If the revived Murphy Brown is really and truly ending for good with tonight’s Season 11 finale, creator Diane English made sure the Emmy winning journalism comedy went out with a mix of fictionalized bigwigs and real life talking heads. Unfortunately, all that couldn’t blow the wig off anyone in a return that has never captured the tenor of the times nor any real traction.
On the sidelines in many ways from its September 17 debut, the 13-episode latest round of the Candice Bergen led series has been up against the primetime dominance of Thursday Night Football on Fox week after sometimes series low hitting week. Tonight there was no TNF but now the “Happy New Year” episode faced the last half hour of the feature length Timeless series ender over on NBC.
Calling all Murphy Brown fans! We are the only original show on our network tonight. So give us a great send off and tune in live. And if you can’t do that, watch within three days! And enjoy. X.
— Diane English (@realmurphybrown) December 20, 2018
Ending with a Brown New Year’s tradition of watching Pixar’s Toy Story with her now grown son Avery, who takes all the air out of the one engaging narrative of the show and makes it back safely from assignment in Afghanistan, English has certainly set up the recently Golden Globes nominated series for more. Not that CBS seems interested having made it clear in a programming takedown on November 28 that they wouldn’t be ordering any more episodes of the ratings challenged show than the initial 13 now concluded.
Mixing a party at the show’s supposed fabled Washington DC watering hole of Phil’s and the Jake McDorman portrayed Avery’s misadventures in Afghanistan to break a Pentagon Papers level scoop on what’s really going on in America’s longest war, the Season 11 and series finale was pretty light on the Donald Trump gags and jabs for once.
However, despite lines like “it seems your world is spinning out of control, while the former host of Celebrity Apprentice escaped Brown’s much vaulted barbs, his right-hand man got caught with his pants down – literally.
A Secret Service surrounded silver headed actor played Vice-President Mike Pence shows up to have a drink and get ambushed in the bathroom by Faith Ford’s Corky Sherwood. The once ingénue of the series was hustled out of the party celebrating both the New Year and Phil’s 100th anniversary as quickly as the most intentionally placid man in the nation’s capital came crashing in earlier.
— Murphy Brown (@MurphyBrownCBS) December 21, 2018
Otherwise, just like 60 Minutes’ Mike Wallace broke the fifth estate fourth wall in the two-part “Never Say Goodbye” last series finale in May 1998, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell and Andrea Mitchell show up for real life tie-in cameos, with a nudge, nudge, wink, wink by the latter to Murphy Brown’s dust-up with then Vice-President Dan Quayle in 1992.
Beyond that, and a Martin Scorsese and The Third Man worshipping Afghan camera man working with Avery, most of the comic relief came from Bergen’s Brown’s anxiety of the fate of her Quayle teeth grinding son – which wasn’t really that funny. With little to show for its efforts, a flurry of Ted Cruz slags, J. Edgar Hoover jokes, FDR autographs, ugly Christmas sweaters, and another return of Charles Kimbrough’s bipartisan peace seeking Jim Dial tried unsuccessfully to provide enough filler to giggle you through to the end.
In that context and like the short lived crash and burned return of Roseanne on ABC earlier this year, the end of the revival of Murphy Brown proves that some things are best left in their sarcophagus no matter what jewels you hope they will give up.
Or put another way, as U2 once said in one of their better tunes – “nothing changes on New Year’s Day.”