‘Murphy Brown’ 11×13 Review: ‘Happy New Year’

“Happy New Year” was supposed to have some tension about what’s happening to Avery in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, no one told that to the CBS promotions team. They’d included a shot of Avery home safe on New Year’s Eve in the previous week’s promo, completely ruining any sense of tension.

This was the last episode of the season, and sadly it just didn’t do enough to either feel like a farewell (if the show is not renewed) or to whet the appetite for another season.

Mama Murphy Is Worried

In the previous episode Avery had set out to locate Murphy’s missing source in Afghanistan. As this one opens, Murphy is driving Frank crazy with middle-of-the-night calls to fret over her son. Even the modern miracles of Starbucks WiFi and Facetime aren’t enough, and I can’t blame her. (I am going to be SUCH a neurotic wreck when my son leaves home.)

“Murphy Brown” Episode 11×13 “Happy New Year” Source: CBS

There’s a bit of humor in Avery’s situation, working with a cameraman who thinks he’s Martin Scorsese. And Avery does bring home the story that’s supposed to be as big as the Pentagon Papers. But none of it is moving like the Thanksgiving episode was. It doesn’t inspire any righteous anger over the current state of the media as the “Beat The Press” episode did, or anger over the continuing military situation. After all of Murphy’s worry, it felt a bit anticlimactic.

Party At Phil’s

The other plotline was the annual New Year’s Eve party at Phil’s. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember if that was a major occurrence in the original series, since it’s not easily available due to issues with the music rights. But if the party in this episode was any indication, it’s an event I’d just as soon skip.

It wasn’t just because of Pat’s HORRIBLE choices in music. Or because Phyllis was such a reluctant hostess. Or even because Diana and Miles end up in a liplock (really, was that a wise plot choice in the post-Moonves era?). It just… wasn’t all that interesting. The cameos from MSNBC staffers just didn’t have the same feel as those done earlier in the season by Katie Couric or Hillary Clinton. Even the bit with “Mike Pence” showing up for the party and getting accosted by Corky in the men’s room just didn’t work.

To me, the best parts of this shindig were getting to see Jim Dial one more time, Murphy and Frank sharing a sweet moment of friendship… and *finally* learning the name of their snarky floor director (it’s Julius).

But otherwise? It was a happy moment when Murphy got a call from Avery, who was on his way home. It meant we all got to escape!

A Happy Ending?

The final minutes gave us a tiny, tiny taste of my favorite thing about this revival: The relationship between Murphy and Avery. He’s waiting at home for her, and the episode closes with them settling down for their own New Year’s Eve tradition: Watching Toy Story.

But it was far, far too little, especially after the disastrous party.

It was a shame. If this ends up being the last time I see these characters (CBS will not make a decision on renewal until spring, according to showrunner Diane English), this wasn’t the way I want to remember most of them. I will choose instead to remember Jim’s sage advice to new journalists when accepting a lifetime achievement award. I’ll remember Miles’ careening from frazzled news executive to calm newsroom leader. I’ll remember Frank sharing memories of the “good old days” with Murphy and sharing cannolis with Avery. I still will chuckle over Corky’s tales of her oh-so-quirky Louisiana upbringing, and I will remember Murphy and Avery bonding over their adorable little dog Benny.

There have been some real treasures in this season of Murphy Brown, and I will remember those.

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