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REELIN’ IN THE YEARS: ‘MURPHY BROWN’ RETURNS

September 26, 2018

Broadcast between 1988 and 1998, the original “Murphy Brown” (8:30 p.m., CBS, TV-PG), was most relevant during the first Bush presidency, offering an alternate narrative for those who feared that the Reagan era would never end. The show’s most topical moment arrived when Vice President Dan Quayle attacked its morality in 1992. After Bill Clinton’s election later that year, the show began to seem a little beside the point.

Now, “Murphy Brown” is back. Whether it offers “resistance” to the Trump era or merely reflects the climate of his unusual presidency is open to debate.

When the first “Murphy Brown” arrived, the show was seen as bold for depicting its title character (Candice Bergen) as a recovering alcoholic but also for showing that a middle-aged woman could still be smart, funny, opinionated and beautiful.

The return of “Murphy Brown” in 2018 certainly reflects one central theme of the Trump era: Seventy-something boomers still want to dominate the conversation. One of the peculiarities of the 2016 election is that both major party candidates were fast approaching 70 and were a decade and a half older than the sitting president.

In politics, show business and, perhaps, human history, this is rather unprecedented. In most television shows, folks in their eighth decade are relegated to grandparent roles or “Golden Girls” types, a trope rebooted on “The Cool Kids,” debuting on Fox tomorrow.

The new “Murphy Brown” does not ignore this fact. She’s first seen as a proud technophobe. Corky Sherwood (Faith Ford) has carried her flighty nature into menopause. Frank Fontana (Joe Regalbuto) has lost more than a step, and producer Miles Silverberg (Grant Shaud) has been reduced to a nervous wreck. On the old show, Miles dated Audrey, who was played by Jane Leeves before she starred on “Frasier,” “Hot in Cleveland” and a very memorable “Seinfeld” episode.

As the new “Murphy Brown” returns, she’s galvanized out of retirement by her reaction to the Trump presidency. She reunites the gang for a cable morning show that just happens to air at the same time as her son Avery’s (Jake McDorman) show on the very Fox-like Wolf Network. Does anyone recall that the young Avery was once played by a pre-“The Sixth Sense” Haley Joel Osment?

Not unlike the “new” “Last Man Standing,” debuting tomorrow night on Fox, this “Murphy” tries to be topical without really engaging in argument. All of the posturing is rather one-sided, and as such reflects the new news climate that Murphy claims to detest.

And Murphy probably has good reason to distrust cable news. If you are a TV viewer of a certain age and inclination, do you really need a fictional Murphy Brown? You’ve already got a real Rachel Maddow.

TONIGHT’S SEASON PREMIERES

-- The action moves to an earthly plane on an hourlong “The Good Place” (7 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).

-- A job opening sparks competition on a two-hour “Grey’s Anatomy” (7 p.m. ABC, TV-14).

-- Christy’s law school experience starts off badly on “Mom” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

-- Benson finds a personal connection on a two-hour “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

-- The Earth moves on “S.W.A.T.” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

-- Annalise returns to the classroom on “How to Get Away With Murder” (9 p.m., ABC, TV-14).

TONIGHT’S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

-- An unwelcome wedding gift on “The Big Bang Theory” (7 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).

-- A rival genius arrives on “Young Sheldon” (7:30 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).

-- The Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams meet in “Thursday Night Football” (7 p.m., Fox), also available on the NFL Network and Amazon Prime.

CULT CHOICE

Director Marcel Camus set a Greek myth in Brazil’s carnival season in the 1959 drama “Black Orpheus” (10:15 p.m., TCM). The score by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfa became a bossa nova classic.

SERIES NOTES

Life-saving on “Supernatural” (7 p.m., CW, r, TV-14) ... Back to Mystic Falls on “The Originals” (8 p.m., CW, r, TV-14).

LATE NIGHT

America Ferrera is booked on “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” (10 p.m., Comedy Central) ... Jim Gaffigan and Seann William Scott appear on “Conan” (10 p.m., TBS) ... Jeff Bridges, Cedric the Entertainer and Mark Leibovich are booked on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jimmy Fallon welcomes Ricky Gervais and Shawn Mendes on “The Tonight Show” (10:34 p.m., NBC) ... Casey Affleck, Jay Ellis, T.I. and Yo Gotti appear on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (10:35 p.m., ABC). ... Pete Davidson, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Zainab Johnson visit “Late Night With Seth Meyers” (11:37 p.m., NBC) ... Damon Wayans Jr. and Gina Rodriguez appear on “The Late Late Show With James Corden” (11:35 p.m., CBS).

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