Flashback to Election 2016, a lowlights reel with the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” underneath, as Murphy Brown jolts awake from this nightmare on November 8, 2016. But wait! On TV, none other than Avery Brown is reporting Donald J. Trump has won the presidency. Cue screaming. Zoom out from the Earth from space, zoom in to the Women’s March on January 20, 2018. (Why not, I more or less wrote those months off myself.)
We’re at Phil’s, everyone! Let’s all come in from the cold. First to arrive is Murphy, in a gladiator helmet with a cascade of pink feathers (“It was time to step it up a notch. We’re at war now.”) Here’s Frank Fontana in a pussy hat, because it “shows that I’m secure in my masculinity and in solidarity with the women who are out there” etc. And how many phone numbers did that get him? Two. He called one, presumably 1-888-SOLANAS, and now he owns a timeshare in Boca. Corky arrives without a hat but wearing Ivanka Trump pumps, $1 a shoe. Money’s tight since she was replaced by a younger model on Wake Up America, where the weather girl’s medical leave for “foot surgery” turned out to be a boob job, and now she’s taken Corky’s place. Anyway, they all miss reporting. Gazing into the middle distance with a dreamy look on his face, Frank adds, “I liked being famous.” THE SHITTY MEDIA MEN ALWAYS DO, FRANK. Whatever, ignore him. Maybe they should think about going back on the air? A capital idea!
Cut to primal scene: Millennial moves back home. Avery Brown pops through the door toting a duffle bag and the news that he’ll be anchoring his own show for… the Wolf Network.
Why? Buckle up, we’re about to find out how David Brooks did in the writers’ room: “make a real impact there,” “change the culture,” “be the voice of reason.” Met “good people” on the campaign trail — pickup trucks, super couponers, America love it or shove it — who “deserve a voice.” They already have one, Murphy says. (She’s right, The Conners premieres next month.)
So that’s Avery’s news! What’s mom’s? Wolf Channel competitor CNC is onboarding the gang.
The problem — it’s a Greek tragedy! — is that they’re airing in the same time slot, from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM. “No way,” she says. “Brown versus Brown?” Avery says. And they turn away from each other and say in unison, “You are so going down.” The game is afoot!! (That’s definitely from The Odyssey.) Since I’m actually being paid to read way too much into this: is this step up for Avery a step down for Murphy? He says he thinks it’s “great,” but the way he says, “The queen of broadcast television is making the switch to cable news?” doesn’t sound so flattering. Are we planting the seeds for a meditation on how society regards aging women and their achievements and legacies, which is, IIHRC, an issue that also came up during the 2016 election cycle? I’d be into that.
Where’s Miles? Living in the Watergate Hotel, “looking like Nixon in his final days.” Broken by two years working on The View (“Every day was like an episode of Game of Thrones”), Miles “had to go away for a while.” Upon departure, he immediately relapsed: he looked at Twitter. “Warmest temperatures on record, mass shootings, North Korean nukes” — and here his voice wobbles and he stammers out “Mmmmmmmatt Lauer” and holds out his hands plaintively and — look, I don’t know if Grant Shaud has ever felt resentful that Miles Silverberg is the role he’s best known for, but my God, it’s perfect, he’s perfect. The thought of going back to work on cable news reduces Miles to a quivering lump on the floor. But they know he misses journalism, and he misses them, too, right? A great quotation I once read is “Family is a car crash from which the victims never recover.”
T-minus one week, touring the CNC digs, meeting the social media coordinator. Corky says, “I’m guessing that’s you?” and our guy Pat Patel says, “You assume that because I’m Indian I’m the tech guy?” A beat, during which I say out loud, “No, it’s because you’re standing right next to Miles,’“ but then Pat Patel says, “Because I am!!!” Is this an SJW joke? Probably. We know Pat Patel’s a millennial because he fondles Murphy’s flip phone with reverence. But it’s gotta go. Murphy says social media is “for people who nurse their outrage and express their opinions, and as we all know, I don’t care what other people think.” Vain like a thoroughbred. That’s our Murph!
So, is this new morning show a step down? Maybe not, because Murphy still gets a secretary, and they’re sending up a candidate now. (This will make the 98th secretary through the revolving door.) It’s Hill— sorry, it’s Hilary-with-one-L Clinton. She’s wearing a red pantsuit. She’s overqualified for this job. Murphy will call her. And then, because reboots are about wish fulfillment, the DVR-able answer to the l’espirit d’escalier problem, the elevator doors are just sliding shut as Murphy reads her email address out loud — “firstname.lastname@example.org” — and we catch a glimpse of Hillary’s sublimely pleased expression. We let the woman take a bow.
T-minus eight hours or so: Murph’s still up when Avery comes home, just in time for the requisite trash-talking before bed: They’re both premiering tomorrow. Ugh, Avery’s show involves traveling around the country and giving “the real people the platform they never get.” Murphy wins this one, not with an elitist joke, but with the truth: “No one wants to hear a debate about healthcare from people in rented shoes.” She just won The Dozens.
Okay, Avery’s going to help Set Up Her FaceUnion Twttr. What should be her new handle? @MurphyBrown is already taken — and there are lots of Murphy Browns, and a lot of them are… labradoodles. @RealMurphyBrown it shall be (which BTW is actually Diane English’s Twitter handle; she’s not a labradoodle). “Hello, Twitter people!” she types, and this is the best first tweet I’ve ever seen. “Here’s a fun fact: I once went on a date with Donald Trump… he made us split the check.” Twitter is actually the perfect medium for Murphy Brown, for whom throwing a match on gasoline is a Personal Brand!!! She hits that button, against Avery’s advice, with true relish. It’s Chekhov’s Tweet — it’s gotta go viral in the next scene. Go to bed, Avery. Mommy has work to do.
T-minus ten minutes to SHOWTIME! First, a climate change segment — Trump Tower gift shop manager turned EPA Senior Manager on location falls through the ice mid-sentence. Then it happens. You-know-who is tweet-watching. Pat Patel doesn’t actually need to tell Murphy to feed the troll, because she’s surging with sufficient adrenaline to lift a car off of a small child. Frank reads aloud, “Nobody remembers who Old Murphy is. She attacks me to get publicity” — and, in the voice all of us have been practicing— “Sad!” Is Murphy worried that he “hits back 10 times harder”? Nope, and here’s the money shot: “You bring it on! Hashtag Dan Quayle!”
Cut to Murphy — who still wears very great pajamas! — lamenting to Avery that she Became the Thing She Despises. She hardly allows herself a second of wicked glee that Murphy in the Morning bowled a ratings strike and Avery’s Show About Quote Unquote Real People didn’t. Since, you know, it was Good Television, but not Real Journalism. “This isn’t right,” she says. “I don’t deserve these numbers.” Avery scoffs, “Yeah, but you got ‘em!” and that is not supportive, Avery. You’re not supposed to agree. I’ve got my eye on you.
The little pisspot (she said it, not me) goes to bed and Murph finally takes a minute to feel the glory. She gazes up at the mural of the Industrial Revolution that Eldin painted on the ceiling so long ago and smiles: “Old Murphy, my ass.”
Misc. & Assorted
• There are a LOT of unnecessary Kids These Days jokes. “Protest marches are the new eggs Benedict,” Phil’s sister Phyllis says. I guess if protest marches involve a somewhat temperamental sauce that doesn’t do too well hanging out on a burner all morning and is disgusting by the end of service — well, sure, Phyllis. But, she continues, as she serves Murphy an Irish coffee, “hold the Irish,” it’s great for business: “Angry women drink a lot of chardonnay.” Indeed. You’re my wine charm, Phyllis.
• There are three or four jokes about Murphy’s alcoholism (see above), which is weird because her recovery was mentioned in the first episode and she chewed through a lot of pencils in Season 1, but it wasn’t really a thing after that. But there is no mention of the fact that Corky and Miles used to be married.
• This is filled with small delights: a needlepoint pillow on Murphy’s couch that says “TIRED-ASS HONKY HO,” a mug in Miles’ apartment emblazoned with “Feel the Pain,” a stock ticker that includes “GWAR.” I also liked Murphy’s “ORIGINAL NASTY WOMAN” sweatshirt.