We’re now six episodes into GREAT NEWS, which makes us officially more than halfway through the ten-episode first season, and some of the problems that cropped up in the pilot persist. The show is enjoyable, but the weakest link remains the person who’s ostensibly the main character—Briga Heelan’s Katie. Her subplot in “Snowpocalypse of the Century” is the worst subplot the show’s done so far and “Serial Arsonist” highlighted the fact that her character doesn’t feel fleshed out or like it could stand on its own without Carol’s. This is a workplace comedy, which rely on the strength of an ensemble., but Katie needs to be more than a vaguely defined Liz Lemon lite.
It’s not fair to the show to constantly reference 30 Rock while talking about Great News, but the show could also do more to distance itself. There’s a moment this week where Katie tells Portia that “My body is a temple and by that I mean I let a lot of Jewish guys in in” then high-fives herself. It was such a Liz Lemon moment that I wanted to turn off Great News, switch to Netflix, and spend some time with the crew at 30 Rockefeller Center.
One issue with Great News is that the show-within-a-show, The Breakdown, doesn’t feel like a real cable news show. The Breakdown exists in a heightened reality—their network’s Today Show counterpart is a Kathy Lee & Hoda send-up titled Morning Wined Up featuring Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer as hosts Kelly and Mary Kelly–but there seem to be no real stakes. In 30 Rockk (last time this review, I promise), Liz had to worry about pleasing the network/Jack, often fighting to remain on air. There’s really nothing like that on Great News–an unseen, unnamed network exec does demand they do a last minute special report about the blizzard, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that nothing would’ve happened if they simply ignored this request.
The blizzard episode is where this show’s ensemble gets their first chance to shine. Previous episodes have focused on character pairings, but the whole office gets together when they learn they’re stuck at work, helped by the wine Carol stole from their morning counterpart. Carol’s concerned that nobody at work is friends, but they drunkenly bond, leading to some fun moments like Beth dancing in a giant hospital bra while Portia makes it rain cash on her. Her plan to force them to be friends work, as when the network calls, everyone steps up to offer to accept the blame, including Wayne, the camera operator who’s quickly becoming my favorite supporting character.
But that episode is hampered by Katie’s subplot–Chuck asks her to produce a segment, which Portia interprets as meaning he wants to sleep with her. She opines that a man has never helped a woman he hasn’t wanted to sleep with, like ever in the history of time. Chuck does seem like he’s hitting her on, modeling a new look based off a Michael Buble album cover and asking her where a girl like her would want to go out on a date. Katie tries to kiss him, as she doesn’t want him to resent her for rejecting him, but of course, he wasn’t actually hitting on Katie. He wanted advice because he’s planning on asking out a 25-year-old smoothie maker at his gym. This conclusion is incredibly obvious and the whole thing comes across as rather silly and tired.
In “Serial Arsonist”, one of their field reporters is fired after he’s arrested for starting several fires, with the goal of starting a redhead revolution, an admirably absurd twist. Greg holds auditions but can’t find a replacement, which is ridiculously unrealistic, but means that Katie has to appear on camera. Carol is ecstatic, as she’s always wanted Katie to be famous, but Katie wants to go back to producing after she sees how badly Portia bungled an interview with a NRA source she cultivated. To end her on camera career once and for all, Katie performs a lyrical dance routine instead of delivering a reporter, thus getting her fired AND proving to her mom that she could have won a competition in her youth if she wanted to.
Carol’s never expressed any interest in Katie being famous before this episode, but the crazy stage mom thing fits in with her personality to a degree. However, this episode also shows that Katie’s personality is completely subsumed by Carol’s. Carol is such an overpowering character. Great News continues to be enjoyable, especially for a network comedy, but it also feels like a show that might not completely find its footing until season two, a la fellow NBC comedies The Office and Parks & Recreation. Whether it will get that chance remains to be seen.
Season 1, Episode 05-06 (S01E05-06)
Great News airs Tuesdays at 900PM on NBC
Jennifer Trofa | Contributor