It was in 1988 that the world first came to know Murphy Brown. For 10 years, Candice Bergen played the powerful, no-nonsense TV journalist that “many real-life journalists secretly wished they could be,” according to CBS Sunday Morning. Though the show was a comedy, she was a single mother and journalist who took her job seriously and asked the hard-hitting questions that needed to be asked.
If I’m being honest, I I had not heard of or seen any of the original Murphy Brown episodes, but when I heard about the reboot and heard what the show was about, I was really excited. And after seeing the pilot episode, I was all over the internet, scouring the streaming services I’m subscribed to to find out where I could possibly get my hands on the old seasons.
The show is everything I had hoped after reading about it and it’s being written to be extremely applicable to modern day current events. But why is it back after being off the air for 20 years?
Because of Donald Trump.
Bergen (Murphy Brown) told CBS Sunday morning the show wouldn’t have come back if Hillary Clinton had been elected. But after seeing the political climate and the news headlines with Donald Trump as president, the show knew this could be the time for a comeback. Showrunner and writer Diane English told CBS Sunday morning that the show is on some level activism in a sitcom.
Here are some of my favorite things from the pilot episode:
1. The show is based on real life events
The pilot begins with a montage of news coverage of the 2016 campaign trail with footage of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as they try to persuade people to vote for them. The show is brought back to Murphy Brown’s fictional world when she wakes up on election night wearing her “Original Nasty Woman” shirt to find out that Donald Trump won the election. The show then picks up the day of the 2018 Women’s March. Rather than creating a fake person and calling him/her the President for the sake of the show, President Trump is president in this world, too, and the episode wasn’t afraid of calling him out for his Tweets and for the policies he’s tried to pass.
2. They don’t hold back
The show is real. The writers aren’t afraid to address exactly what’s going on in the world and they don’t try to sugarcoat it. When Murphy Brown and her fellow anchors, Frank Fontana and Corky Sherwood, are trying to convince their old producer (Miles) to help them with their new news show, he admits that he had a breakdown and went to rehab. When he got back, he said: “And then I turned on the television, I peeked at my Twitter feed, and it all came crashing down… warmest temps on record, mass shootings, North Korea nukes… Matt Lauer.” During the scene, Brown tells him that this is how the world really is now, even saying “O.J. is out, Nazis are in.”
3. The evolution of journalism since the 1980’s
It’s no secret that journalism is changing and the field as a whole is evolving. Things are certainly different than they were when Murphy Brown first aired. Now, Brown, Fontana and Sherwood are trying to get back into the broadcasting business and they’re finding that things are a little different than they were expecting. For one, they’ve got a person dedicated to social media, search engine optimization, and all around branding for the show. When he (Pat Patel) tries to get Brown to sign up for a Twitter, she says “Yeah, no, I’m not on any of that stuff. That’s where people go to nurse their outrage and express their opinions and as we all know, I don’t care what other people think.” She eventually turns in her flip phone for an iPhone and does sign up for Twitter, learning that it’s important to watch what you Tweet, after her first tweet (about President Trump) goes viral.
4. Hillary Clinton guest-starred
On Brown’s first day back in the newsroom, her producer, Miles, tells her that he has someone lined up for an interview to be her new secretary. When the elevator doors open, it is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that walks through (though she says her name is “Hilary Clendon”). She goes through the job interview saying that her past job experience includes being the “secretary of a very large organization” and that she does “have some experience with emails.”
5. She can admit when she’s wrong
During the intro to their first news broadcast, Brown and her fellow anchors tell viewers that their news show will be different because it will bring them the truth. During the broadcast in the show, President Trump tweets at them, insulting Murphy and she attacks him back. Later that day, when talking to her son Avery, who is also a reporter, she tells him that she “became exactly what she despised” and though she beat his show in the ratings for that day, she still feels badly about it because “there’s a different between good television and journalism; this is why the people don’t trust the press anymore.” It’s no secret that trust in the media has declined and that certainly hasn’t been made better by President Trump referring to the media as “the enemy of the people.” It’s also no secret that journalists aren’t perfect and have made mistakes in their coverage. By admitting that there’s work to be done, Brown keeps the show realistic and believable, all while showing that the media is here to help the people.
After watching the pilot episode of this show, I’m very excited for the next episode. As a Journalism major, I admire the drive and determination of the journalists in the show and the dedication of the writers to crafting a show that’s as close to reality as possible. I also admire how real and blunt the show is. I look forward to seeing what’s to come and what other issues are addressed in the series. If you want to check out the show, Murphy Brown airs on CBS Thursday nights at 9:30.