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Murphy Brown - I (Don't) Heart Huckabee - Review

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Murphy Brown’s second episode went right to the heart of the attack on the Press and free speech and spared no punches even among the laughs. “I (Don’t) Heart Huckabee” was written by Tom Palmer and was directed by Pamela Fryman. Palmer was a writer/producer on the original run of the show and his other credits include writer/producer on Mad Men. I loved the fearless confrontation of the issue in this episode and really hope that they can keep it up for all 13 episodes. I also hope that CBS continues to support the show. While the show is more than worth watching, it’s also polarized in its political viewpoint. As the divide in America continues to widen and people become increasingly despondent over the events unfolding on the news, the ratings may not be able to rise to the level of more escapist comedies like Will and Grace (which, of course, does also address some political issues…). And FYI Murphy Brown beat them in the ratings last night....

The episode begins with the team finishing an episode of Murphy in the Morning and complaining about the early mornings. There’s a nice sight gag as Murphy (Candace Bergen) emerges from behind the table to reveal she’s wearing pajamas from the waist down and slippers on her feet. There’s a nice shout out to Bergen’s recent movie Book Club as she suggests a dating app for seniors to Frank (Joe Regalbuto). The movie is great btw – see it if you can – also great performances from Jane Fonda, Richard Dreyfuss, Craig T Nelson, Don Johnson, Andy Garcia, and Diane Keaton.

It’s clear that Pat (Nik Dodani) is the new Miles (Grant Shaud). It’s also nice that CBS is at least trying to increase its diversity in casting, even if it is a bit stereotypical. We also get the introduction of Miguel (Adan Rocha) – a student, on a scholarship, who applies to work at Phil’s. There is, of course, lots of political baggage to unpack here. Miguel tells Phyllis that his scholarship doesn’t cover things like books, meals – or a border wall (in case we didn’t pick up on the fact that he’s Mexican). He’s also a Dreamer – there because of DACA. He’s clearly intelligent and a hard worker. We also learn that Phyllis is not a natural at bartending and inherited the bar from her brother.

The gang barges in before the bar is open and are soon joined by Avery (Jake McDorman) – whose ratings are on the rise. I loved Murphy calling the Wolf network (always sub in Fox here…) the Ministry of Propaganda! Avery tells them that he’s getting a seat at the White House press briefing – mainly due to an “in” with Sarah Huckabee Sanders who he met while covering the campaign. Murphy, of course, has been banned from the press room – again – because of her twitter war with Trump.

Avery tells them about his question on health care and assures then that Sanders will call on him – she even called him to tell him she liked his show! We learn that Miles fantasizes about Sanders – and Shaud is hilarious in this scene – he can still make those great faces and his discomfort at them outing his little secret was a nice moment. Of course, it’s also a backhanded insult to Sanders. Not so funny was the portrayal of Murphy’s current temp secretary as some drunk, incompetent party girl.

Naturally, Murphy has to get into that press briefing and dons a disguise and fake ID to do it. I loved how jealous Frank was of her getting to go undercover. I thought Bergen looked great in that wig! Miles worries about them getting caught and ending up like Bernie Madoff’s bitch – the dialogue is still clever.

I loved them listening from the truck as Murphy tells them there’s no security at the gate – and even worse that the gate is wide open! It’s a beautiful reference to the entire country having no one legitimately in charge who knows how to run the White House, let alone the country. Murphy makes sure we don’t miss the connection by remarking, “this country is so screwed!”

One of the best things in the episode is the clever way that they folded in actual footage of Sanders from the press briefings. I loved her apparently making googley eyes at Avery – telling him she’d save his question for last as saving the best for last.

Naturally, Murphy blasts in and destroys Avery’s first press briefing. However, she does make some great points – so I adored her ditching the disguise and then hijacking the question period. She asks what most of the world has been wanting an answer to: “Why do you lie?” Murphy doesn’t leave it there. When “Sanders” calls her question ridiculous, Murphy points out that what’s ridiculous is calling the press the enemy of the people.

Murphy demands of the other reporters why they are there if they can’t get to the truth? That’s their job – to give people the truth. She demands that they all get up and leave – but of course, nobody, not even Avery, goes with her. After all, even reporting the lies has the hope that eventually, people will acknowledge that the White House is lying on a regular basis. As much as they might try to obfuscate by changing the meaning of words and denying that things clearly recorded on video actually happened, eventually, pointing out these ridiculous lies and shining a light on them has to have an effect eventually, right?

In the final scene, Murphy and Avery confront each other at home. Murphy is hurt and angry that Avery didn’t back her up. Avery points out that he’s just starting his career. He can’t afford to be banned from the press room. He tells her that he’s had a hard time getting out of the shadow her career throws. But he also points out that journalists are the only firewall between the people and the power hunger elected officials currently in power. He’s not wrong.

Murphy finally apologizes to Avery and admits that she was wrong. He forces her to say she’s sorry – and he records it as his new ringtone! Which of course, allows the episode to end on a light note – especially when the call he gets is from Sanders!

I thought this was another tight episode that reminded me of when Murphy Brown could be very good. There are still a few missteps, but overall, I have to give the episode an A-. My biggest quibble right now is that in 2018, it’s no longer funny to make fun of Murphy’s largely female, incompetent assistants. But the political satire? Oh yes. Keep bringing it! What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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