GREAT NEWS contains to prove its potential with another set of promising episodes. In the first, Chuck gets cataracts surgery, forcing Carol to take care of him while trying to hide it from his younger coworkers, while in the second Katie questions her relationship with war correspondent boyfriend Tripp (Tommy Dewey from Casual) after he meets her mother. Neither episode is, well, great, but both contain amusing moments and funny character interactions that suggest this show could go places.
However, it’s a bit hard to shake the feeling this is merely 30 Rock– lite. Not only does it come from the same creative team, but it relies on some of that classic show’s comedic sensibilities. It has similar music cues–most likely because the music on both shows is courtesy of Jeff Richmond, Tina Fey’s composer husband. In addition to the light beats punctuating scenes lending the story a very familiar whimsical feeling, this week we get a scene of Carol engaging in some subterfuge scored by her singing her own take on the Mission: Impossible theme. It wouldn’t have been out of place on the former program. There’s also a running gag about two workers practicing carrying an imaginary sheet of glass, which Katie runs through and reacts to as if it were real–her reaction is incredibly similar to Liz Lemon’s after she runs through a set painted like a door.
There are worse series to pay homage to–30 Rock was a great show. But the fact that the two programs are so similar could prove detrimental. It could disappoint fans hoping for satire, as while 30 Rock was sharp, Great News is soft and silly. Another issue with Great News is Briga Heelan’s Katie. In the first episode this week, her role is mainly reduced to various exasperated reactions to Carol and in the second, she plays her descent into paranoia after learning that Carol approves of her boyfriend for once a bit too broad. Like last week, it seems like the show doesn’t entirely know what to do with her.
But I hate to be too harsh, as it often takes comedies a few weeks to fully get into their grooves and there are some very funny moments. Chuck’s cover for his cataracts surgery is claiming he’s attending an award show hosted by Cool & Young magazine–when Greg calls to beg him to come back, he tells him that he’s hanging out with the only person who understands him, Pitbull. Chuck remains the best part of this show. The reason why Greg wants him back is that Greg has been using him as a scapegoat when shutting down his employees’ crazier ideas. Without Chuck to blame, Greg is forced to accept Portia wearing clear shorts, Justin’s new opening credits featuring a fire-breathing dragon, and Beth’s doomsday rant instead of a weather report. The ridiculousness is ratcheted up even further when Chuck does return, but has Carol feed him his lines via an earpiece, which she of course messes up spectacularly.
The second episode relies a bit too heavily on what’s now a cliched sitcom plot–one character claiming another is in their head. When Tripp returns to New York from Syria, Katie wants to hide their relationship from Carol, because Carol has ruined all her previous relationships by harping on her boyfriends’ flaws until that’s all she can focus on. Carol of course finds out they’re dating, but after doing a little Facebook stalking, she decides she approves of Tripp. This throws Katie off, as Carol never approves and Carol doesn’t tell her what she found. Katie goes full on crazy, stealing Tripp’s backpack and making an evidence board worthy of any conspiracy theorist. Katie learns that Tripp’s family is very wealthy, but that’s not excited Carol. Carol’s happy that Tripp’s mother is dead, as that means Carol will be the only mom in the equation.
It’s funny enough, but uneven. The true highlight of the episode is once again Chuck. After seeing everyone treat Tripp like a hero, Chuck decides that he wants to get back in the field. Greg arranges a trip to South Sudan, but Justin uncovers footage of Chuck’s previous forays into being a war reporter. In the footage, Chuck freaks out at every little thing, overreacting to everyday occurrences like a sheep walking past. After Chuck sees Justin and Greg laughing at him, he lures them into the control room, locks them in, plays footage of bombings interspersed with video of him yelling “war is hell”, and throws firecrackers at them. It’s absolutely absurd and hilarious and makes me look forward to next week.
Season 1, Episode 03-04 (S01E03-04)
Great News airs Tuesdays at 900PM on NBC
Jennifer Trofa | Contributor