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 		 [Unlike the most recent Roseanne, which was a largely political
series that frequently tried to bill itself as something other than
that, Murphy Brown declares its intentions to challenge the current
Republican Establishment.] [https://portside.org/] 

 PORTSIDE CULTURE 

 MURPHY BROWN IS BACK AND READY TO TAKE ON DONALD TRUMP  
[https://portside.org/2018-09-30/murphy-brown-back-and-ready-take-donald-trump]


 

 Jen Chaney 
 September 26, 2018
Vulture [http://www.vulture.com/2018/09/murphy-brown-cbs-review.html] 

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 _ Unlike the most recent Roseanne, which was a largely political
series that frequently tried to bill itself as something other than
that, Murphy Brown declares its intentions to challenge the current
Republican Establishment. _ 

 Joe Regalbuto, Grant Shaud, Candice Bergen, and Faith Ford in Murphy
Brown., Jojo Whilden/CBS 

 

Television is awash in reboots, remakes, and revivals
[http://www.vulture.com/2018/09/fall-tv-shows-new-reboots-revivals-2018.html] right
now. This fall alone brings us a new _Magnum, P.I._
[http://www.vulture.com/2018/09/magnum-p-i-reboot-tv-review.html]_,_ another _Charmed_,
a slightly retuned _Last Man Standing_
[http://www.vulture.com/2018/09/last-man-standing-is-unexpectedly-warm.html],
and _The Conners_, the reinvention of _Roseanne_, which just got
revived less than a year ago_. _But there’s something about
bringing back _Murphy Brown_, which makes its much-heralded return to
CBS on Thursday night, that feels right, even if it does add one more
resurrected sitcom to the heap.

When _Murphy Brown_ first hit its pop-cultural and ratings stride in
the late 1980s and early 1990s, the White House was occupied by a
conservative Republican president and vice-president, one of whom was
known for misspelling things; signs of a rising wave of feminism in
Congress were beginning to reveal themselves; and the nation became
consumed by the debate over a Supreme Court nominee accused of
harassment by a woman who publicly testified before Congress. The
new _Murphy Brown_ debuts in a landscape that contains some
parallels. The first episode
[http://www.vulture.com/2018/09/murphy-brown-recap-season-11-episode-1-fake-news.html] will
actually air on Thursday night, the same day that Dr. Christine Blasey
Ford is slated to testify before Congress regarding allegations that
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her during high
school. If these factors don’t add up to a win in Circle of Life
Bingo, I’m honestly not sure what would.

It’s obvious from the get-go of _Murphy 2.0_ that series creator
Diane English and her fellow writers welcome these kinds of
connections. The initial episodes of _Murphy Brown_ not only
announce that Murphy is back by putting her present in a historical
context — the first time we see Candice Bergen as the Murphy Brown
of now, she’s wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the phrase
“Original Nasty Woman” — they immediately establish the
comedy’s intention to pit Brown’s brand of outspoken feminism
against the politicians of today. “Oh, you bring it on!” Brown
shouts in the first episode of her new cable news show, _Murphy in
the Morning_, when Donald Trump suddenly starts trolling her on
Twitter. Lest that anyone forget that this journalist has famously
exchanged barbs with high-ranking administration officials before, she
adds, “Hashtag Dan Quayle!”

Unlike the most recent _Roseanne_
[http://www.vulture.com/2018/04/roseanne-is-a-political-series-full-stop.html],
which was a largely political series that frequently tried to bill
itself as something other than that, _Murphy Brown_declares its
intentions to challenge the current Republican Establishment and the
way the news media covers it. It is a partisan show and I respect it
for not softening its edges in an attempt to appeal to the masses,
especially on CBS, the network responsible for _NCIS_-ing the nation
into a near stupor. At the same time, _Murphy Brown_ is so
determined to tear into Trump and other aspects of contemporary
culture that it sometimes feels as if the series is being
gerrymandered to allow for that, as opposed to organically telling
stories that touch on current events.

On the positive side, the natural chemistry between the core cast
members is still alive. Just about everybody’s back: Bergen as
Murphy; Joe Regalbuto as investigative reporter and Brown’s best
friend, Frank Fontana; Faith Ford as fellow journalist Corky Sherwood,
who’s gotten less vapid with the passage of time; and Grant Shaud as
Miles, the television producer who’s somehow managed to grow even
more neurotic. (Anchor Jim Dial, played by Charles Kimbrough, isn’t
a regular, but he will make at least one appearance this season.)

That quartet, originally thrown together by their work on the network
news program _FYI_, reconnect to share seats at the glass table on
Brown’s new morning cable program. The catch? _Murphy in the
Morning_ is slated to air in the same time slot as the new show
that’s just been given to Murphy’s now grown son, Avery Brown
(Jake McDorman, who starred in _Limitless_), a progressive-minded guy
who’s been granted a platform on the Wolf Network. (That’s
supposed to be a riff on Fox News, in case you couldn’t tell.)
It’s an amusing conceit that’s also a little hard to believe:
There’s no way that Fox News or even a Fox news knockoff would hand
one of the most valuable sections of its schedule to a guy who walks
around D.C. wearing a Pod Save America T-shirt. But that setup
allows _Murphy Brown_ to create some conflict between mother and
son, a dynamic heightened by the warm yet competitive vibes generated
between Bergen and McDorman. The two complement each other quite
nicely.

That said, there’s still a lot that doesn’t quite work — or at
least not yet — in this new _Murphy_-verse. The first episode is
definitely the bumpiest of the three provided to critics, mainly
because it’s fixated on setting up the circumstances that bring
the _FYI_ team back into each other’s orbit, and also on
introducing a couple of additional new characters. (Tyne Daly joins
the cast as Phyllis, now the owner and operator of Phil’s,
Murphy’s hangout of choice, along with Nik Dodani of _Atypical_
[http://www.vulture.com/2018/09/atypical-netflix-season-2-review.html],
who plays the social-media editor for _Murphy in the Morning_.) While
the actors mesh well, the pacing is sometimes off, and the jokes are a
little too hell-bent on staying topical. In general, the comedic
targets in the new _Murphy Brown_ can be a bit obvious side: Murphy
is a Luddite when it comes to social media, Miles is so freaked out by
the chaos in contemporary America that he holes up in an apartment
inside the Watergate, Frank gets triggered by the word “Nazi,”
etc. etc.

It’s obvious that English & Co. are champing at the bit to give
Murphy the opportunity to lay into Trump and other members of his
administration, and they orchestrate the first few episodes with that
in mind, sometimes at the expense of logic. In the second episode,
“I (Don’t) Heart Huckabee,” Murphy, having been banned from the
White House, fakes her way into the press room so she can ask Sarah
Huckabee Sanders — who makes a cameo appearance via the magic of
interspersed, real-life news footage — an extended monologue of a
question. It’s a risk that someone as smart and ethical as Murphy
probably wouldn’t take, but_ Murphy Brown_ is willing to do so
because it gives Candice Bergen, still sharp as ever in her
career-defining role, the chance to stand up and say to the Trump
spokeswoman, “Why do you lie?”

Things go more smoothly in episode three, the best of the initial
batch, in which Murphy wrestles with whether or not to interview Ed
Shannon, an obvious stand-in for Steve Bannon played by David
Costabile of _Billions_ and _Breaking Bad_ fame. It helps that the
situation in this chapter of the comedy is more believable — it’s
easy to imagine Murphy’s bosses wanting her to interview Shannon for
ratings purposes — and that Murphy’s eventual face-to-face with
Shannon is less melodramatic than her confrontation of Sanders.
There’s also a valuable conversation at the heart of this episode
about the responsibility journalists should carry in this bizarre
political environment. As Jim, who pops up to offer some advice,
sagely puts it: “You don’t have to give equal time to someone who
claims Tom Hanks is running a shadow government.” It’s clear
that _Murphy Brown_ has the potential to become a more astute,
well-oiled machine as the new season progresses and the cast and crew
establishes firmer footing.

“Vintage Murphy Brown — that’s what I wanted to see on TV,”
Miles says to Murphy after observing her conversation with Shannon.
That’s what I expect longtime fans of _Murphy Brown_ will want to
see, too, and they’ll probably be pleased on that front. Murphy’s
attitude and the sensibility of the series haven’t changed too much,
even though the times most certainly have. The appearance of a special
guest star — whose scene was purposely left out of the first episode
shown to critics to maintain the surprise — may also turn the
premiere into something of a talker.

Plus, Bergen looks like she’s having a ball. In the kicker that ends
the first episode — the one where Trump refers to Brown as “Old
Murphy” during their live-televised Twitter war, which results in
strong ratings out of the gate for _Murphy in the Morning_ —
Murphy says to herself with a sense of deep satisfaction, “Old
Murphy, my ass.” She understands a truth that so much of the current
TV landscape is reflecting: Everything old apparently has the capacity
to be at least somewhat new again.

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