7th Sigma to 6 Sigma? If so, what would it be?

Zucker: The eighth wonder of the world.

Donaghy: This is a great leader of men. He speaks in riddles. Okay, what virtue of mine do you most wish you had?

Zucker: Your hair.

Donaghy: What has been your proudest product placement?

Zucker: Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock.

Donaghy: Have you ever dated a prominent African-American official in the Bush Administration? If so, can I have her number?

Zucker: No, Jack. I leave that to you.

Donaghy: As a GE man, what is your favorite appliance? Think. What can Jeff Zucker not do without when he's making breakfast for his four children every morning?

Zucker: My Trivection oven.

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Life imitates TV: A powerful conglomerate tightens the reins on its TV division. The company's biggest stars can't seem to stay out of trouble. The hypercompetitive boss must turn the place around. The mishaps and madcap adventures of NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker.  Top of page