Too much politics, not enough humor ruin ‘Murphy Brown’ revival

September 28, 2018

When CBS announced “Murphy Brown” would be returning to its network, the reasoning had been that in today’s political climate, it made for the perfect time to bring the show back to the airwaves. After watching the first three episodes, I would argue now the perfect time to bring the show back is never. As “Murphy” 2.0 doesn’t even reach the vicinity of the iconic original.

When we’re first reintroduced to now retired journalist Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) in the revival’s premiere, she’s having a hard time dealing with the election of President Donald Trump. After months of yelling at her television, Murphy decides it’s time to get back on the air with a new cable news show. Joining her are her former “FYI” colleagues Frank Fontana (Joe Regalbuto) and Corky Sherwood (Faith Ford), with Miles Silverberg (Grant Shaud) once again producing. Murphy’s biggest competition is a show hosted by her son, Avery (Jake McDorman), the “token liberal” on the conservative Wolf Network.

In the premiere, Murphy’s lack of knowledge about social media gets her into a Twitter feud with President Trump, causing her to get into the kind of live yelling match she swore she would never do on her new show. Meanwhile, Miles deals with the pressures of producing again, Frank continues to look for the right woman and Corky deals with the onset of menopause.

I have to admit that there is some joy in seeing this phenomenal cast working together again (they’re joined by Charles Kimbrough’s Jim Dial in episode three). But, unfortunately, it looks like the only reason they are back together is to criticize the Trump administration, and the constant barrage of political attacks gets really old, really quickly. I believe we tune in to TV comedies to be distracted from the real world. An occasional joke is expected, but editing in actual footage of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders so Murphy can tell her off? That’s going too far. If I want to see something like that, I’ll watch C-SPAN, not a primetime sitcom.

I went back and watched the first two episodes of the original from 1988 just to see if maybe I had been wrong about how good the show was back then. I wasn’t. The original “Murphy” had wit, charm and a lot of heart. I don’t feel any of that with the revival. The third episode gets a little closer, but it never overcomes the show’s biggest problem: It’s just not that funny. And if you took away all the political stuff, the show would be just another bland sitcom struggling to find its humor. As a huge fan of the original, it absolutely pained me to write this column this week. But I believe my job is to tell the truth, no matter how painful. I think it was Murphy Brown who first taught me that.

“Murphy Brown” premieres Thursday at 9:30 p.m. on CBS with a special extended 35-minute episode. You can stream classic episodes of the original on CBS All Access.

Angela Henderson-Bentley writes about television for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact her at ahenderson-bentley@hotmail.com.

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