Murphy Brown





Paul Asay

TV Series Review

ANNOUNCER: This just in: Murphy Brown is back. I repeat, Murphy Brown is back. Now, for a follow-up report, we go to Peevish Landry, outside this fictional version of CBS headquarters. Peevish, tell us what you see.

PEEVISH: Um … Murphy Brown.

ANNOUNCER: Fascinating! Remarkable! And how does she look?


Make Fictional Television Journalism Great Again?

Relaunches of old shows are hardly news these days. We’ve seen it with Will & Grace and Fuller House, The X-Files and Roseanne. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they flop. And sometimes, as we saw with Roseanne, they spectacularly self-destruct (though ABC is hoping to keep the old locomotive going with its Roseanne-free Roseanne show, The Conners).

In some respects, that makes the return of Murphy Brown—originally a 1988-98 sitcom that focused on a story-hungry, praise-hungry television journalist and her wacky cabal of co-workers—rather unremarkable. But given today’s political climate, Murphy’s return to television—both as a fictional character and a real-life show—is noteworthy indeed.

In the relaunch, Murphy hops back into television journalism following the election of Donald Trump, determined to push against what she sees as fake news and outrageous political behavior. She helms a new daily morning show, titled (perhaps a bit uncreatively) Murphy in the Morning, joined by longtime associates Corky Sherwood and Frank Fontana. Miles Silverberg is back to produce, but he’s joined behind the camera by Pat Patel, a social media guru who puts the sizzle in SEO.

But Murphy has some new on-air competition in the form of her son, Avery. We first met the kid way back in Murphy Brown’s first run, when Murphy chose to give birth and raise the boy as a single mother (which earned the scorn of the real vice president at the time, Dan Quayle). Now he’s all grown up and a journalist in his own right—heading up his very own news program on the Wolf network. (Get it?) And while Murph and Avery care a great deal for each other, nothing’s going to get in the way of Murphy’s quest to be the most-talked-about journalist in the country again. Not even her own boy.

Red State, Brown State

We might find a bit of irony in the meta-premise of Murphy Brown’s return: so-called “fake news” being excoriated by a fictional journalist. But there’s little question that the show has more on its mind than just laughs. It aims to take on the current political clime with both of its sitcom barrels. (One sit, the other com, I guess.) It perhaps hopes to encourage some of its right-leaning viewers to think about issues from a different perspective while egging on a hearty hurrah from its left-leaning ones.

That makes the new Murphy Brown feel a little preachy at times; and naturally, the show’s very nature will likely undercut any deep soul searching. Folks of conservative political persuasions, if they tune in at all, might likely tune out quickly, mad. Murphy Brown is unapologetically a center-left show, one that will surely mine Donald Trump’s hair for a punchline and will gladly open its doors to a Hillary Clinton cameo (which happened in the very first episode).

But for those who buy into the show’s traditionally progressive conceit—or for those who can set their political leanings aside—Murphy Brown’s also a relatively clean show, at least in this early iteration.

All the show’s main characters have their foibles, of course: Murphy’s longstanding vanity, Miles’ longstanding anxiousness, Corky’s new struggles with menopause. Some sexually themed jokes will be in the offing. But graphic sexual interludes seem unlikely fodder for this rather traditional sitcom, and it’s doubtful the characters will be taking violent swings at each other. Characters drink; but Murphy, a recovering alcoholic, is still staunchly on the wagon.

Setting aside political persuasions, the main issue here is the show’s occasional uses of mild profanity—though that, too, seems relatively innocuous by 21st century standards. Murphy and her colleagues may argue, but they don’t turn the air blue with curses. (They tend to speak in complete sentences, too.)

Murphy Brown might have many would-be viewers turning red. But when it comes to the show’s content—and again, compared to other broadcast sitcoms—you might not need to turn the channel.

Episode Reviews

Sept. 27, 2018: “Fake News”

Murphy, Corky and Frank return to television journalism, this time on the cable news network CDC. Murphy’s son, Avery, gets his own news show, too—on a rival network but in the same time slot.

Pointed political commentary fills the episode from beginning to end—beginning with video footage of Donald Trump while the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” plays in the background. Commentary continues with a Hillary Clinton cameo: She’s applying for a secretarial gig for Brown’s new show, and she admits she has plenty of experience with email. And the episode culminates in a smackdown between Murphy Brown and Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. (Murphy’s inaugural tweet alleges that she once went on a date with the president, wherein he made them split the check.)

We hear plenty of allusions to Trump-centric issues and scandals, including his videotaped reference to grabbing female body parts. (Frank asks Murphy if that was a problem on their date. Murph says no: He may be a lot of things, but he’s not suicidal.) Other subjects that take flak include a stand-in for the Fox News Network, the EPA, the state of journalism as a whole and Roseanne.

We learn that Corky was replaced on her morning news show by the weather girl after the latter had breast augmentation surgery. Corky is going through menopause, which she says is “God’s way of saying, ‘Sorry, now that you’re done having babies, I’m going to have to kill you.'” (She has a hot flash on the air, leading her to unbutton her shirt uncomfortably low and to blow cooler air onto her chest.)

Characters drink beer, and Murphy orders an “Irish coffee without the Irish.” A bar proprietor says that the election’s been good for business: “Angry women drink a lot of chardonnay.” A joke is made about a child vomiting. A throw pillow at Murphy’s house reads, “TIRED-A– HONKY HO.” (We also hear “h—” twice, “p-ss” once and a few misuses of God’s name.)

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email
Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Latest Reviews


Punky Brewster

Punky Brewster isn’t a reboot. And it’s not quite the same family-friendly sitcom older fans might remember, either.


Ginny & Georgia

Ginny & Georgia is, at best, trashy escapism not fit for the teens it’s aimed at. At worst, it’s just plain trash.


Superman & Lois

While Superman will always be there to save the world, he needs to be present for Lois and his sons now.