Wednesday, October 3, 2018

What I’m Watching: Murphy Brown (Series Return)

Murphy Brown: Season 11, Episode 1 “Fake News” (C+)

Now here’s a show that I was alive for when it used to be on but definitely didn’t watch at any point, possibly because its news humor would have gone way over my ten-year-old head when it ended twenty years ago. It’s the latest series to make a return as if it never went off the air, with of course some important acknowledgments about the time that has passed. Like “Roseanne,” a very different series, it opens with characters wearing pink hats in a clear display of how they exist in this modern-day world, though I’d argue that this one took it just a bit further. There’s humor that insinuates and parallels current events, and then there’s this show, which tackles it all head-on in a very blunt and unapologetically direct way. Having Hillary Clinton guest-star as a lookalike with the same name applying to be Murphy’s secretary was a huge stunt, one that likely paid off with viewers who were thrilled to see her and enjoyed her poking a bit of fun at herself. Murphy’s initial reference to the orange hair in the White House got blown into something altogether more unsubtle with her tweet about having gone on a date with Trump where he split the bill with her, something I’d be curious to know if he’ll actually respond to at some point since we all know he doesn’t like being mocked, especially not on “Saturday Night Live.” As a show, I don’t see much need for its return from this first episode, and I don’t know how much of the focus will be on her adult son, played by Jake McDorman from “Limitless,” and his competing show that got pummeled by hers in the ratings. Candice Bergen won a handful of Emmys back in the late 1980s and early 1990s for this show; I’m just not sure that what the (television) world really needed right now is her return to provide still more commentary on the current political situation. As to its longevity, the reviews aren’t terrific, which is the first bad sign. Much more problematically, the ratings were low, compared with “Roseanne,” which was a blockbuster hit before its swift, non-ratings-based cancellation, and “Will and Grace,” which was promptly renewed. ABC has had other premieres like “Commander-in-Chief” that seemed like they would be hits before faltering and getting cancelled quickly, and I think this show will go the same way after just this eleventh season, which I don’t think I'll plan to watch.

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