Great News on NBC
“I think where this show and “30 Rock” share some DNA is that it’s a funny show with a lot of fast paced jokes per page.” Tracey Wigfield
By Valerie Milano
Pasadena, CA (The Hollywood Times) 4/27/17 – Tuesday night saw NBC roll out its new sit-com Great News with a pilot/first episode twofer that broke fast out of the gate but lost some steam by the end of a full hour. Setting network miscalculation aside, Great News is a quick edit, sit-com sprint that should sit well in the Tuesday night lineup courtesy of star Andrea Martin; scene stealer extraordinaire and original cast member of fabled Canadian TV franchise SCTV – the SNL of Canada. You may remember Martin as the best thing about My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Strangely reminiscent of Robin Williams in her manic, pedal to the metal comedic attack, Martin has remained a first call, second banana throughout her career. Now she gets a starring vehicle on a primetime network sit-com, and she’s letting it rip.
Tina Fey is co- executive producer, and her SNL/40 Rock fingerprints are easy to spot. Great News mines a familiar premise about a wacked out network news-anchor team and the production staff who tolerate and enable their whims and idiocy. Ageism and sexism are touched on, but remain supporting subplots to the prime directive of Great News, which is getting laughs. The cinematography seems homage to lo-definition 70’s era murk. Great News is smart and witty. Moreover, it embraces the limits of the sit-com genre.
Briga Heelan plays Katie, a sharp, motivated producer who’s weary of producing nightly puff pieces for co-anchor Portia (an appropriately vapid Nicole Richie). Her passive aggressive boss Greg (Adam Campbell) is keeping her down, more out of self-preservation than any overt sexism. Chuck is your standard ranch stash male news-anchor who is played by (the always reliable) John Michael Higgins. Chuck is insecure, temperamental, and facing extinction in a mass media ecosystem that is gradually thinning out its herd of graying, freshly ironed TV anchors.
Enter Carol (Andrea Martin) who is Katie’s mom and newly installed as an intern working side by side with her daughter. Martin plays Carol as a caffeinated, yappy whirlwind who somehow charms everyone in her path; especially Chuck, whose favorite pastime is firing interns. In Carol, he finds a kindred spirit; and in taming Chuck, Carol becomes an indispensable part of the staff.
Martin and Higgins are the twin comedy towers that make Great News intermittently great. If the rat-a-tat joke writing holds up, NBC should have a breakout hit on their hands.
THT the TCA and others recently had the opportunity to speak with executive producers Jack Burditt, Tracey Wigfield, Tina Fey, and Robert Carlock, Horatio Sanz, Adam Campbell, Briga Heelan, Nicole Richie, and John Michael Higgins.
Executive producer Tracey Wigfield talked about her inspiration for Great News.
TRACEY WIGFIELD: “The show is based on my relationship with my mother, and the character of Carol is very much based on my mom, and Tina and Robert, not that they wanted to, know my mother very well, my mother would constantly come to work back when I was writing for them on “30 Rock.” Tina was very smart to think of Andrea kind of immediately because she does have such a warm kind of maternal energy, and she’s like a hilarious elf. She is so funny and magical.”
John Michael Higgins talked about his role on Great News.
JOHN MICHAEL HIGGINS: “You know what? I did realize, though, that my character is sort of on the wane, right? He’s on the downward slope of whatever happened to the news in general, and to that type of news particularly. Authoritative, paternal bloviating, and I found when I was doing the part that, very uncomfortably, it was evident that there was just a hair’s breath between him and me, that my character’s reading newspapers with reading glasses on, and it’s “cut,” and there I am reading the newspaper, and nothing’s changed.
So I actually have quite a lot of reverence for some of those old bloviating talking heads. I have a lot of reverence for Peter Jennings or certainly Cronkite, obviously, or something like that. There is something distinguished and reassuring about that type of presence, and I don’t think it’s particularly a sexist thing, because it became women, Judy Woodruff, et cetera, but it is a style of interaction with the public that is fading, I think, and our stories deal a lot with the fade, you know. A lot of our stories are driven by generational motors between the mother and the daughter, between the two different types of news anchor, and I think there’s a lot of comedy there, a lot of comedy to be mined. We’re not a political show, but we are very much attuned to a change.”