As real world Hollywood finds itself embroiled with the Harvey Weinstein scandal, art will be imitating life on Tracey Wigfield’s NBC comedy “Great News.” In this case, though, the accused is the new head of fictional television station MMN, Diana St. Tropez (guest star Tina Fey).
“It felt like a timely and appropriate topic for a show that takes place at cable news network. So many stories keep coming out about men in positions of power harassing women in the workplace and then getting fired with a massive payout,” Wigfield tells Variety.
In the third episode of the second season, entitled “Honeypot!”, Diana gets promoted to become the head of the corporation that owns the network. But before she can say good-bye to the colorful characters that make up the staff of MMN’s news program “The Breakdown,” one of them tells a story in passing that ends up turning into much more serious sexual harassment allegations.
“Too bad Diana’s leaving, I totally could have hit that,” Horatio Sanz’s Justin tells his co-workers. “She came into my edit bay and tried to French all over me.”
While they brush it off at first because of the nature of his character, it becomes a much bigger deal that involves others on the staff and leaves Katie (Briga Heelan) questioning who should be believed: the powerful woman who has become her mentor or her long-time colleagues and friends. After all, she argues, men always think women are in love with them just for being the “slightest bit nice” to them.
“Honeypot!” will see characters debating how many people need to come forward before an allegation is taken seriously, as well as why powerful people may abuse their positions. As the title suggests, there is also an element of trying to entrap Diana to prove she is truly the aggressor of which she is being accused.
“We wanted to show male characters being harassed and not believed to point out how unfair it is that female victims are often forced to defend themselves and aren’t given the benefit of the doubt. You would never ask a man what he was doing in his boss’s office late at night or if he was ‘asking for it’ because of what he was wearing. By putting men in that situation, we hoped to highlight the absurdity of it,” Wigfield says.
The stories on “Great News” are broken months before episodes air, and in the case of “Honeypot!” Wigfield says it was “one of the first stories” her writers room talked about this summer when they started up again for the second season. The episode was also always intended to the be the third episode of the season, Wigfield shares, so any thematic or release date connection to Weinstein is coincidental.
As a half-hour comedy, “Great News” is taking on the hot button topic in a decidedly humorous way, but the discussion, especially with its cosmically timely nature, is still of the utmost importance. “I’m just glad the discussion is happening. It feels like a welcome change that women are starting to feel a little safer coming forward with their stories,” Wigfield says.
The episode will also discuss ageism within the workplace in a storyline featuring Carol (Andrea Martin) getting promoted to Head Intern and not fitting in with the new hires.
New episodes of “Great News” are on Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on NBC. “Honeypot!” airs on Oct. 12.