Last week, NBC decided to renew Great News for a 13-episode second season, and it couldn’t have come at a more creatively opportune time for the show. After six episodes of showing promise, the series finally hit its stride this week with a fantastic double-header. “The Red Door” and “Celebrity Hacking Scandal” showcase Great News at its most comedically playful while also organically developing its ensemble. It’s the best the series has been so far this season.

“The Red Door” is the true winner this week because of its structural simplicity and commitment to absurdist humor, all while maintaining its emotional streak. The premise is simple: Portia’s phone has been hacked and her photos and emails are now all over the Internet. She requests that everyone in the office not invade her privacy by seeking them out, and after some grumbling, everyone agrees. Of course, neither Katy nor Greg can resist searching through her emails and they discover that Portia believes the two have been sleeping together, leading to initial horror and later insecurity when they find out the idea never crossed the minds of any of their colleagues. Oh, and also Chuck tasks Carol to let the cable guy into his house and she finds a rejected Madame Tussauds’ wax statue of Chuck in his closet.

Much of the fun lies in watching the two seemingly disparate storylines converge in a fake suicide attempt on the roof, but “The Red Door” works largely because all of Great News’ comedic tactics operate at high speed. The one-liners arrive faster, the plot beats move quicker and without much set up, and the characters are established enough to coast on good performances. Plus, Wigfield and company are packing weirdness into the margins, like how Portia has a Japanese toilet named Patty-san, or that Beth was raised in a home for “peculiar children” (and that her middle name is “Barf”), or that Carol has a hoarding shed and isn’t allowed to get a second one or else she’ll have to visit Dr. Jill again. With new sitcoms, half the battle is filling in comedic details like the ones listed, and Great News has finally started to do that in earnest.

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It also maintains the established emotional stakes while adapting its context. As much Carol rankles and annoys her coworkers, she genuinely wants a second lease on life and achieve goals that are seemingly out of reach. Her speech to Chuck at the end of “The Red Door” might be a little tired on paper, but Andrea Martin provides the sincerity it needs to work. Meanwhile, Great News has started to hit the gas on the Katie-Greg office relationship, and while their repartee is a far cry from His Girl Friday banter, both Heelan and Campbell have fun chemistry, especially when they’re flummoxed and trying to prove to their coworkers that they are viable sexual beings. It will likely proceed the way these sitcom relationships usually do, but hopefully it’ll be fun to watch all the same.

“Celebrity Hacking Scandal” is only a slight step down from “The Red Door” because it simply wasn’t as rapid-fire funny, but it more than makes up for it with legitimate character development. The episode focuses on modern-day sexism, and while the Chuck-Portia subplot involving “mansplaining” was a little middle of the road, the Greg-Katie story actually works quite well. Katie wants to pursue a source she has discovered in her piece about the celebrity hacking scandal, but Greg think it’s a bad idea mostly because he doesn’t trust her instincts. Portia tells her to trust her gut and not to rely on Greg’s implicit bias as received wisdom. However, Katie soon finds out that her source is an 11-year-old, Emma Watson-obsessed boy. After Greg chews her out, Katie embarrasses him with a blast from his past in which he led a news team in England to the supposed location of the Loch Ness Monster only for it to blow up in his face. Eventually, the two reconcile and learn the source of the widespread data breach.

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The Katie-Greg plot works largely because of the performances. Campbell leans into being a dick quite well, not just with Katie, but also with Carol, whom he politely informs is “ruining his life.” Heelan rides the familiar line between forceful and off-kilter and yet it works great because at this point it feels like second nature and not forced. Though the episode sort of sputters to an end, largely because it feels like the first third of a concluding season arc, Heelan and Campbell carry it well enough that it doesn’t feel too rough around the edges.

It’s exciting to watch a show find its voice, but it’s even more fun to watch it develop that voice beyond its initial conception. Great News has finally entered that second stage and NBC has given them a little more time for audiences to catch on. Let’s hope they do.

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Stray observations

  • It’s funny that Chuck was excited about having a wax statue at Madame Tussauds because he believes that it’s like he achieved immortality. It’s funnier that he was placed between Kurt Cobain and Austin Powers. It’s even funnier that he was replaced by a statue of Air Bud.
  • Apparently, Portia is friends with Beyonce and her email is funmusicgal@hotmail.com
  • Katie pretends she has tried sushi, even though she hasn’t. Here are some of her “favorite rolls”: “Sweet tuna, super crab, dragon carnival, Colorado rolls, and my personal favorite, a big old bowl of snake eggs.”
  • Katie’s embarrassing skeletons: In high school, she attended Court Jester Camp at Medieval Times; in college, she wrote an op-ed for her college paper about more cake options in the dining hall entitled, “Chocolate and Vanilla Leave Students Wanting More, and her World of Warcraft character is named Narrotica the News Elf.
  • Katie fell in love with an Anne Taylor Loft adbot who still calls her.
  • Two favorite jokes: 1. Portia saying that it’s “sometime between 2010 and 2020” in place of a set year and 2. Gene trying to start a “murmur,” failing, and then losing out on the organic “murmur.”
  • “I tried to submit to Hustler but they said my bedroom made them depressed.”
  • “I named my dog after you! Well, Chuck Norris…but still.”
  • “How about an investigative piece where we follow the cantor from my synagogue who’s always texting my wife.”
  • “WE HAVEN’T DONE ANYTHING YET, CAROL. WE JUST WATCHED TWO PEOPLE FIGHT!”

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