As TruTV continues redefining its niche, “Breaking Greenville” seems to offer an example of the network’s direction, for good and (mostly) ill. Basically a reality sitcom – think “The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s” newsroom setting meets “Green Acres” – the show centers on dueling newscasts in the tiny TV market of Greenville, Miss. (No. 190 out of 210 in the U.S.), a place viewed as a pit-stop by younger talent, and home by their older colleagues. While that might be a source of conflict, it’s played for laughs in a series whose reality is clouded by the participants’ eagerness to please.
Take Lucy Biggers, the co-anchor of the morning newscast on WAGB, who unabashedly yearns to be the next Kelly Ripa. Biggers has a bad habit of saying “Awesome” on air and, prodded by her producer-cameraman, high-fives a local farmer while taping a field piece, much to the chagrin of her news director, Pam Chatman.
That’s juxtaposed in the premiere with Biggers’ morning-TV rival, WXVT’s Callie Carroll, who is overweight and comes up with a stunt that involves weighing herself on the show. Her newsroom includes silver-haired anchor-meteorologist Steve Schill, portrayed (er, make that presented) as a Ted Baxter type.
Inevitably, the small-market limitations create logical sources of comedy – things don’t always work the way they’re intended while doing live broadcasts – as does the occasional ineptitude of the on-air personalities.
Alas, those interesting aspects of small-town news – people biding their time in the minor leagues, waiting to get called up to a larger market – and the “Waiting for Guffman” vibe that the network seems to be after are lost amid the sniping, goofy musical cues and quirky, Southern-fried characters, which have been a TruTV staple. The premiere also goes out of its way, questionably, to set up a competition of sorts between the two young, blonde female anchors.
Perhaps foremost, there’s a nagging sense that some of those featured no doubt see this national exposure as a possible ticket to the big (or at least bigger) time, even if they have to wear clown noses and floppy shoes to accomplish that.
“Breaking Greenville” lands amid a stretch of new TruTV series mixing comedy and reality in various ways. The program’s footing in media, however, will likely draw more scrutiny than, say, the week’s other new entry, “Kart Life,” about “kart-racing kids and their pit-crew parents.”
Granted, given the gradual drift of local news, one could argue that the medium has already turned itself into something of a joke long before this. What seems clear is that while those taking part in “Breaking Greenville” should be better versed in the language of TV than the average reality player, they might not fully grasp the distorting lens of docu-comedy conventions.
Either way, as much as these small-market news folk might want to capitalize on this moment in the spotlight, they don’t exactly turn the world on with their smiles.