‘Murphy Brown’ 11×02 Review: “I (Don’t) Heart Huckabee”

Jake McDorman’s Avery Brown is quickly becoming my favorite part of the Murphy Brown revival. His episode-closing scene with Candice Bergen’s Murphy made up for some early flat notes. It’s not that they didn’t try. But many of the lines felt like Miles’ attempted joke about breaking in to his place at the Watergate.

Cue the rimshot.

But this episode shone in discussing media responsibility, and why it’s important to keep a spotlight on the White House. Along the way, we also got to know more about the show’s new characters.

Oh… and Murphy got a new assistant!

Candice Bergen, Faith Ford, Grant Shaud, Joe Regalbuto
“Murphy Brown” 11×02 “I (Don’t) Heart Huckabee.” Candice Bergen, Faith Ford, Grant Shaud, Joe Regalbuto. Source: Twitter/@murphybrowncbs.

Hillary’s A Tough Act To Follow

The problem with having Hillary Clinton as your first guest assistant candidate:  Just about anyone else feels anticlimactic. That’s not a knock on Ashley Austin Morris’ tequila-soaked assistant. The bar was just very, very high, so a messed-up message from Angela Merkel wasn’t as funny as it might have been otherwise.

Elsewhere in the newsroom, tech genius Pat is happy with anything that increases  “Murphy in he Morning’s” social media presence. But should we trust anyone who makes threats over Froot Loops? And over at Phil’s, we learn that while Phyllis may have taken her brother’s place at the bar, she’s not interesting in playing the traditional barkeeper role of confessor/advisor.

These little bits of exposition get us to the main story: Avery’s first White House press briefing, where he plans to ask about prescription drug prices. As he shares the news of this big break with his mother and surrogate family, we see their fondness for each other, and their teasing humor. Frank recalls changing Avery’s diapers, to which Avery responds, “In a few years, Uncle Frank, I’ll be happy to return the favor.”

But Murphy can’t just be happy for her son. Oh, no. She’s determined to get into that briefing too, despite being banned from the press room.

As if that’s going to stop her.

Of course, Murphy’s undercover entry into the White House is over-the-top, with Miles hyperventilating in the live truck over committing a felony. But if you can get past this scheme straight out of I Love Lucy, you’re rewarded with Murphy asking Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders the question so many have wanted to hear asked in a briefing.

“Why do you lie?”

“Lie” is a hard word for journalists like me to use. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive.”

Intent is the reason we debate whether to use the word “lie,” and the reason it is rarely used by many outlets. As NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly noted in 2017, “without the ability to peer into Donald Trump’s head, I can’t tell you what his intent was.”

If you don’t know the intent, a word like “lie” becomes an opinion rather than a fact. We deal in facts – which, too often these days, are in short supply, even in the White House press room. Murphy asks her colleagues why they’re even at the briefing if they can’t get to the truth.

That’s another question we debate. But it’s not likely real journalists will boycott those Sanders briefings any more than the show’s press corps did. Why? Avery sums it up beautifully: “If we all stormed out in protest, who would we be left with? The ones who drank the Kool-Aid, and the president’s unhinged Twitter feed.”

Would we be any more likely to get truth in that scenario?

Avery also reminds his mother of her own words: “Journalists are the only real firewall between power-hungry politicians and the people they were elected to serve.”

Jake McDornan, Candice Bergen, Grant Shaud
The “Murphy Brown” cast at a table read in July 2018. Jake McDornan, Candice Bergen, Grant Shaud. Source: Twitter/@murphybrowncbs

This warm mother-son moment, complete with Murphy’s apology for ruining her son’s first White House briefing, is a perfect setup for the best laugh of the night: Murphy’s “I’m sorry” becoming Avery’s new ringtone.

That more than made up for what didn’t quite work early in the episode. Now I’m eagerly awaiting next week, when Murphy Brown tackles sexual harassment in #MurphyToo.

Murphy Brown airs Thursday nights at 9:30/8:30 Central on CBS.

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