Great News starts tonight (April 25) on NBC, the latest show created by 30 Rock veteran Tracey Wigfield and co-produced by her fellow 30 Rock-ers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock.
Central to the story is Katie Wendelson (Briga Heelan), a 30-year-old news producer desperate to earn some hard-hitting story assignments, and her low-flying helicopter mom Carol (Andrea Martin), who’s been hired as an intern for The Breakdown‘s old-school, arrogant co-anchor Chuck Pierce (John Michael Higgins).
And yes, like 30 Rock, it’s set in the behind-the-scenes bedlam of a TV show, though this one is a national cable news program broadcast from Secaucus, New Jersey.
As such, it joins a long line of comedies satirizing the world of news, from sitcoms to sketch and panel shows. At a time when the news seems beyond satire, let’s take a look at the shows that poked fun at the news media almost as much as the news itself.
The Frost Report (1966 – 1967)
The Frost Report (1966 – 1967) established satire as a staple of British comedy, with shows like Not the Nine O’Clock News drawing heavily on it. A sketch-based show hosted by David Frost, it mercilessly lampooned politicians and society’s foibles with a mix of topical monologues, short routines and comic songs by singer-songwriters like Tom Lehrer. Not only that, but its writers included promising newcomers John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, and Terry Jones, though what happened to them has been lost to history.
The Day Today (1994)
This landmark satirical show from Four Lions director Chris Morris didn’t just have the news in its sights, but the news agenda as well. Twenty years on, in a world of twitterstorms, fake headlines and 24-hour rolling news, its items on “exploding bomb dogs,” backstreet dentists, and Australia declaring war on Hong Kong live on TV no longer seem absurd, but frighteningly prescient.
Have I Got News For You (1990 -)
A number of panel shows have attempted to skewer the news, but none so successfully as this long-running institution of British TV. Comedians, politicians and journalists sift over the week’s news, all the while presided over by a guest host, including such luminaries as David Tennant, Daniel Radcliffe, Sir Patrick Stewart, Jennifer Saunders, and Tom Hollander.
The Daily Show (1996 -)
Comedy Central’s daily news satire was initially a modest success, but all that was set to change when Jon Stewart arrived in 1999. Alongside contributors such as Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell, he set about giving the show a radical voice that has been imitated all around the world. (Don’t believe us? Then check out this report from Germany’s heute-show.)
The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970 – 1977)
Mary Tyler Moore famously tossed her hat in the air, argued for equal pay and revealed she was on the pill, among other memorable and groundbreaking Mary Tyler Moore Show moments. The whole thing is set at WJM-TV, which happens to be the area’s lowest-rated station, where Mary lands a job as an associate producer of the evening news.
Time Trumpet (2006)
This sketch show from Veep creator Armando Iannucci turned traditional news satire on its head: set 25 years in the future, it featured comedians as various “talking heads” reminiscing on the major news events of the first 30 years of the 21st century. Confused? You should be. Using special effects and aged-up actors, it “looked back” on the War on Terror, the shenanigans of an “increasingly odd” Tom Cruise, and that time in 2013 a major U.K. supermarket chain invaded Denmark:
Drop the Dead Donkey (1990 – 1998)
As a sitcom set in a news organization, this show has more in common with Great News and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Its inserts from field reporters such as Damien Day (Brassed Off‘s Stephen Tomkinson), however, showed the ruthlessness of the news agenda, satirizing its impact on events almost as much as the news.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014 -)
John Oliver‘s turn as “Senior British Correspondent” on the Daily Show quickly made him one of the show’s most popular contributors. Not only did it briefly get him Jon Stewart‘s seat when the host took a few weeks off to make a film, but it also got him his own show. Last Week Tonight takes a weekly swipe at the news, deliberately focussing on subjects that could be considered abstruse. His monologue in 2014 about “net neutrality,” for example, explained a complex policy issue in such a funny, simple and astute way, it was considered by many to have transformed the debate.
InfoMania (2007 – 2011)
A half-hour weekly satirical news-show that aired on Current TV, InfoMania promised to “sort through the 24-hour, multi-screen media chaos in search of the ridiculous, the funny, and the ridiculously funny.” It mocked media conventions, lambasted popular culture, but eventually went the way of Current TV.
Not the Nine O’Clock News (1979 – 1982)
This anarchic and influential British sketch show was the breeding ground for many talents, including Blackadder‘s Rowan Atkinson. On this side of the pond, it inspired HBO’s Not Necessarily the News, which featured Rich Hall and his “singlets,” Jan Hooks, and Annabelle Gurwitch. The talent didn’t end on camera, either: Behind the scenes on the writing team were Conan O’Brien and Greg Daniels.
What’s your all-time favorite comedy news show?Read More