Great News Season-Finale Recap: Tough Love

Great News

Carol's Eleven
Season 1 Episode 10
Editor’s Rating *****
John Michael Higgins as Chuck, Andrea Martin as Carol, Horatio Sanz as Justin, Nicole Richie as Portia. Photo: Erica Parise/NBC

The Great News season finale opens the same way the pilot did, with Katie and Carol sharing their regular morning wake-up call. But this time, the roles are reversed: Katie, now unemployed, is the one doing the calling, and Carol, still a busy intern, is indulging her aimlessness while hustling to get to work. Not that she has to hurry, since Greg’s Gran is still ruling with an iron fist and locking her out of staff meetings. At the conference table, morale is equally low: Justin is being forced to wear a blazer instead of a hoodie, Beth has to conceal her braid (“a ladybug flew out of it”), and Portia is being forced to give up endorsements to hawk Gran’s line of fascinators.

You may recall that at the beginning of the season, all Carol wanted was for Katie to move home — and she finally does, because she’s broke. (“I’m no mooch,” she insists. “I’m gonna pay you guys rent … in kisses.”) As the show has hinted in the past, Katie and Carol are very similar deep down, and an unmotivated Katie is essentially just pre-internship Carol, going hard at the DVR (“I’m at zero percent. I got a congratulations certificate from Time Warner!”), hanging out with Angie, reading new literary classic S Is for Sex Murder, and even borrowing a Chico’s ensemble, because her clothes are in the wash.

Thankfully, it’s not long before Katie’s empty DVR leads her to a hate-watch of a very revealing episode of Pond Scum, in which Gran makes some not-so-veiled references to her masterminding of the Biscuit Blitz hack. Katie’s desire to reveal the truth meets with little resistance from Greg, who’s made so anxious by Gran’s presence that he’s been hospitalized for a panic attack. (Well, presumably. It’s weirdly not discussed by name, but there is paper-bag hyperventilating, which I didn’t know was even still a thing.)

As the episode’s title implies, the rest of the story line is an old-fashioned heist narrative, with the entire office coming together to trick Gran into thinking that they’re running a puff piece on her bravely stopping the hackers, while actually airing a separate broadcast from Chuck on the roof. Some of the elements of the heist were creative (I particularly liked that they found another use for Chuck’s wax doppelgänger), while others were a little rote (I could see the big reveal, in which Gran went up on the roof to stop the broadcast and got tricked into lying on camera, coming from a mile away). But the goal of this episode isn’t to break new ground. It’s meant to create a satisfying conclusion that brought together the ensemble, and it succeeds on that score.

I was less taken with the emotional thrust of the episode, in which Carol realizes that she has to use tough love on Katie. Carol is certainly an indulgent parent in many ways, but to me, she hasn’t been a pushover until this episode. While replacing Katie with the kid that her mom sees when she looks at her was initially a cute gag, I don’t feel like it worked in terms of fully fleshing out the dual nature of helicopter parenting, which often undermines kids’ self-esteem in its attempt at constructing a safe space for it.

Coddling someone is, in its own way, an inherent form of criticism, but bringing the emotional crux of the episode around to the white lies Carol told Katie as a kid sapped some of the meaning from their very adult conflict. That may have more to do with Carol’s view of the world than Katie’s: As we see in the episode’s grace note, everyone in the office is a little kid to her — even contemporaries like Chuck. For a certain type of mom, this will no doubt ring true. Give someone 30 years behind the hammer, and every human being looks like a child-size nail.

While it hasn’t broken new ground or made any big statements, Great News’ first season has absolutely delivered on the essential premise of a network sitcom: telling a lot of funny jokes in a way that appeals to its audience. That’s an achievement in and of itself, because the show serves both moms reared on old-school sitcoms and their daughters, who come from a generation of savvier TV consumers. It may not ever blow you away, but it’s the kind of show you can take home to mom — or, more likely, that your mom will try to set you up with.

Other Notes

• Nicole Richie deserves credit for being great all season, and she really sold that bird-fascinator bit. I hope she gets more to do next year.

• While its fictional “competitors” have been better at mocking the excesses of cable news, The Breakdown itself finally gets in a good potshot with the Yellow Digital Suite, in which Chuck reads a tweet that says he looks as if “Fred Savage from the future came back to warn present-day Fred Savage that when he’s old he’ll be a meth addict.”

• On the upside, Chuck does pick up some cool Twitter slang: “Gram is mean a.f. That’s a Twitter term I can only assume means ‘mean as Frankenstein.’ Also, there’s DTF. Don’t Touch Frankenstein. To which I usually reply WTF: Won’t Touch Frankenstein.”

• St. Wiggin’s Day is not real, and neither is crumb fairy, but I was nonetheless disappointed to learn that this fictional food is gelatinous and savory. Don’t dangle potential new pastry options and then snatch them away from me, show!

• Robin Leach’s two-episode cameo as a Pond Scum panelist featured some truly bizarre line readings, though I did like the implication that he’s actually broke and thinks caviar is a currency.

• Also, Pond Scum had the best joke of the episode: a rejected contestant saying, “Thank you for the opportunity” into his product, a fart megaphone.

Great News Season-Finale Recap: Tough Love