‘Great News’ Creator on Sexual Harassment Episode: ‘It’s an Issue in a Lot of Industries’ (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
Great News, NBC’s sophomore comedy created by Tracey Wigfield, tackles sexual harassment in the workplace. The episode, airing Thursday night at 9:30 p.m. ET, arrives in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein made in The New York Times and The New Yorker.
While allegations of sexual harassment continue to mount against Weinstein, the studio mogul released a statement following the original Times expose, saying he came of age in the '60s and '70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different.”
“I appreciate the way I've behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it,” the statement continued. Weinstein’s attorney, Charles Harder, then issued a separate statement calling the Times story “saturated with false and defamatory statements,” and threatened to sue the paper.
In the episode (“Honeypot!”), a powerful female executive, Diana (played by executive producer Tina Fey) finds herself embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal when it’s discovered that she’s using her status and power in the office to coerce her male subordinates to perform questionable tasks.
"Our show is set at a cable news network, and it seemed like story after story was coming out about sexual harassment in that world,” Wigfield tells ET of the episode co-written by Fey and producer Sam Means. “It’s an issue in a lot of industries, but the abusers in TV news seem to be some of the most prominent.”
Announced by NBC in September that “Honeypot!” was to air on Oct. 12, it’s a coincidence that it comes as the Weinstein scandal continues to unfold. To further Wigfield’s point, the episode makes direct mention of Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and Billy Bush, who was with Donald Trump when the future president made sexually disparaging comments about women and getting away with lewd behavior on an Access Hollywood tour bus, while Diana complains about not being afforded the same multimillion-dollar payout those men received to leave their networks after allegations of misconduct surfaced. “I have fought for workplace equality for 25 years. I just want what the men get: $40 million to go away,” says Diana, who is described by Wigfield as a “Sheryl Sandberg-type superwoman, who would love to make Jack Donaghy cry for sport.”
Furthering the episode’s gender reversal is Katie (Briga Heelan), who publicly doubts accusations made by her male co-workers in an effort to defend her mentor. By doing this, it gives the show an opportunity to “make a point about how a male victim would never be accused of ‘asking for it’ by working late at night with a female superior or by dressing a certain way,” Wigfield says. “Women who come forward with allegations of abuse rarely seem to get the benefit of the doubt, even when there are literally 60 of them telling the same story and their abusers have bragged about it on camera.”
Meanwhile, the biting episode is nothing new for Fey, who addressed rumors surrounding Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein before allegations were made public on 30 Rock. In a 2012 episode (“Kidnapped by Danger”) written by Fey, Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) says she’s not afraid of anyone in show business. “I turned down intercourse with Harvey Weinstein on no less than three occasions out of five.”
On a later 30 Rock episode, Jenna makes reference to Weinstein again, saying, "I know how former lovers can have a hold over you long after they're gone. In some ways, I'm still pinned under a passed-out Harvey Weinstein and it's Thanksgiving."
“Luckily, we don’t have to just allude to rumors about men like this anymore. Women are getting more confident about coming forward with their stories, so now it’s up to us to make sure they’re believed and treated fairly,” says Wigfield, who previously worked with Fey, writing for 30 Rock.
And when it comes to Great News shaping up to be a biting farce that reflects the media and entertainment industry in a similar way 30 Rock often did, with episodes touching on the Taylor-Katy feud, mansplaining and what it means to be a female CEO, Wigfield says “it’s important to me that the show be relevant and have something to say. That said, also in this episode, Andrea Martin's character falls through the ceiling trying to get a balloon, so the show's not exactly Frontline.”