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Murphy Brown - Happy New Year - Review: "Season Finale"

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Murphy Brown finished out its season 11 reboot with “Happy New Year.” The episode’s teleplay was written by the team of Gina Ippolito and Skander Halim based on a story by Tom Seeley and Norm Gunzenhauser and was directed by Barnet Kellman – another director from the original series. No news yet on whether the show has been renewed for a 12th season, but in a recent Hollywood Reporter story, Diane English remained optimistic. She pointed out that they were in a tough time slot but consistently won it for entertainment show – so maybe the ratings aren’t as dismal as they look on our cancellation prediction table. I would certainly love to see another season, and I’m clearly not the only critic to be impressed as Candice Bergen has been nominated for a Golden Globe for the show.

As the season finale opens, Murphy (Bergen) is calling Frank (Joe Regalbuto) in the middle of the night because she’s frantic that she hasn’t heard from Avery (Jake McDorman) who has gone to Kabul to track down her source. It’s kind of fun to see Murphy in full-on mom-mode! She has no qualms hanging up as soon as Avery facetimes her from the local (Kabul) Starbuck’s. He’s tracked down her source and he’s willing to sit down for an interview to confirm that the Pentagon has been covering up what’s going on there. The somewhat serious moment ends on a humorous one as Avery notices Murphy has put a sweater on the dog – she’s bonding with him! – and then he has to hang up because they forgot the cinnamon in his drink!

At work the next day, Miles (Grant Shaud) finds Frank and Murphy asleep – in a “5am Vegas bus station way!” Corky (Faith Ford) has a story to pitch – she wants to interview Mike Pence one-on-one. Murphy points out that he refuses to be alone in a room with a woman – unless it’s his wife – who he calls “Mother” – ew! Corky’s angle is that the women in Pence’s office don’t get the same opportunities as the men because they have no one-on-one time with him. Corky insists that as a God-fearing Christian woman, she has more in common with Pence than Murphy.

Diana (Merle Dandridge) wants an update on the Afghanistan story and blows up when she thinks they’ve hired Avery – who was fired in disgrace from Wolf. Miles jumps in immediately to say that Avery is there as a freelance reporter. Diana isn’t satisfied and blusters that CNC isn’t footing the bill for anything – at which point Murphy jumps up and Miles has to jump between them. Miles points out that they should be thanking Avery for saving the story – and warns her about the dangerous situation – of incensing Murphy!

Miguel (Adan Rocha) is readying the bar for a huge party – it’s the 100th anniversary of the bar in 2019! But Phyllis (Tyne Daly) is against any celebrations – come the New Year everyone will regret eating and drinking so much! All they’ll order is lettuce and club soda! Parties are bad for business! I loved Miguel finding a pillbox hat and suggesting it might have been Jackie Kennedy’s – and Phyllis adding “or J Edgar Hoover’s”! Miguel also finds a note on a napkin signed by FDR – which she’s going to sell after New Year’s to buy a vacation…until she wipes the bar with it – had to see that one coming….

It was great to have Charles Kimbrough (Jim Dial) back as a guest star. Naturally, he’s there for the annual New Year’s Eve party. Phyllis admits that the bar doesn’t hold the same special memories it does for him – for Jim, he remembers the people who have frequented the bar – like Hunter S Thompson and Pat Buchanan. Phyllis just remembers it as a place to work.

Pat (Nik Dodani) shows up in a truly hideous ugly Christmas sweater – complete with lights! Jim suggests that Pat won’t get very far – if he’s looking for love! – in that sweater, but Pat assures him that he’s done well with the sweater! Pat is there to offer his services as a DJ – DJ Pattycakes – for New Year’s but Phyllis tells him she can’t hear anything over his sweater!

The gang arrives and speculates on whether Avery will make it back for New Year’s. Murphy tells them about their tradition of eating Chinese food and watching Toy Story. Pat lets them know that Phyllis doesn’t want to have a New Year’s Eve party. Frank tells her that all of Washington is waiting for the party – it’s a tradition – and Murphy stresses that traditions mean something, especially when it seems like your world is spinning out of control. It’s one of the few political moments in the show. Stability is based on reliability and tradition. Simply upending process and tradition for the sake of “leaving your mark” hurts everyone.

Phyllis finally – of course! – gives in out of guilt and obligation to have the party. Miles points out that the holidays are all about guilt and obligation.

Murphy continues worrying about Avery, who calls to let her know that he’s about to tape the interview. He’s had to meet Zahir (Joseph Kamal) at the border of Pakistan at an undisclosed location. Murphy tells him it’s too dangerous – but Avery isn’t quitting now. He’s found a cameraman – Khaled (Babak Tafti) who is a film student – and fan of Martin Scorsese! I loved him quoting from Scorsese films and then calling Murphy on quoting from De Palma! Naturally, Avery cuts the call short, leaving Murphy even more worried.

Of course, using a film student leads to all kinds of humor – Khaled worries about the lighting and getting interesting camera angles! Avery worries that Zahir is late, but he does finally show up – but he only has fifteen minutes. Zahir is the National Director of Security for Afghanistan. He has documentation showing that the Taliban has taken back more territory and there have been more casualties than are being reported. The scene ends with them hiding in the dark…

Pat is a terrible DJ! I, of course, was thrilled to see Julius (Andre Ward) show up at the party! He asks Phyllis about a special drink – and she has one in honor of Phil – a “Hey there” – because that’s how he greeted everyone who came into the bar. I thought it was a nice tribute to Pat Corley who played Phil for 10 seasons.

Jim is enchanted by seeing people on both sides of the aisle finding common ground – hoisting their glasses and celebrating the season. Phyllis agrees that everyone hates the music! The gang finally arrives, dragging Murphy with them. Murphy is worried because she hasn’t heard from him in days! Lawrence O’Donnell puts in a cameo as himself – and shames Frank over his small contribution to his charity. Faith encourages Miles to sit with Diane who is all alone. Naturally, after several aborted attempts (hilarious!), he does sit with her and they end up making out…

Jim is happy to see that Murphy made it to the party. Even Murphy concedes that with everyone getting along that there may be hope for the country after all. Jim adds that it’s important to listen to each other with open hearts and open minds – unless it’s Ted Cruz! Even Jim has his limits!

Andrea Mitchell also puts in a cameo. Murphy mentions Mitchell came to Phil’s the night she broke the news that Quail would be Bush’s running mate. And Mitchell reminds us that while she broke the story, Murphy broke the man. It was a nice toast to the political clout that the show has had.

When Pence shows up at the bar, Corky is determined to get her story. When the secret service hold her off, she ambushes Pence in the washroom! Lucky for her that the secret service do such a poor job in clearing the room! Corky asks him why he won’t let the females in his office work after hours when he lets the men – and if he realizes that this practice harms their careers. We don’t hear if he answers as the next thing we see is Corky being carried out of the bar by the secret service! She’s elated that she was alone with Pence and asked him a question! Women rule!

Phyllis finally understands the importance of Phil’s. Miguel announces that he’s secured a summer internship a big law firm by serving one of the partners! He’s sure he’ll get into a great law school now. Jim points out to Phyllis that the place is magic – and she agrees.

Murphy finally gets a call from Avery – the connection is spotty – but he’s heading home, and so is she. Frank and Murphy share a hug over their friendship. Julius, of course, leads the countdown to midnight. Diana and Miles and Phyllis and Jim kiss – and Julius and Pat share video and a hey there!

Murphy arrives home to find Benny in a hat – and Avery waiting for her with Chinese food. Avery has the interview – Murphy remarks the Pentagon papers have become the Pentagon thumbdrive! And the two of them settle in to watch Toy Story. The very last thing we hear is the two of them quoting Woody – “You are a toy!” – Avery’s favorite line.

This wasn’t the most politically pointed or really sharpest episode of the reboot, but it was still enjoyable holiday fare. It was nice to see some of the personal interactions and the call out to some of the cast members who are no longer with us. Even Murphy calling Avery by his full name – Avery Robert Brown – invoked Robert Pastorelli who played Eldin Bernecky. I’m definitely hoping for more of this series. It’s also funny that Tyne Daly’s brother Tim Daly is on the other show that is keeping a spotlight on the current administration – Madam Secretary. Let’s hope these two shows are both around to keep doing what they do so well. What did you think of the episode? Are you hoping for another season? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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