WHAT2WATCH: 30 Rock, Better Late Than Never

The NBC Thursday comedy lineup is just about the most critically acclaimed programming block on network television, but it’s been quite a while since viewers treated the night like Must See TV. The Office is the only one of its recent (post-Friends) shows that ever qualified as even a minor hit on the merits, while comedies like My Name is Earl, Scrubs, and Parks and Recreation have struggled for audiences. The future of Community, as adventurous a show as television has had in years, is questionable beyond this season. But 30 Rock rolls on even in its ratings-challenged state: now beginning its sixth season, with more to come.

The general consensus is that 30 Rock has slipped, a victim of the natural sitcom aging process and of Tina Fey’s very busy outside schedule. But I felt last season was a step back up in quality, as the show felt less overpacked with irrelevant cameos. The sixth season premiere (NBC, Thursday 8 p.m.) finds the TGS crew returning from its hiatus with Kenneth awaiting the Rapture (welcome, 2012!) while Jenna becomes a reality show judge – finally, a role that suits her skill set. There have been reports that 30 Rock will also address, at least in passing, the recent death of Kim Jong Il, who became part of the show’s extended cast last season when his minions kidnapped Jack’s wife Avery. At least the show can’t make international relations in that area worse than they already are.

Also this week:

Monday: BCS National Championship: Alabama vs. LSU (ESPN, 8:30 p.m.): College football reaches its logical end, as the southern regional championship is now the national championship. I guess some folks in the other 38 states will watch anyway. The game is coming from New Orleans, so it’s probably smart to bet on LSU winning the title.

Tuesday: Dance Moms (Lifetime, 9 p.m.): A second season of following the world’s saddest little girl dance troupe begins with open auditions. Abandon childhood, ye who enter here!  Also, Holly’s schedule forces her to be away from Nia, and Abby contemplates how to deal with Chloe’s growing skill level.

Wednesday: People’s Choice Awards (CBS, 9 p.m.): I can’t believe they have giving these out for 38 years, given that the premise is so dopey (honoring popularity with the public, as if box office numbers, TV ratings etc. don’t measure that already). Kaley Cuoco hosts from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.

Friday: Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC, 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.):  It’s a real Friday the 13th for Ty Pennington and the gang, as these two hours are the series finale. But before he hangs up his tool belt, seven families in tornado-ravaged Joplin, Mo. will get new homes. For all the manipulation, this show did a lot of good in its time.

Saturday: Miss America Pageant (ABC, 9 p.m.): It feels like the old days, with Miss America back on a major network on a Saturday night. OK, maybe not completely like the old days, since the pageant now takes place at the Vegas Planet Hollywood. Chris Harrison and Brooke Burke Charvet host, which seems to be a strategy to make the contestants look less vapid by comparison.

Sunday: Golden Globe Awards (NBC, 9 p.m.): We’re all pleased Ricky Gervais is again hosting the 69th annual cocktail party-with-trophies, but let’s hope he doesn’t spend the first half of the show congratulating himself on managing to get invited back. Morgan Freeman will receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award for career awesomeness, and we’re going to begin getting acquainted with all those Euros in The Artist. Please don’t go all Roberto Benigni on us, fellas.