Why This Matter
The Television newsroom has been the backdrop for some of the more memorable comedies on TV, and a couple of new network shows tapping the local news world are hoping they can achieve some of the same staying power. The Michael J. FoxShow, debuting on NBC Sept. 26, and The Millers, premiering on CBS Oct. 3, both feature lead characters working on-air in local television. “We built a news set,” says Greg Garcia, creator and executive producer on The Millers, which stars Will Arnett as a reporter at the fictitious WXDN in Leesburg, Va. “We’ll explore that world a bit.”
Shows depicting the TV news world include network settings (Murphy Brown, The Newsroom), radio (NewsRadio), cable (SportsNight) and stations (Back to You, a short-lived 2007 comedy created by Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd). The Mary Tyler Moore Show of course starred Moore as a producer at WJM Minneapolis. That particular choice stemmed from creator James L. Brooks’ time working at CBS News. “A newsroom would lend a sense of everyday reality to the series, as well as provide conflict—it would be a loser station constantly struggling with ratings,” wrote Jennifer Keishin Armstrong in her book, Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted.
Fox plays former star WNBC New York anchor Mike Henry who, after retiring due to Parkinson’s disease, is driving his family bonkers, prompting his return to 30 Rock. Will Gluck, cocreator and executive producer, says the dynamic between Fox’s celebrity around town and lack of respect at home causes comedic sparks. “We wanted Mike to be famous,” he says. “To the rest of the world, he’s a hero, but his kids don’t care.”
The pilot is full of local news settings, along with cameos from Today show stars. Gluck says the rest of the series won’t be as news-heavy. “We use very little here’s-Mike- Henry-chasing-a-scoop,” Gluck says. “We use it more as a workplace.”
Like The Millers, the Fox show has its own faux news set. “Dare I say, it’s even nicer than WNBC’s,” Gluck says.
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Garcia, who previously created My Name Is Earl and Raising Hope, says his decision to give Arnett’s Nathan Miller a reporter job spawned in part from the ubiquitous YouTube clips of local TV anchors cursing, screaming at spiders or committing other missteps on camera. “I think there are all kinds of fun local news stories to be had,” says Garcia. “There’s a lot of comedy to mine there.”
The pilot features a couple of remotes from Miller. Comic J. B. Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm) plays his photographer and pal.
Creating a comedy that sticks is as tricky as live television, and both shows are in full marketing mode. The Millers may have gotten a slight boost from a recent film called We’re the Millers. Garcia says friends have remarked that they’ve seen the billboard for what they thought was his new show. “If they think Jennifer Aniston is in The Millers, that’s great,” he says. “Maybe we can draft off that.”