April 26, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Great News”


GREAT NEWS:  Tuesday 9PM on NBC – If Nothing Else Is On…

NBC’s latest disposable sitcom GREAT NEWS hails from the House of Tina Fey, who serves as one of its Executive Producers.  Series creator Tracey Wigfield was a writer/producer on 30 Rock, and Great News, which is set behind-the-scenes at a local TV news show, betrays that influence with a vengeance, but it’s saddled with a very old-fashioned central conceit:  heroine Katie Wendelson (Briga Heelan), the show’s very Liz Lemon-ish bundle of snappy one-liners and insecurities, has to endure the arrival of her helicopter mom Carol (Andrea Martin) as her show’s brand-new intern.

What emerges is a blurry mix of 21st-century stylistics (there are quick cuts to flashbacks that illustrate some of the gags, and Katie’s father’s face is deliberately obscured whenever he’s shown) with set-ups that feel like carryovers from multi-camera scripts, as Carol insists on sticking her well-meaning nose into every aspect of Katie’s life. While it annoys her daughter to death, darned if Mom doesn’t have her best interests at heart and an eccentric way of solving every problem.  The creaky mechanics also include producer Greg (Adam Campbell), who’s obnoxious to Katie but has a dishy English accent, and the show-within-the-show’s anchors, pompous Chuck (John Michael Higgins) and airhead Portia (Nicole Richie), all of whom seem circa The Mary Tyler Moore Show with the addition of some updated references.

Liz Lemon, at least, was good at her job, while in the pilot and second episode (both written by Wigfield and directed by Beth McCarthy-Miller, another 30 Rock veteran), Katie is merely an eager striver, who has to cope with challenges like speaking up at meetings and learning to ride a bicycle.  Heelan, a Bill Lawrence sitcom stalwart (she’s had recurring or lead roles on his Cougar Town, Ground Floor and Undateable) is polished and likable in an undistinctive way.  Andrea Martin is a force of nature who squeezes all the zing possible out of her lines, but Carol’s relationship with Katie is a familiar thing, without any of the originality that made Jack Donaghy a great foil and partner for Liz Lemon.  Higgins and Richie, playing more straightforward caricatures, have the most freedom to be funny, although with such one-note roles, they run the risk of wearing out their welcome.

With its show-biz patter and neurotic lead, Great News is 30 Rock without the edge or the crazy, and those were among the most critical things that made Fey’s show what it was.  Great News, which NBC is unloading over 5 weeks of back-to-back half-hours, doesn’t live up to its title; it’s ho-hum news at best.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."