Thursday, October 5, 2017

REVIEW: 'Great News' - Katie and Greg Swap Jobs While Diana and Portia Spark a Feud in 'Squad Feud'

NBC's Great News - Episode 2.02 "Squad Feud"

Diana sets Katie off on a mission to take the job at the station that she wants, but when Katie tries to be executive producer for the day, she soon realizes that Greg has it much harder than she realized. Carol uses Greg and Katie's workplace competition as an opportunity to push the two of them together. After Diana insults Portia on a women-in-business panel, Portia declares a "squad feud" that forces their two very different worlds together.

As I've said before, Great News can operate as a fairly traditional and formulaic show. It's structure is familiar as well as the big will-they/won't-they dynamic it has with Katie and Greg. That's very conventional. And yet, the execution continues to be remarkable. "Squad Feud" even takes note of how familiar the situation is. Carol is commenting on how Katie and Greg's sexual chemistry is similar to various famous romantic couplings on shows across the decades. Of course, when she refers to Diane and Sam as well as Ross and Rachel, she's not talking about the main pairings from Cheers or Friends. Instead, she's referring to people in her own life. That's a great reveal because it continues the appeal of Carol as a very self-involved woman. Katie telling her about the moment she shared with Greg at the end of last season was bound to backfire in an epic way. That was already apparent in last week's premiere when Carol was already planning their wedding. She had a specific date picked out and was making the arrangements for the ceremony - despite her also losing a bet in the process. And now, she's trying to get as much information as possible about what's going on between them. She wants to know what's happening between Katie and Greg. She wants to continue to be involved and pestering. She wants to push them together. That behavior shouldn't really be rewarded at all. She's being very inappropriate in the workplace. And yet, it's absolutely fun to watch because Andrea Martin continues to have a blast playing this character. She brings so much enthusiasm and joy to Carol. It's infectious to see even though it's not right for her to be slapping Greg on the ass and blaming it on her daughter. She cares about their romance and not about their jobs at all.

That stands in contrast to what Greg and Katie want to be doing right now. They already had the discussion about what they should do following that almost kiss. They made the decision not to make anything of it because they wanted nothing to interfere with their workplace dynamic. They wanted nothing to change. They were happy with what things were like at work. They didn't need their relationship to be anymore than that. Greg just wants to continue producing a great show that is able to keep the momentum going following the big hacking scandal. And Katie just wants to produce great stories that she is actually passionate about. Of course, her interests don't really line up with what makes for an interesting news show. She wants to do a story about a South American spider that is going extinct. No one is that interested in that story. But she's passionate about it. It shows that she belongs with this group of random people with random interests as well. She's not always the straight lady to their wild hijinks. She belongs alongside Beth (who needs new tornado footage because of the commentary involved), Gene (who believes Mr. Mets is a woman) and Wayne (who is actually 60 years old). She's just as weird as they are. They all belong in this workplace together. But this story is about Katie stepping up and following Diana's advice. She's asserting herself to have more responsibilities in the workplace. It's a story the show has told before - early on in the first season. But here, it's just so much more fun because the characters all have identities now.

So, the main plot involves Katie replacing Greg as executive producer for the day. She's responsible for producing the show that will air later on. She's the one assigning stories to people and making sure that everything runs smoothly. It follows the conventional twist of Katie thinking Greg's job is easy only to learn that he is constantly putting out fires because of their fellow employees. Greg learns the same lesson because he's in charge of a field piece on the spread of elderly STDs because Katie is trying to make him as miserable as possible. Both of them walk away from this story learning something about the other. That has the potential to bring them closer as a romantic pairing. Carol is focused on that alone. Her advice for Katie is a little surprising and antiquated as well. She's telling Katie that she needs to do whatever it takes in order to enrage and empower the man she is attracted to. That's the way she met and married Katie's father. Everything Carol pushes on Katie is through the context of her own life. She wants a better life for Katie but also wants her to do the same things that she did in her life. It's a paradox that she is still struggling with. She's taken aback when Katie doesn't listen to her advice at all. She continues to push for excellence. She is struggling in this role but continuing to throw it in Greg's face. She believes she can do a better job in this position. And in the end, that may ultimately be true. She produces a competent show. She's able to get the job done when it counts.

And yet, all of this leads to an uncomfortable situation where Diana thinks Katie asked for this new responsibility because she was gunning for Greg's job. Diana has no problem demoting Greg to empower her new protégé. She didn't want to help Katie at first because she didn't think she had the time to be a strong role model. She's not exactly connecting with Katie at all. Katie listens to her every advice and tries to apply it to her life. And yet, she feels like it will be a betrayal if she were to steal Greg's job away from him. She doesn't want to be his boss. She doesn't want to be the executive producer of this show. She doesn't want to be making compromises and telling stories that don't ultimately mean anything. She wants to chase down stories that will have an impact in the world. She wants to produce those segments. She wants to be a journalist. She has the skills to produce really strong content that captures the attention of the world around her. That's the life she wants for herself. But she finds herself needing to go against her mentor who is a female boss all about putting women in positions of power. This could be seen as a rejection of the worldview that Diana represents. Diana has a problem with Portia being a CEO of a lucrative business. She could have a problem with what Katie wants out of life too. And yet, it's empowering to see that Diana is fine with what Katie wants as long as she stands up for it. That's the biggest lesson she could take from her. It's what Katie needs to do in order to survive in this business. She can't be constantly second guessing herself.

Meanwhile, things are allowed to be a bit more over-the-top and absurd in the subplot featuring Diana and Portia in a squad war. And yet, it's a very biting commentary on how social media defines our relationships with other people nowadays. Diana calls Portia out in public for not being as successful or legitimate a businesswoman as she is. Portia needs to retaliate and gets the idea for a squad feud from Chuck of all people. That's a surprising moment. But seeing Diana and Portia going at it in stealing each other's squads away from each other is just a very amusing story. Portia taps into the inner dreams of Diana's assistant while Diana is able to greenlight a show for Portia's four girl friends. It seems easier for Diana because she's in a position of power where she can just create that show out of nowhere and immediately have it be number one in the ratings. With Portia, she has to put in more effort in order to succeed. And yet, her big music video which is obviously a play on what Taylor Swift has been doing visually is just tremendous and hysterical. It's so completely unexpected. It's surprising that Portia is willing to include her work colleagues in this video to get back at her new boss. But she remains the star of it and it's great to see each of these characters embody these new personas. It's mostly just great because it gets Carol to rap. That's delightful. And finally, the big punchline in the end with Portia revealing herself to be a smart and cunning businesswoman without the constant distraction of social media is great. Yes, it's a story that has been told before in a similar way on other shows. It's completely reversed as soon as she needs to give her attention back to her followers. But it also shows that Diana can respect the new women she is working alongside in this company she has just bought.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Squad Feud" was written by Ben Dougan and directed by Jeff Richmond.
  • Of course, the audience just has to take the show at its word that Katie was able to produce a solid show for "The Breakdown." We don't actually see any of the broadcast. No problems actually arise in the story when the show is live. And yet, there's no reason to believe that Katie wasn't able to handle herself well in this situation.
  • According to Carol, the only holidays worth celebrating are Christmas, Mother's Day and Mother's Christmas. That last one is a holiday she is trying to get started that will occur in September because it's too long of a wait between the other two holidays. That's a great joke especially as she is trying to get Greg into the family for the celebrations.
  • Katie is able to punish Greg by assigning him a story he doesn't want to produce at all. It's amusing to see him in a nursing home taking to seniors about sex. It's just a part of a montage though. Meanwhile, Greg is able to punish Katie by actually going along with Carol's big plans for their romance. That's probably even more annoying because it has the stakes to continue once they return to their normal jobs.
  • And yet, both Carol and Katie are hit with big moments of realizations. Carol doesn't want her daughter taking advice solely from an annoying older lady. She has to realize that she is an older lady trying to force her lifestyle on her as well. Meanwhile, Katie needs to realize that she does need to have the conversation with Diana about her job because it's the only way to establish respect in their dynamic.
  • There's a brief moment where it seems like Justin is actually interested in Carol. She's asking about the sexual chemistry between Katie and Greg. He infers it as a comment on their own dynamic. He thinks about it and then seems into it. Of course, it's also just an easy joke to further highlight how inappropriate Carol is in the workplace.