TV news is stripped bare in new show Notorious
There’s no business like show business. But what happens when the news business becomes show business? Judging from the new TV drama Notorious, things get shadier than those sunglasses Corey Hart wears at night.
In Notorious, top TV news producer Julia George (Piper Perabo) and defence attorney Jake Gregorian (Daniel Sunjata) have a secret symbiotic relationship — she gives him airtime, he gives her ratings-bait — that’s built to further both of their careers.
It’s based on the real-life dynamic between Larry King Live news producer Wendy Walker and criminal defence attorney Mark Geragos. Kevin Zegers (Gracepoint) plays Jake’s client Oscar, a billionaire who’s caught in a hit-and-run that lands a teenager in the hospital.
“I’ve seen in the past five or 10 years the difference in how the news is told, and how it’s much more entertainment than it used to be. They obviously still do the news, but it’s as much about getting viewers,” says Zegers, a native of Woodstock, Ont.
“If I watch CNN, it’s a different animal than straight news-telling used to be. I don’t know if that’s bad or good, but it’s just the way it is.”
Part of the equation is the changing way in which citizens consume their news. It’s not just TV ratings that matter. It’s clickbait and viral clips and social media buzz, oh my.
“We don’t live in the Walter Cronkite world, where everyone sits around for an hour to find out what’s going on. Most of my friends — certainly my younger friends — they go to Twitter for their information or Facebook,” Zegers says.
“People will find out what they want. You can always find a station that has your point of view.”
Notorious isn’t the first TV series to examine the behind-the-scenes antics at a news station, but it’s a long way from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Witness the premiere, in which Julia has sex in her office mere minutes before the broadcast goes live.
Notorious also banks on the kind of pull-back-the-curtain spirit that makes Lifetime’s drama UnREAL, about the producers of a dating reality show, a hit with both critics and viewers.
But perhaps a more apt contrast comes with HBO’s now-defunct The Newsroom, starring Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer. While that series focused on a news team that aspired to high journalistic standards despite corporate and commercial challenges, Notorious delights in the murkier matters.
“Certainly the stuff at the news station (in Notorious), I thought it was very much like (The Newsroom). I love that show. I think it’s so interesting to find out how things get on the show and what doesn’t, and how stories are skewed for specific viewers,” says Zegers.
“I definitely found that to be a good template for what this show is. It moves really fast — this is not a slow-burn show. It comes at you fast and hard, and there’s a lot of different things going on.”
Notorious debuts Thursday, Sept. 22, on CTV/ABC