The zany new NBC comedy, which premieres Tuesday, is produced by Tina Fey and her partner Robert Carlock, and created by Tracey Wigfield, who shared an Emmy with Fey for co-writing the 30 Rock series finale. It's a behind-the-scenes look at a TV show — this time a lowly, Secaucus, N.J.-based afternoon news show, The Breakdown, where Katie (Briga Heelan) is a producer and suddenly has to deal with her mother, Carol (Andrea Martin), who becomes an intern at the station.
Like Robert De Niro in Meyers' winsome film, Carol has a lot of wisdom to impart, but she's also kind of wackadoo and predictably wreaks all sorts of crazy havoc for Katie and her colleagues, which includes her executive producer/potential love interest Greg (Adam Campbell), her best work pal/video guru Justin (Horatio Sanz), bizarre meteorologist Beth (Wigfield), and The Breakdown co-anchors Chuck (John Michale Higgins) and Portia (Nicole Richie).
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It'd be easy to dismiss Great News as another "overbearing mother all up in her kid's business" story if not for the palpable affection between mother and daughter. The show is inspired by Wigfield's tight-knight relationship with her own mother, and it's clear Carol is a loving, smothering nuisance that Katie cannot live without.
She's also the only person who can speak Chuck-ese. Delightfully played by Higgins, Chuck is ridiculous, blustery, demanding but also fears becoming a relic — especially next to the young, savvy and super hip Portia, who comes from the same DNA as Jenna Maroney and is probably also someone Jenna Maroney would desperately want to be. Chuck and Portia sit inches apart, but their knowledge base and reference points are separated by oceans. A report about lemonade/Lemonade is not to be missed — and neither is Richie, whose deft, droll comic talents are used to great effect. She is low-key the best part of the show.
Martin is fabulous as well, never crossing into "totally annoying" territory, and her scenes with Higgins, in particular, really sing. She also has a wonderful rapport with Heelan, who does well with what she's given. Unlike other Fey heroines, Katie's not as neurotic as Liz Lemon or cheerfully naïve with a dark undercurrent like Kimmy Schmidt. She's the straight man and the show hasn't quite cracked her "thing" yet, which is all the more apparent in this kooky world.
And kooky it is. Great News deploys the same comic beats, rhythms, jokes, pop culture references, one-liners and sight gags as 30 Rock. (Keep your eyes peeled for a shot of Portia's inbox. You're gonna want to pause and screengrab and put it in a time capsule.) But it never goes full 30 Rock, which is wise and also makes sense. There can never be another 30 Rock and this is Wigfield's show. Wigfield is also a Mindy Project alum and Great News also bears some similarities to that, from the will-they-won't-they office romance to a certain softness (versus 30 Rock's edginess) that comes from a parental ingredient, and to some of its unevenness as well.
That can be attributed to the growing pains of launching a new show and Great News eventually settles into itself. The full 10-episode season was made available for review and the last handful of episodes features a fun serialized arc with the Candy Crush-esque app Biscuit Blitz. Viewers won't have to wait long to get to it — NBC is airing back-to-back episodes every week. That doesn't sound good, but there was another recent wacky comedy that premiered in April with back-to-back episodes that went on to achieve cult favorite status: Happy Endings.
Great News could go to there too.
Great News premieres Tuesday with back-to-back episodes at 9/8c on NBC.