Thursday, October 12, 2017

REVIEW: 'Great News' - Katie Struggles When Her Co-Workers Claim Diana Sexually Harassed Them in 'Honeypot!'

NBC's Great News - Episode 2.03 "Honeypot!"

Diana has been promoted again, this time to the head of the corporation that owns MMN, but before she leaves she finds herself embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal. This leaves Katie unsure who to believe - her mentor or her friends in the office. Carol becomes head intern and struggles to prove to the other interns, and herself, that she deserves the job.

"Honeypot!" was always going to be a timely episode. It was timely when it was written and shot because of all the scandals happening over the past few years with Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly and Donald Trump. But it became even more eerily timely over the past week with everything going on with Harvey Weinstein. So the relevance of this episode only increases more because of everything that is happening in the world. It also happens to be co-written by Tina Fey. This is the first time she's written an episode of this show. It's clear that she had something she wanted to say on the subject of sexual harassment. Of course, sometimes when Fey goes for a story about a sensitive subject matter, it doesn't quite work because of the specifics of the universe the show is set in. All of the race stuff on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is always problematic - especially when the show brings attention to it. And yet, this conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace is very effective on this show because it fits in quite well to this environment. Great News is about a news station where the producers want to break stories like this. There is a hierarchy of power as well. The show has confronted sexism situations before. But here, it's at the forefront of the story with a very specific gender twist to it as well. It's a twist that could have made the situation very unfortunate and preachy. However, this episode was just a lot of fun while also criticizing the way the public at large handles stories like this when someone comes forward claiming sexual harassment.

Everything starts simply enough. Diana and Katie have both gotten promotions. They've both deserved them as well. Diana continues to get promoted within this organization. She's now the head of the media conglomerate that controls MMN. It means she's leaving this position that she's been in for only three episodes. That's a tad disappointing. This season has had a strong hook and focus to it. That wasn't completely because of Tina Fey being a part of the cast. But it was beneficial as well. She bounced off these characters in some very amusing ways while also relishing the chance to play this boss lady who wants to walk around with all the power of a straight, white man. That feeling extends to the final episode of her initial arc as well. Her story is common amongst straight, white men in power. They blame their behavior on growing up during a certain time. They believe it's fully okay to just expose themselves in front of employees or sexualize them in order for them to get what they want. It's abusive and wrong. There is no justifiable explanation for this behavior. Of course, the show attempts to give one for Diana to keep her a character who is worthy of coming back one day. But right now, it's just so much fun to watch as everyone in the office realizes what's going on and try to figure out what to do about it.

Katie finds herself in the position of not taking her co-workers seriously when they come to her with claims of sexual harassment against Diana. Katie has admired Diana this entire season. She's idolized her and enjoyed having her as a mentor. And now, she's forced to confront the idea that her idol is actually a horrible person. The audience knows exactly what's going on. Katie is forced into the position of defending Diana and questioning the victim's statements. She doesn't take her co-workers at their word. She's known them for much longer. And yet, she's victim-bashing. She's wondering if they were asking for it because of how they presented themselves. She wonders why they were alone in a meeting with Diana in the first place. All of this is particularly biting commentary for this story. Katie doesn't want to be in this position but she is nevertheless. She wants to believe it's just the male gaze at work because men always think a woman is in love with them whenever they do something nice. She has a point in that argument. But that doesn't make her right in this situation because Diana is abusing her power. It never means anything to Katie until it happens to someone close to her. It's not until Carol is dragged into this mess that she starts taking it seriously. That is too often the case with these stories as well. The people at the bottom aren't believed and can come forward with a genuine claim until someone with actual power stands up to the abuser.

And so, the crew tries to lure Diana into a honeypot to get the proof they need to go to HR with these claims. It's the only way she can actually be brought down. That's another sad fact of this story. The world at large still struggles to believe people when it's just their word against someone in power. Their credibility is judged every step of the way. It takes actual evidence to make a difference. And even then, it's still an issue that is debated amongst the people because the questions still arise on how this was able to go on for so long with no one doing anything about it. Katie is informed that it's happening and it takes her awhile to actually do something to address these concerns. She's now a senior associate producer. She got that promotion because Diana actually likes the work she has been doing and not because she harasses her in the same way she does for everyone else. Of course, it's not surprising that the honeypot doesn't work at all. These characters really aren't that stealthy. They got incredibly lucky last season in exposing the scandal with Gram. This has the potential to be just as devastating. But they decide to hide behind a window where Diana can easily see them. It's great that Carol is the one who goes into the room directly asking to be sexually harassed. But it's not surprising that Diana doesn't fall for it.

And yet, the surprise of this entire story is that Diana doesn't actually want to be doing any of this. She just wants a severance package from the company. She doesn't want to be promoted. She wants to be done working. She sees this as her opportunity to actually leave with a hefty payday. She notes that Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly and Billy Bush got millions of dollars after their respective scandals broke. She just wanted that money as well. She wanted to be treated exactly the same as straight, white men in positions of power. She wanted to be just as creepy and despicable as they were. Instead, her actions rally the troops. All of them are willing to come forward with claims of abuse to give Diana exactly what she wants. Everyone willing to do that is proof for Diana that they are a team that values loyalty. She ultimately decides to take this promotion and continue being awesome without really trying too hard. It's perhaps a bit too simple of a solution. It seems written as a way to keep Diana around should the show want to bring her back at some point. It's nice to leave that door open without damaging the character in the process. It means the focus will shift back to the main characters for the next stretch of the season. But in terms of this timely story, its grand purpose in the end is saying that men are gross and horrible because they actually enjoy doing this to their employees. Diana did it for a week and got no pleasure out of it whatsoever.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Honeypot!" was written by Tina Fey & Sam Means and directed by John Riggi.
  • Of course, this episode isn't entirely about the main story with Diana sexually harassing the employees either. That's a very funny story addressing a very serious issue. But some of the even funnier material comes from Carol's story of being promoted to head intern. That's truly absurd because of what she does. But it's also just a testament to how great Andrea Martin is in this show.
  • It's just great that Carol fails to throw a pile of papers into the recycling bin when she puts pressure on herself by imagining it's a course on American Ninja Warrior. But when she doesn't have that pressure on herself, she is able to climb a wall to try to reach the balloon that is trapped on the ceiling. It's such a completely absurd but really funny moment.
  • Of the various ways Diana harassed the men of the office, which was the most amusing to see? The show knows it can't revel in the humor. But the specifics are quite funny while still being true to the seriousness. Diana asks Greg to pick up a pen very slowly, Gene to eat a banana, Wayne to dance with no music and Carol to play a card game with naked men on the cards.
  • However, the best visual of the entire episode may actually be seeing Chuck in those shorts. It's such a ridiculous reveal. It's him purposefully trying to catch the attention of women at the office and failing miserably. Diana knows she can't harass him because he would actually be into it. But it's also great that he's still wearing this outfit when he's comforting Carol about her promotion.
  • Chuck and Justin are the only two people whom Diana doesn't harass. She knows that Chuck would be into it and she values herself too much to sink down to Justin. She thought she would be stopped before going that far. Of course, Justin is the one bragging that it actually happened. Though the rest of the office wonders if he even knows what sex is.
  • So what do we think of the recurring joke that Carol's husband is heard but never seen head-on? We see him in silhouette or from the back but never from the front to reveal the actual actor playing him. It's a bit of a throwback character type. It's amusing because Carol is so demanding and he's willing to give her everything. But is that still funny at this point?