A tired ‘Murphy Brown’ returns to take on Trump
Regarding Donald Trump humor, there’s not much fresh material in the writing of CBS’s “Murphy Brown” revival, Thursday at 9:30 p.m. So many of the jokes — about buying Ivanka’s shoes for a dollar per pair, or about the orange Trump being Facebook friends with Putin, or about the right-wing network where “all the women are dead behind the eyes,” as Murphy puts it — have already made the rounds on social media, probably months or even years ago.
Yes, we get to see the famous Murphy Brown, now hosting a morning cable show, deliver the punch lines, with the kind of moral rage and dry humor we’d expect from her. We get to see her sneak into a White House press briefing and go off on Sarah Huckabee Sanders — or clips of Sanders — about transparency and government. “If we can’t get to the truth,” she yells, the sitcom world’s original journalist with integrity, “why are we even here?” There’s some satisfaction in those moments for fans, since Murphy, still played by Candice Bergen with spine to spare, was a “nasty woman” long before the phrase went viral.
But still, the political jokes are relentless and relentlessly tired, leading to a sense of smug overkill. The revival opens with a montage of the 2016 presidential election set to “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones. Get it? GET IT? Obviously, Trump is not going to call to congratulate Candice Bergen — as he did Roseanne Barr — if the show brings in big ratings. Those viewers who support Trump and his cultural prerogatives are not going near this one. But even those on board for some bashing, and for some concern about Trump’s idea of the media as the “enemy of the people,” are likely going to get a little bored.
The rest of the new “Murphy Brown” doesn’t help matters, alas. In order to make her new show, called “Murphy in the Morning,” Murphy gets the old gang back together, and they are exhausting. Miles (Grant Shaud) is over the top with neurosis, and Corky (Faith Ford) is over the top with menopause. Her hot flash on the air during a segment about global warming is sitcom kookiness at its worst. Little asides about Dan Quayle and Aretha Franklin, referring back to the “Murphy” canon, help. And Tyne Daly, who makes a “Cagney & Lacey” joke, is a plus as Phil’s sister, who has taken over his bar.
But the only part of the new “Murphy Brown” that’s truly promising is the relationship between Murphy and her now-adult son, Avery, well-played by Jake McDorman. They bicker beautifully, as Avery decides to host a show as a token liberal on the “Wolf Network,” and you feel a familiarity between them that explains all we need to know about the past 20 years.
Their moments together have all the unforced chemistry and good humor that’s in short supply elsewhere on the show.