For the past few days, TV has been obsessed with news of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment-and-worse. From the cable news channels to frothy shows like Entertainment Tonight, it’s a lot of Harvey a lot of the time. On NBC, Megyn Kelly — much in need of a subject for which she can revive the prosecutorial zeal that powered her successful Fox News career — has found the Weinstein subject a perfect test case for her reinvention as a morning-show inspirational guru. Fox News, led by Tucker Carlson, has twisted the story into constant Democrat-bashing, because of course all prominent Dems starting with Hillary Clinton are expected to know all the details of every one of their donors’ private lives, apparently. On Wednesday night, Carlson hauled out a different Harvey — TMZ honcho and big Donald Trump supporter Harvey Levin — to update Carlson and confirm Tucker’s suddenly thorough knowledge of Hollywood insiders (to quote one of his show’s chyrons: “Lying Hollywood, the Media All Knew About Weinstein”).
In the midst of all this comes Thursday night’s episode of the very funny sitcom Great News, which just happens to have had scheduled an episode entitled “Honeypot!” In it, producer Tina Fey reappears in her recurring role as MMS news network head Diana St. Tropez. Diana seems to have sexually objectified producer Greg (Adam Campbell) and other men in the office, and it’s left to our hero Katie (Briga Heelan) to decide how best to blow the whistle on Diana’s behavior. (The episode’s title is very much in topical currency — the New Yorker’s Weinstein piece refers to the “honeypot” of Weinstein assistants that would be used to lull young women into thinking they wouldn’t be alone with Weinstein, but who would then leave the room.)
You’d think the awfulness of Weinstein’s reported behavior would put a damper on the idea of using this subject as comedy fodder. However, Fey and Great News creator Tracey Wigfield provide a glowing example of the way art can triumph over life — of the way even the lowest subject can inspire laughter, if approached in the right way. Great News begins by reversing the usual sexual roles for aggressor and victim, and in doing so is able to score solid points about the almost absurd degree to which workplace offenders are too often given the benefit of the doubt. In one of the best moments, Katie, newly promoted to senior assistant producer, is required to question the men’s stories, asking what they were wearing that might have provoked Diana’s lust. The episode is crammed with jokes and factoids, including the extraordinary sums real-life accused-creeps Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and Trump-enabler Billy Bush were paid by their employers to “just go away.”
If “Honeypot!” brings in viewers who don’t normally watch Great News, it will be a blessing. This show is underhyped and excellent, bursting with media-savvy jokes in the manner of Fey’s 30 Rock (itself timely once again for its tart Weinstein humor). And in co-star Andrea Martin, Great News adds another layer of social commentary to its humor: the ageism to which Martin’s senior citizen Carol is subjected in the workplace. I’d say that this harassment-themed episode is uncanny in its timeliness — Nicole Richie’s character Portia talks about her work experience with Ailes — but what this really means is that Fey and company have known for a long time that predatory sexual behavior is so ingrained in our society that they can build an episode around it, and every viewer will be able to recognize a situation he or she knows from real life. How nice, however briefly, to be able to laugh and blow off steam around this explosive topic.
Great News airs Thursday nights at 9:30 p.m. on NBC.
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