Here’s great news: Tina Fey is back in the comedy-series game.
Though she doesn’t star in her newest show, traces of “30 Rock” are evident as she’s among the executive producers of NBC’s “Great News.” Premiering Tuesday, April 25, it casts Briga Heelan (“Ground Floor”) as cable-news producer Katie, who’s stunned to find the new intern hired for her program is … her mother, Carol (“SCTV” veteran Andrea Martin). While that gives “Great News” a parent-and-grown-child theme, at the same time, it’s a workplace comedy.
Series creator and executive producer Tracey Wigfield plays the offbeat meteorologist on “The Breakdown,” the show-within-the-show that features Christopher Guest-movie regular John Michael Higgins (“Best in Show”) and Nicole Richie as the anchors. Adam Campbell and Fey’s former “Saturday Night Live” colleague Horatio Sanz also portray “Breakdown” staff members.
Writer-producers Robert Carlock and Jack Burditt also are on board for “Great News,” and having worked with them and Fey on “30 Rock,” Wigfield notes that where the two series “share some DNA is that (this is) a funny show with a lot of fast-paced jokes per page, but the show is very different. At its core, it’s about a mother and a daughter. There were a couple times Tina was very much on it about, ‘Let’s make sure Katie isn’t, like, eating tuna out of a can or tucking her shirt into her underwear’ …that kind of thing, making sure that Katie is a very different character (than ‘30 Rock’s’ Liz Lemon).”
As for the actress who is Katie, Heelan adds, “I love the sort of relationship that (co-star Martin) and I have on the show and the dealings that we that we get into, in terms of trying to assert my status at work and succeeding or failing at that, then trying to do the same exact thing in my relationship with my mom. The two struggles are actually similar; you just see these play out in different ways, not necessarily two very different things. Selfishly, I love that I get to be embedded in both worlds equally at the same time. It’s just twice the fun.”
Fey says that despite the news business being the backdrop – obviously – of “Great News,” there was never a consideration of trying to make the show topical to the given moment.
“We shot these (episodes) knowing that we would likely be on at midseason,” she says, “so with the delay of broadcast, you can sort of take ideas from the headlines, but you want to avoid doing a joke that’s going to feel really old by the time the show airs. I think if you’re lucky enough to do the second season, then you can be closer to the thing, but you can never quite keep up with ‘Saturday Night Live’ in that way. So it’s a different game.”