Great News: Season 1 – Review

Great News kicks off its 10 first season Tuesday, April 25, 9pm on NBC.

Great News stars Briga Heelan as Katie, a television news producer, whose life is turned upside down when her mother Carol (two-time Emmy winner Andrea Martin) becomes an intern at her TV network. Katie must deal with all of the havoc her mom wrecks, while still performing her regular tasks.

The show is very reminiscent of 30 Rock, and Tina Fey is even a producer. The similar vibe comes mainly from round table talks with the writers of each series’ fictional show, and it will be a nostalgic experience for viewers (myself included) who miss the days of vibrant Liz Lemon. Creator Tracey Wigfield noted at the Television Critics Association winter previews that “While this show and 30 Rock share some DNA, as it’s a funny show with a lot of fast-paced jokes per page… [Great News] is very different. At its core it’s a show about a mother and a daughter.”

Having a comedy show’s season run just 10 episodes is a risky move almost exclusively done by cable comedies like Veep. However, there is still some precedent for this with smaller shows like Comedy Central’s Detroiters. The short season is a big risk when competing with 22 episode sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory. This is especially dire considering the fact that episodes of Great News air back to back, amounting to only five weeks of airtime a year. On the other hand, the budget for a freshman season is always low, so maybe this decision was necessary. For all we know, if Great News is successful the second season might be an extended length.

The quality of the series itself is above average at best, but there are no original concepts that help it stand out in the world of ‘Peak TV’. Time will tell if the news room setting will even work.

There was never any real substance to the plot and nothing that made you care about the characters until about halfway through the season. Episode five is where things start to pick up, with a funny subplot about gingers taking over world, among others. Heelan as Katie is funny enough, but pales in comparison to recent NBC greats like Steve Carell, Amy Poehler, and of course Tina Fey. Still, she brings a lot to the show and was a great choice by the directors to play the lead.

Great News‘ jokes mainly mock cliches, yet the show ends up becoming a cliche itself. For example, Andrea Martin is a phenomenal actress, but her character gets caught up in typical old people stories like extreme couponing and TV viewing parties for her friends.

There is also, and I cannot stress this enough, absolutely no side character development. (Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nothing.) I guess this is one of the side effects of a ten episode season, but it’s unfortunate that the writers were not able to develop the characters more. I would have loved to see more in-depth looks at “The Jewish Guy” (Horatio Sanz) or the two news anchors, Portia and Chuck.

Strangely, there been close to no advertising for Great News. I’m writing this two days before the premiere, and I’ve seen the occasional TV spot, but that’s about it. It’s unclear what to make of that.

Great News wasn’t a bad show but it wasn’t great either. It’s funny enough to recommend for a lonely Saturday night. Set your DVRs!

I give Great News a B-.

Great News - Season Pilot