Great News / NBC

The Greg and Katie romance initially felt like a somewhat obligatory byproduct of Great News. Workplace sitcoms need romantic relationships to survive even if they’re not developed organically. Fans and network suits alike love it when two characters that work together hook up. Tracey Wigfield bypassed the will-they-won’t-they nonsense in Great News’ first season by almost exclusively focusing on the relationship between Katie and Carol. Now that the series is in its second season, it’s inevitable that the focus will shift to other members of the ensemble and to Greg and Katie. It’s just the way it goes.

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It’s a relief and a liability that Great News hasn’t done a ton of legwork depicting Greg and Katie’s burgeoning romance. We’ve seen a lot of it before and there’s no reason treading old territory, but it also renders episodes like “Catfight” a little bit lacking because there isn’t a long enough history between the two characters for it to truly pop. Fortunately, Briga Heelan and Adam Campbell have good on-screen chemistry, and “Catfight” successfully captures Greg and Katie’s developing relationship in a couple crucial scenes. They’re playing pistachio basketball and saying things at the same time and everything!

Of course, Carol decides to speed their romance along by bringing Greg’s fiancée Cat (Jayma Mays, star of NBC’s Trial & Error and Adam Campbell’s real wife) to the newsroom on Greg’s birthday to make Katie jealous. Katie tries to get her mother to call of the plan, but sure enough, the four of them embark on an awkward lunch together so Carol can poke holes in the happy couple’s relationship. But Cat successfully sells her relationship with Greg, and by the end of lunch, Carol has switched from #TeamKatie to #TeamCat. This is all it takes to get Katie to prove to her mother that Greg isn’t in love with Cat, but that just takes the form of Katie desperately trying to get Greg to notice her.

Meanwhile, Chuck has recently acquired an alt-right fanbase after Diana St. Tropez orders Justin to green screen right-wing imagery on Chuck’s ties during The Breakroom. An old-school journalist who worships at the altar of impartiality, Chuck is horrified that people believe he has taken a position on anything, so he goes on air to set the record straight, against the explicit wishes of his co-anchor Portia. By the end of Chuck’s apology, Twitter has exploded—the right hates him for abandoning the cause and the left hates him for taking a privileged neutral position. Soon, Chuck is getting glitter bombs and death threats all because he doesn’t want to take a side.

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It’s an interesting B-plot that genuinely addresses a legitimate shift in journalism regarding perceived neutrality. “It’s prison rules now. You either pick a side or everyone kicks the crap out of you,” Portia informs Chuck, and she’s right. Journalists aren’t stenographers, and it’s not evidence of bias to point out lies, even if that means you’re “taking a side.” Chuck came up during the Cronkite era when neutrality projected authority, so he naturally doesn’t understand that being Switzerland has no value now. Credited writers Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan shine with this subplot, instilling Chuck’s debacle with cheeky topical jokes and semi-incisive political commentary. Plus, Higgins and Richie have become an effective duo on the show, playing off each other’s strengths very well. By the end of the episode, Portia convinces Chuck to go on the air and state incoherent contradictory opinions that confuses people on both sides of the aisle. Chuck doesn’t have to take a position and Portia proves herself a worthy co-anchor in his eyes.

In the A-plot, Katie eventually embarrasses herself at Greg’s surprise karaoke birthday party by desperately trying to imply they have a close relationship via a terrible rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “The Smell.” It’s a good choice on Siegal and Morgan’s part not to push a confrontation between Katie and Cat (the title “Catfight” turned out to be both a pun and a misdirect) and simply focus on Katie’s own repressed emotions. In the end, Katie accepts that she has feelings for Greg and presents him with her birthday present—a nice, plain blinder. Visibly moved, Greg tells her that she “sees him,” which opens up avenues for romance in the future. Cat and Greg may be able to perform a dynamite version of Chicago’s “You’re The Inspiration,” but Katie knows that Greg would take office supplies over a surprise party any day. It’s details like that that make slapdash office romances work.

Stray observations

  • The two jokes that made me laugh out loud: Greg screaming, “TINY DUNKIRK!” when the Breakdown team surprises him for his birthday, and Chuck’s Christopher Walken impression turning out to just be an Austin Powers imitation.
  • Back in the day, Walter Cronkite gave Chuck a $25 gift card to Coconuts, but unfortunately, all the locations closed before Chuck could redeem it.
  • In the Great News world, Tom Hanks is the only Hollywood celebrity who hasn’t exposed himself. That might be our reality, too.
  • “My birthday should be like any other day. Very bad, but also very long.”
  • “I’m like Switzerland! Completely impartial and I love chocolate and knives!”
  • “Once you’ve been claimed by either side you’re stuck with it. Look at Michael Moore. You think he still wants to be a liberal crusader? You can tell by the way he dresses he clearly wants to be a pornographer.”
  • “Carol, you gotta get to it. We’re gonna run out of hallway.”
  • “Birthdays stink. You only get the one wish, and it’s like, am I gonna be a goody two shoes and ask for world peace, or am I gonna ask for what I really want: Something stronger than coffee but not all the way to cocaine.”

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