This article contains information that could be considered too revealing according to our spoiler policy. Proceed with caution. You can't unsee it!Reason The show doesn't premiere until the day after this post's publication; we got screeners.
Does Great News Live Up To Its Name?
Or does NBC's new workplace sitcom make you wish you called in sick?
What Is This Thing?
Katie, a producer for the nightly news program Breakdown, discovers that her struggle to be taken seriously as a journalist just got a lot more complicated when her mother joins the newsroom as an intern. Obviously, high jinks ensue.
When Is It On?
Two half-hour episodes will air Tuesdays at 9 PM on NBC, starting April 25.
Why Was It Made Now?
When isn't there a good time for a new Robert Carlock and Tine Fey project? The success of their last outing -- the fabulous Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt -- left many viewers, myself included, anxiously waiting to see what they came up with next.
What's Its Pedigree?
This thing has pedigree coming out of its ears. Besides the abovementioned Carlock and Fey serving as executive producers, the series was created by 30 Rock and The Mindy Project alumna Tracey Wigfield. The cast sports several people from the Tina Fey/SNL universe, including former SNL cast member Horatio Sanz, and Kimmy's Adam Campbell. We also get the reliably funny John Michael Higgins from a million things, including several Christopher Guest films, and the really surprisingly enjoyable Nicole Richie, from The Simple Life and your Twitter feed.
I am the last person who would criticize Tina Fey, but she and the rest of the crew made it difficult to review this mediocre show by putting the word "great" in its flipping title. Because...it's not. From the get-go, the premise seems a bit shaky, like a few people sat around high one night and came to the stoned conclusion that if the two most common topics for sitcoms are the workplace and the family, then combining both into one show will result in the greatest sitcom EVER!
The larger problem, though, is Briga Heelan's portrayal of Katie, the put-upon daughter who now has to navigate the pitfalls of work with an overbearing mother along for the ride. I really loved Heelan's work on the Netflix series Love, but through the first few episodes of Great News, it's clear that she is struggling to nail down exactly how to portray Katie. The writing calls for a much quirkier Katie than the one we get: Heelan balks at committing to the social and physical awkwardness the character demands. That's not to say she isn't trying, but she creates a more self-confident woman than Katie -- who has a codependent relationship with her mother, and problems negotiating basic workplace dynamics -- should be. The bicycle scene in the second episode highlights this issue.
Katie, desperate to get across Central Park, tries to ride a bike despite not knowing how. Tina Fey or Ellie Kemper would have nailed the physical comedy required of this scene. Heelan ends up looking like a really graceful person working hard to fall off a bike in a funny way.
The rest of the cast mostly makes up for Heelan's shortcomings. To be clear, there isn't anything new or groundbreaking here -- it's a standard workplace sitcom -- but it's written and acted well enough to make it an enjoyable and occasionally funny show.
Andrea Martin is firing on all cylinders as Katie's mom, Carol, who has me from her very first line when she mentioned Chico's. Like a lot of couples probably do, my wife and I have a running joke about, oh, let's just say JUST SOME RANDOM OLDER PERSON WE KNOW, and Chico's. So I knew exactly who this woman was going to be five seconds into the show. And immediately felt bad for Katie.
I'm hoping most of the secondary storylines will involve co-anchors Chuck and Portia.
John Michael Higgins plays the crotchety, bullying news veteran Chuck to perfection: it's like we'll get to enjoy the downfall of Bill O'Reilly a little bit more with each episode. And Nicole Ritchie is basically playing herself, except that Portia, along with having her finger on the pulse of every hot trend, has a hidden intellectual side that sneaks out every once in a while. And, you know, she's not bad.
I'm also hoping showrunner Tracey Wigfield shows up some more. One of the best scenes from the first few episodes involves her playing weatherperson Beth, and she delivers just the level of snarkiness that the show is missing.
I'm not sure why Horatio Sanz is here?
Maybe someone owed him a favor.
Fine, I'll say it: Great News is only good news for fans of Carlock and Fey's previous work. While it's a relatively enjoyable show it falls short of the excellent fare viewers of 30 Rock or Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt have gotten used to. I'm certainly willing to give it a chance to grow on me, but would not be surprised if I ended up losing interest long before the season ends.