Tina Fey recruits Andrea Martin for new NBC series 'Great News'
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It was probably inevitable that Tina Fey and Andrea Martin would work together on a TV series.
Fey, the former "Saturday Night Live" star and "30 Rock" creator, has long been a fan of the "SCTV" icon.
"I have loved Andrea Martin from afar for so many years," Fey wrote for the cover blurb of Martin's 2014 autobiography, "but now, after reading this funny and heroically honest book, I would like to take things to the 'next level' and marry her."
Instead, she hired her to play Carol, the overbearing mother of a news producer on the new NBC sitcom "Great News," which premieres Tuesday.
The premise: what happens when your meddlesome mother becomes an intern at the TV station where you work? It's a nightmare for 30-year-old producer Katie (played by Briga Heelan) as mom nudges her to marry the news team's young executive producer (Adam Campbell) and wins over a stuffy co-anchor (John Michael Higgins).
Fey's "SNL" mate Horatio Sanz plays Katie's workplace confidant, while Nicole Richie plays Portia, the news magazine's hip young co-host.
"I'm learning so much from Andrea and all these incredible comedy veterans," says Richie, the former "The Simple Life" star who is now a 35-year-old mother of two.
Tracey Wigfield plays the station's ditzy weathergirl; she's also the creator and an executive producer on the workplace comedy.
"The show is based on my relationship with my mother, and the character of Carol is very much based on my mom," Wigfield told reporters at NBC's press launch earlier this year in Pasadena, Calif. Wigfield used to work for Fey as a writer on "30 Rock" and her mother would constantly come and visit, gabbing with everyone from the stage hands to star Alec Baldwin.
"Tina was very smart to think of Andrea immediately because she does have such a warm kind of maternal energy, and she's like a hilarious elf."
Fey says she grew up watching Martin play station manager Edith Prickley and all kinds of other characters on "SCTV."
"I was an advocate of us going out to her as soon as we had the script," says Fey. "I think her chops are in peak form."
At 70, Martin shows no signs of slowing down. Last December, she was part of NBC's live musical adaptation "Hairspray Live!" She's also currently playing a mother on the Hulu series "Difficult People," executive produced by Fey's pal Amy Poehler. When she's not performing on one of her two TV shows, she's travelling with her musical director, putting on one-woman shows.
The actress, who considers Toronto a second home, is also a two-time Tony Award winner. She won best actress awards for "My Favorite Year" in 1993 and for the revival of "Pippin" in 2013. She also has two Emmys for writing on "SCTV."
An attempt at starring in a sitcom produced in Canada, "Working the Engels," quickly fizzled. The 2014 effort had a summer run cut short on NBC.
Martin had more success hosting the 2016 Canadian Screen Awards. In a gag that opened the show, she took a pratfall on the red carpet and fell legs akimbo with her private parts blurred out. Cheeky Martin picked herself up and blurted out, "Talk about 50 shades of grey!"
That's the kind of zany energy and humour that amazes Fey. She sees Martin as a rare example of an actress who can combine "such incredible comedy precision in addition to all that warmth."
— Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.