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‘Great News’ review: Andrea Martin shines in NBC comedy

John Michael Higgins and Nicole Richie star in

John Michael Higgins and Nicole Richie star in "Great News." Photo Credit: NBC / Trae Patton

THE SHOW “Great News”

WHEN|WHERE Premieres Tuesday at 9 p.m. on NBC/4

GRADE B+

WHAT IT’S ABOUT Katie Wendelson (Briga Heelan) is news producer at “The Breakdown,” a cable news show that originates out of Secaucus, New Jersey. Her mom, Carol (Andrea Martin), decides to go back to work and gets a job as an intern on the show. No problem (not). At least Carol can put bumptious anchorman Chuck Pierce (John Michael Higgins) in his place, and handles executive producer Greg (Adam Campbell) skillfully, too. Chuck likes her around because they at least share generational common ground. By contrast, he can’t understand a word his Gen X-ish co-anchor Portia (Nicole Richie) says. This 10-episode series was created by Tracey Wigfield (an Emmy winner for “30 Rock”), who also plays Beth, the oddball meteorologist. The “30 Rock” team of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock are executive producers.

MY SAY Andrea Martin is a genuine legend but most of the TV viewing nation has never even heard of her. Why? Beats me! Your loss, TV viewing nation. She’s an outstanding comic actress, and also has a couple of Tonys to prove that indisputable fact. She’s starred in a few big movies, too (Aunt Voula in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”). Your kids may remember her, or at least her voice (“The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron,” and many other animated series).

Then, there was Edith Prickley, of “SCTV,” the great ’70s comedy sketch show about a bad TV station in Melonville (Edith was the station manager). Martin has probably spread a little bit of Edith across the years and the various roles (most recently as the dyspeptic Marilyn Kessler in Hulu’s underrated “Difficult People”). There’s a hint of Edith in Carol, too — a yenta with an abundance of energy, a good heart and a lot of opinions. As always (or as expected) Martin steals the whole series. She can’t help it. She’s just that good.

In fact, comparisons here with “SCTV” are inevitable but probably misplaced. They are both about “news programs” filled with quirky characters. But “SCTV” was giddily over the top, while “Great News” is a little more restrained. Besides, “30 Rock” has already cornered the market on madcap workplace comedies set at a fictional TV show. “Great News” wisely doesn’t want any comparisons with that classic either.

So the series ambles along at its own congenial pace, lighthearted and largely without a care in the world. “Great News” can also be something of an Easter egg hunt for lovers of classic TV and classic Broadway. Vicki Lawrence turns up here, and so does Christina Pickles — Ross Geller’s mom from “Friends,” and star of the stage during the ’60s and ’70s. There are probably many others. You’ll enjoy looking for them.

BOTTOM LINE “The Andrea Martin Show” . . . err, “Great News” is a genuine pleasure.

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