There’s no shortage of mother-daughter relationships on television. From the codependent (Rory and Lorelai Gilmore) to the adversarial (Lorelai and Emily Gilmore) to the supportive (the Villanueva women on Jane the Virgin) to the bickering (Christy and Bonnie on Mom), the love and tension between adult women and their mothers makes for great TV fodder. But I’ve never seen a mother-daughter duo that felt as real as Katie (Briga Heelan, delightful) and her mother Carol (Andrea Martin, fantastic) on NBC’s Great News, which premieres tonight.
Great News takes the “my parent showed up at my college!” story of Back to School (or, to put it in young-people terms, An Extremely Goofy Movie) and sets it in the workplace: Restless retiree Carol enrolls in a college course and decides to intern at the TV news program (The Breakdown) where her daughter Katie is a producer, much to Katie’s chagrin. Carol is by turns inspiring and undermining. She can’t stop mothering Katie, no matter how much her daughter protests. Sometimes that means giving her a pep talk just when she needs it, but sometimes that means making her look like a little girl in front of her boss. In traditional family-based sitcom style, everyone learns something by the end of the episode.
But here’s the catch: It’s not sappy. Unlike the great epiphanies Rebecca’s parental issues tend to inspire on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or the endless familial angst on This Is Us, Katie and Carol’s lessons are just about how to support each other better. Their love is never for a second in doubt, even when they fight. And there’s no complicated or tragic backstory to explain Katie’s father’s absence; he’s not absent, just inconsequential. He happily wanders in and out of scenes. They love him, but he’s entirely beside the point. If you’ve ever been an only child who was closer to her mother than her father, you get this.
The supporting cast is also terrifically fun, from Chuck (John Michael Higgins, Pitch Perfect, A Mighty Wind), the grumpy news anchor only mature Carol can tame, to the lead producer Greg (Adam Campbell), whom Carol immediately picks out for Katie to date. (Moms!) The Beakdown is coanchored by a spunky young woman named Portia, played by Nicole Richie, who is totally fun in her role except that every time she was onscreen I just thought, That is Nicole Richie.
The way the show plays on age and aging, from Carol forgetting why she wandered into a room to Portia’s social media obsession, might seem like a page ripped from Nancy Meyers’ The Intern—another story about an older person rejoining the workforce to see that “hey, some things have changed and some haven’t!”—but it belies a deeper message about how women have fared in the workplace in different generations. We find out in the pilot that Carol, who dotes on her daughter and clearly loved being a mother, is going back to school because she left her career behind to have Katie. Katie, meanwhile, isn’t getting the responsibility she wants at work. She knows that she’s being passed over in favor of a man…but she’s also internalized a lot of doubt and insecurity. Katie is, unfortunately, partly to blame for her career stagnation; she isn’t putting herself up for the big jobs.
Well, not on Carol’s watch. Carol thinks Katie is the smartest, brightest, best girl in the whole world, and (minor spoiler!) by the end of the first episode, mother and daughter have leaned the eff in.
Ten minutes into the first episode of Great News, I knew I’d found a show my mom and I would both love, but…maybe it was just us? Then a friend texted me out of the blue: “My mom has gotten bitmoji and she’s out of control. Is there a support group for this kind of thing?”
Well, there’s no support group that I know of. But there’s a new NBC show about it. And it’s great!
Great News premieres on NBC tonight (April 25) at 9:00 P.M. ET.