‘Murphy Brown’ 11×01 Review: ‘Fake News’

There is nothing fake about my joy in seeing Murphy Brown back on my TV. I’ve been anxiously awaiting this revival for months, and the premiere did not disappoint. From the opening montage of the 2016 presidential campaign (over a soundtrack of “Sympathy For The Devil”) to the best secretarial interview ever, the show was a welcome respite after a day of soul-wrenching “real” news.

There’s a LOT to talk about, so let’s dive in!

Who’s Murphy Brown?

That question from a young woman in Phil’s might be echoed by anyone who wasn’t old enough to watch prime time TV from 1988-1998. It could also be echoed by Murphy herself (Candice Bergen), who’s at loose ends in retirement. The election of Donald Trump is spurring her to activism, but even that isn’t exactly comfortable. She’s used to reporting on protests, not taking part in them. Her former FYI cohorts, Frank Fontana (Joe Regalbuto)  and Corky Sherwood (Faith Ford), feel the same – and so there’s only one thing to be done.

Time to get the band back together!

Bringing all these characters back together felt like a family reunion. Twenty years may have passed, but this cast gels so well, watching them feels like that 20 years was nothing more than a commercial break. We are so happy to see them together, and ready to welcome new members into the family.

Who Are These New Faces?

Our first new face belongs to Phyllis (Tyne Daly), sister to to the late Phil and now the owner of the team’s favorite hangout, Phil’s. Daly has said her character is not the “counselor” type of bartender that Phil was. We haven’t seen evidence of that yet, but we did learn Phyllis has a dry wit… and a belief that political unrest is good for business. “Angry women drink a lot of chardonnay,” she says.

Next new face: Jake McDorman as Murphy’s son Avery. He’s grown up to follow in his mother’s footsteps, first as a field reporter and then as an anchor for a conservative news network where, Murphy observes, “All the males are conspiracy theorists and the women are dead behind the eyes.”

Candice Bergen (Murphy Brown) and Jake Dorman (Avery Brown). Source: Facebook/murphybrowncbs

In the few minutes they got together, you could see the loving, easy relationship between Murphy and Avery. They respect each other, root for each other (even though they are now on-air competitors) and they can tease each other too. I can’t wait to see more of this mother/son duo!

Our last new face is Pat Patel (Nik Dodani), the IT and social media expert for the new “Murphy in the Morning” program. When he first meets the team, he spouts off a monologue of technobabble. It left them confused but had me laughing because I work with people who talk just like that. Pat is going to be fun.

Grant Shaud (Miles Silverberg) and Nik Dodano (Pat Patel). Source: Facebook/murphybrowncbs

A “State”-ly Secretarial Cameo

The best schtick of the original Murphy Brown was the endless parade of secretaries, played by guest stars ranging from Pee-Wee Herman to JFK Jr. to Bette Midler.

All of them got topped by the candidate in the revival premiere: A woman named Hilary – with just one “l,” played by former presidential candidate and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Her appearance that was kept under wraps until the broadcast.

Clinton’s appearance included a few digs at the controversy that clouded her 2016 run for the White House.

“I am qualified and ready to work on day one,” she tells Murphy in a job interview, and admits, “I do have some experience with emails.”

Before making her exit, Clinton handed Murphy a business card with a web address that is especially resonant today. “Hillary@youcouldahadme.com.”

Topping that is going to be a tall order!

Bring It On!

Somehow, up till now, Murphy has managed to avoid the world of social media. No Facebook, no Instagram, no Twitter. “Twitter is where people go to nurse their outrage,” she says. At Pat’s insistence, with Avery’s help, she sets up a Twitter account. With her first tweet (“I once went on a date with Donald Trump. He made us split the check.”), she gets into a Twitter war with President Trump (a fake account – I think!). As things escalate while her show is on the air, Murphy finally challenges, “Bring it on! Hashtag Dan Quayle!”

It’s a move that gets huge ratings for the premiere of “Murphy in the Morning,” but one that makes Murphy feel a bit sick, saying she became “exactly what I despise… This is why people don’t trust the press.”

Murphy’s soul-searching is very familiar to this journalist. We can expect to see much more of it as the season continues, and it is something we need to see. No matter what the president says about “fake news” and “enemies of the people,” the truth is that all I ever want to do is tell the truth, and the same goes for my colleagues. I look forward to more of these kinds of discussions, mixed in with plenty of laughs.

A Few More One-Liners

  • “Protest marches are the new eggs benedict.” Phyllis, lamenting that no one seems to do brunch in D.C. anymore.
  • “It would not be fair to the plants.” Murphy on why she won’t take up gardening.
  • “I wish I knew how to quit you.” Miles (Grant Shaud) to Murphy & Co. as they recruit him to produce their new show.
  • “You assume just because I’m Indian I’m the tech guy.” Pat to the team, before admitting that yes, he IS the tech guy!
  • “It’s a phone. I use it to actually call people.” Murphy defending her ancient flip phone.
  • “A lot of them are labradoodles.” Avery’s reply when his mother notes there are a lot of Murphy Browns on Twitter.
  • “Think before you tweet. Shows have been canceled for less!” A warning from Avery to Murphy after she sends her first tweet.
  • “We told him not to run with the bulls.” Avery, remembering his onetime babysitter and longtime housepainter Eldin.

This episode was a great start, and hopefully the beginning of many, many more episodes to come, beyond the current order of 13. This is a show for our time, arriving just in the nick of time.

Murphy Brown airs Thursday nights at 9:30 on CBS.

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