Murphy Brown (CBS, Thursdays, 9:30/8:30C) is back with a reboot/sequel series that takes Murphy someplace she’s never been – cable news!
The premiere of Murphy Brown starts with archival footage from the 2016 presidential campaign and election as Avery Brown (Jake McDorman, Limitless) announces the winner.
Then we meet the returning gang as they enter Phil’s Bar – now run by his sister Phyliss (Tyne Daly) – following a women’s rights march.
Murphy (Candice Bergen), Frank Fontana (Joe Regalbuto) and Corky Sherwood (Faith Ford) wind up at a table reminiscing and kid of wishing they were back on TV.
Then, after three years off the air (following the demise of her network newsmagazine, FYI), Murphy tires of not being able to comment on the ridiculousness of today’s fake news and takes an offer from Cable News Channel (CNC) to host her own show; in any format she wants.
A problem arises when Avery announces he’s been offered his own show on the Wolf Network – in the same timeslot as his mother’s.
Another arises when the former FYIers approach Miles (Grant Shaud) about producing the show (the phrase ‘special slippers’ may become a running gag).
The season premiere pokes fun at everything from Twitter wars to fake news and from women’s issues to climate change (Corky’s entering menopause ties the two together in a truly unique, almost surreal way) and the cable news wars.
Written by series creator Diane English and directed by Pamela Fryman (One Day at a Time), Fake News adheres to the formula of the original show – pointed political commentary, unexpected bits of humor that tie seemingly disparate subjects together and solid character moments.
It takes less than a minute for us to know who Phyliss is and, possibly, even less to know and understand the grown Avery.
There is fun to be had, for example, when near-luddite Murphy meets CNC’s social media guru, Pat Patel (Nik Dodani, Atypical), or when Murphy’s first tweet engages a most unexpected respondent.
The new Murphy Brown is simply the Old Murphy with a refreshed creative team – the writing might seem to follow a set-up, punchline pattern most of the time, but there’s always off-the-beat moments that make the timing skew in ways that feel fresh and different.
The cast – old and new – have dazzling chemistry, and while the old guard’s timing remains razor sharp, the new guys match it beautifully.
The adage says ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’ Other than a bit of updating – and a wealth of targets – Murphy Brown doesn’t need fixing.
Final Grade: A