Nicole Richie can do it all. She can turn "reality" TV stardom into a fashion business. She can satirize herself (remember Candidly Nicole?). And now, she can be a network comedy's pitch-perfect secret weapon.
Our latest UnCover star Richie just made her big-time broadcast debut in NBC's 30 Rock heir apparent, Great News. The newbie series comes stacked with comedy credentials, from creator-producer Tracey Wigfield — who started her producer-writer streak on 30 Rock and became a Mindy Project MVP — and fellow star Andrea Martin, who I will always see as Aunt Voula from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It would be easy to assume the girl who we first met on The Simple Life wouldn't hold her own next to comedy veterans.
But, you know what they say about assuming.
As Great News’s pilot proves, Richie is more than up for the challenge. In fact, it might just be a challenge for her scene partners to keep up. The series premiere introduces the House of Harlow designer’s character, news anchor Portia, as an extreme foil to her curmudgeon co-anchor Chuck (John Michael Higgins). While the Old School News Man rails against Twitter and Apple Watches, Portia gets all the fun lines as The Breakdown show-within-a-show's millennial It-Girl.
She’s exhausted because her football-playing fiancé just won the lewdest touchdown dance award. She wants to anchor a piece questioning "Why Is Bathroom Water Sweeter Than Kitchen Water?" And she hates Ivanka Trump because the First Daughter farted in her face at SoulCycle. Please imagine trying not to laugh on set while Nicole Richie says that with a straight face and then beams over the ridiculousness.
One of the subtly funniest moments of "Pilot" is when lead Katie (Briga Heelan) asks Portia if she could hang on for one second and the anchor takes her literally. You can see Richie look up, count one beat in her head, and then start talking a single moment later. It's perfect. These kinds of scenes could make Portia simply seem vapid, but it’s clear Richie is in on the joke, which gives the role a knowing quality. The ex-celebutante had enough practice playing the same sensibility in Simple Life after all.
Thankfully, this wasn’t just a premiere installment fluke. In the second episode, "Bear Attack," Portia espouses the importance of a "well-reasoned opinion" over hard news in the digital era, sounding exactly like a talking Communications 101 textbook. Seconds later she asks what "a Walter Cronkite is." Portia also serves up a three-level weekend-Weeknd-Weekend joke involving Avicii that is so complex, it reduces Chuck, a designated Old, into a spiraling, confused mess.
Everyone, please prepare for Nicole Richie’s inevitable Best Supporting Actress In A Comedy Emmy push.