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Murphy Brown - Beat the Press - Review

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Murphy Brown “Beat the Press” was written by Tom Palmer and was directed by Pamela Fryman. Once again, the episode title is a play on words that works on several levels, including literal. The episode provides terrific commentary on the current attack on both the press and journalists themselves that has seen the White House doctor footage of journalist Jim Acosta to excuse their own behavior and deny the murder of an investigative journalist abroad. The danger to journalists, journalism, and a free press – and thus free speech – is very real.

As the episode opens, Murphy (Candice Bergen) is just finishing up the morning show with her usual dig at the President, commenting on the current troubled relations with allies. She calls it Two Men and a Baby, referring to Trudeau, Macron, and Trump! I loved it because I happen to be Canadian… Julius (Andre Ward) declares them “out” – and that they just lost their last Republican viewer! Miles (Grant Shaud) chastises Murphy for yet another pot shot, and she tells him it’s like tourettes – she just can’t help herself.

Frank (Joe Regalbuto) meanwhile lobbies Miles to let him go to the Trump rally in Pennsylvania to cover it in person because he misses being in the field – no doubt getting the itch in part by seeing Avery (Jake McDorman) doing it every week. Miles reluctantly agrees – but Frank will have to pay his own way!

Murphy and Avery watch the rally on television, and it’s clear that Trump has been bothered by Murphy’s comments. He calls her fake news, and then announces that “fibbing Frank” is actually at the rally. These are tactics we’ve seen in real life. Trump goes on to incite the crowd to violence – maybe a good “bodyslam” for Frank?

Murphy falls asleep, and Avery is slowly being sucked into Hoarders when the phone rings. It’s Miles to tell them that Frank is in the hospital after being attacked at the rally when he left the press pen. It turns out that he simply wanted to get some one-on-one interviews with the people at the rally.

Everyone shows up at the hospital, and Frank is in bad shape – especially after Corky (Faith Ford) makes the nurse (Rema Webb) give Frank too many pain meds! It’s pretty funny when Frank thinks that Pat (Nik Dodani) is his fictional brother, Ron. Pat’s there because he saw the attack on Twitter. Diana (Merle Dandridge) shows up with a gift basket, but her real motivation is to get Frank back on the air as soon as possible to while people are still interested in the story and while Frank’s bruises are still awful! Murphy meanwhile is consumed with guilt because Trump took out his frustrations with Murphy’s comments on the show that morning on Frank.

Back at the station, it’s clear that everyone has been affected by the violence. Murphy asks Miles if they’ve beefed up security. We discover that Corky carries a gun with her! She’s had “Lucy” since she was 12 – and we’re also reminded of the strong gun culture in the US. Corky is a responsible gun owner, however. She has a permit and she goes to the shooting range once a month. I have to wonder whether we are going to see a tragic story somewhere down the road about Lucy…

Avery visits Frank to get his blessing. Avery wants to go to visit and interview some of the people who were at the rally. Frank tells him it’s fine, but he’s worried about Avery’s safety. Avery points out that he’s Wolf network and that will give him some protection. It turns out, of course, that it doesn’t really. We get to see an enactment of the divisiveness of current American society.

The first person Avery interviews at the Kozy Kafe seems reasonable. However, a guy butts in to insist that Frank had it coming for spreading fake news. Avery points out that Frank was just there covering the story – it’s what the free press does! Naturally, the exchange escalates, and it’s pretty funny to see Avery dodge the woman’s punch only to get suckered by the man’s.

At home, Avery is disappointed in himself for not remaining more objective. He points out that his own network are responsible for creating the mob mentality. Murphy is stunned and remarks that she’s never seen people turn on the press this way. She worries that this may be the new normal.

There’s more fallout on Murphy in the Morning. They are doing a story on the homeless, and Corky begins with real statistics – last year saw the first rise in homelessness in 7 years. Their guest is Luther Williams (Ezra Knight), who is a representative of Housing and Urban Development. Murphy starts off asking him about why there is an increase in homelessness during the current administration. He makes an outrageously ridiculous answer by insisting that people just want a simpler life, living off the grid! Suddenly, Murphy stops asking hard questions – everyone is stunned. Is she afraid for herself or the other members of her team and family?

At the bar, they have a party to welcome Frank back. Miles has been getting weird calls with just heavy breathing. When he leaves the bar, he asks Corky – and Lucy – to walk him to his car. Murphy finally has Frank alone to ask him how he really is and whether he’s really up to going back to work. Frank tells her that bad things happened to him before when he was a field reporter – but that was during a war and in Libya. It wasn’t in America! He confides in Murphy that he no longer feels safe in his own country.

Murphy also confides that she doesn’t feel safe speaking her mind and the truth. She ponders what will happen the next time she says something that someone in power doesn’t like? But she’s angry at herself for not hitting Williams with harder questions.

We see the entire team take a deep breath the next morning before the show. Miles reminds them of why they are there. Their lead story? The Mueller investigation. Something guaranteed not to please the current administration – but the entire team is clearly ready to tackle it head on.

This was another terrifically relevant episode, and I particularly liked the in-depth way they examined all the ramifications of this type of hate crime – and the damage done by interfering with a free press. What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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