Great News comes from Tracey Wigfield, a writer/producer on 30 Rock and The Mindy Project, and exec producers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, but it’s not a Tina Fey joint, exactly. There are flashes of 30 Rock in this workplace sitcom set behind the scenes of a cable news program, but the edges have been rounded down into something more like a cross between 30 Rock and Ground Floor, the TBS sitcom that also starred the lead in Great News, Briga Heelan. In other words, Great News is Tina Fey and Bill Lawrence lite, which is far from a bad thing (and far better than what we’ve come to expect from most network sitcoms).
Heelan is actually why I gave this show a shot in the first place, because she was terrific in Ground Floor, as well as in an arc of Undateable that I watched specifically because of her (the crush is that real). Here, Heeland plays Katie, a fledgling segment producer for the cable news program who is trying to advance her way up the ladder. Those plans are simultaneously derailed and re-railed by her mother, Carol (the fantastic SCTVer Andrea Martin), who decides late in life to become an intern for the news station. She’s both meddlesome and supportive, in the tradition of most sitcom moms.
Martin and Heeland have good chemistry together, but it’s the comedic repartee between Martin and John Michael Higgins — who plays the bullish, oblivious, and out-of-touch lead anchor — that really elevates Great News. Carol is the intern to Higgins’ grouchy anchor who never makes it more than a few weeks without firing an intern, and she manages to soften him, mother him, and stand up to him. These two veteran comics mesh together instantly.
Meanwhile, Nicole Richie plays the airhead co-anchor, who occasionally lets slip that she’s much, much smarter than she lets on (she is surprisingly good here) while Horatio Sanz plays the best friend who works in the booth. Adam Campbell, meanwhile, plays the obnoxious producer with whom Katie may or may not develop an interest (I really hope not).
Great News vacillates between witty and dumb, clever and silly, but it always remains pleasant and occasionally very funny (thanks, usually, to John Michael Higgins). It’s not a sitcom to go out of your way to watch, but for those who like to break up a steady diet of heavy dramas with an occasional dose of mindless but not dumb comedy, Great News fits the bill.