It’s midterms day on Murphy Brown, which means that, six episodes in, we’re finally going to meet Avery’s Wolf Network colleagues, as we spend the episode cutting between his-and-hers newsrooms as parent et enfant anchor full-day midterm-elections coverage.
We open in her living room at 3:30 a.m., where Murphy Brown is remarkably alert, waving half a bagel around and delivering a soliloquy on the importance of the day. “Finally, after 655 days of this reality show we call the government, America gets to vote some of these clowns off the island, and I get to report it.” As if on cue, Avery hustles down the stairs and strikes a Trumpian pose: “Many people are saying I look terrific.” His suit’s nicely cut, sure, but the joke isn’t funny, son, and that red tie’s gotta go.
Today’s down-and-dirty task, covering the election alongside network star John Haggerty, is a good career move for the man BuzzFeed calls “the millennial Anderson Cooper.” It’s also an opportunity to pursue his foolish ambition to “add just a little objectivity to his network.” Sure. Murphy predicts that he won’t be able to spend the day with Haggerty without losing his cool; he wagers that she won’t make it to the end of the broadcast without nodding off. You’re on! But Murphy, if you’re going to be alert, focused, and totally neutral, why do you have a party horn in her bag? Why, indeed?
Over at CNC HQ, there’s greater preshow pandemonium than usual. Frank’s doing yoga, Miles is juiced about a full day of “rock-solid old-fashioned reporting,” and — hold on. Murphy is now wearing a red velvet bow tie???!!! It leans maroon, but she just blew a gasket about Avery’s red tie. I’m confused.
Pat Patel, making his first on-camera appearance today, looks like Miles Silverberg on the morning of his bar mitzvah and is unhappy about it. The khaki pants and the navy blazer are “like something my parents would put me in to meet the wife they picked for me.” It doesn’t help when Miguel pipes up, “Mazel tov.”
Since they can’t greet the second breakfast hour of the day across the street as usual, Phil’s has come to them, with Phyllis and Miguel bearing ten gallons of coffee and a pile of energy drinks. Frank stocks up on these, as he’s not about to repeat his embarrassing gaffe in 2000, when his case of cottonmouth got him tongue-tied over “the returnth from Tharathota.” Phyllis, who has never seen the studio, is excited and overwhelmed by the novelty of seeing herself onscreen, but here comes Julius to ruin the fun. They’ve got a show to do!
On the set of The Wolf Pack, meanwhile, Avery’s riding the couch with beautiful and vacuous Callie Clark and John Haggerty, network megastar and author of Mike Pence: God’s Vice President. (He is secure enough in his masculinity to wear a pink and gray tie, but not so much that he can do so without Callie Clark’s adulation.) Avery foolishly tries to insert factual information into the broadcast, but Haggerty explains the order of things. “I’m the alpha. I make the jokes, and when I say something, you go along with it.” He’s the top dog. Why else would the president call every night and ask for his advice? “I’m actually running the country.” This, Avery discovers, is not one of the jokes he’s supposed to go along with. Uh-oh.
At 3 p.m., Frank’s fizzling with liquid energy and Murphy’s midterm excitement is fizzling out. Pat’s stumbling over decimal points. Cut to Corky’s satellite interview in East Winnsocket, New Hampshire, which boasts 100 percent voter participation from all 16 eligible voters. As East Winnsocket has gone, so has the nation, in every election since 1850. The polling place in the town registrar’s garage opens at midnight, but they’re still waiting on Bill Cabot, who likes to cast his vote last. They cut the registrar off when she starts explaining Bill’s personal business to the nation. Frank may be wired, but he’s definitely not tongue-tied. He can’t stop calling out Nazis, white supremacists, pimps, and child molesters. Here, sign my petition asking the New York Times editorial board to hire him.
Avery’s foolishly trying to do some reporting, but Haggerty’s concerned about reports of “uniformed gangs intimidating voters in Philadelphia.” Those are actually Boy Scouts, Avery says, suggesting they put the video up so viewers can see that the kid throwing a Black Power salute is just hailing a cab for an elderly woman. Great idea, champ, but the president’s calling to inform them that CBS, NBC, and ABC are all “fake news” because they predicted Trump wouldn’t win the electoral college. Today, he’s polling higher than Abraham Lincoln! When Avery points out that there were no opinion polls in the 1860s, the president tells him, “Your mother is not a nice lady.” And, by the way, no collusion.
Phyllis, um, doesn’t vote because “voting doesn’t make a difference.” We’re over, Phyllis. But Miguel is here to serve as her personal Relatable Undocumented Millennial. Young people with DACA status cannot vote — Miguel says, “I feel like an American every way except maybe the most important one.” Phyllis is clearly affected, but she gets a grip: “You really think you can make me crack.” He sure does, “and then I’m going to get you to give me health insurance — with a dental plan.” The fact that Miguel doesn’t have insurance may be the first thing we learn about him that is unrelated to his immigration status.
Over at the anchor desk, Pat Patel explains to Miles that he’s having trouble on camera because he doesn’t feel like himself in the clothes he’s wearing. He feels uptight and uncool and — well, like Miles, who concedes that you can’t break this wild clotheshorse and sends Pat off to wardrobe with the command, “Gimme some zhush.” Just you wait, sister-friend!
Some hours later, the president is still going on about Russia’s collusion with the Democrats, and Avery Brown is about to lose his cool. Haggerty tries to cut Trump off, but Avery stops him, wanting to hear more about the “witch hunt.” In a horrifying betrayal, the beautiful and vacuous Callie Clark pipes up, “Amen to that, Avery!” Our guy settles back into his seat with a self-satisfied grin, an astonished Haggerty tries to make sense of this power move, and President Trump rattles on about Crooked Hillary.
Twelve-and-a-half hours into the broadcast, Murphy is hoarse, Frank can’t stop clicking his pen, and Corky is a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But Pat Patel’s bringing the zhush and thank God for it: Clad in a porkpie hat and clashing prints, he saves the day as a data dynamo, explaining election returns in clear terms and circling key states on the screen with his finger. Miles is elated, pumping his fist and pointing to Pat, who takes a graceful bow. Back to Winnsuckit for the sixth time today, where Bill has finally shown up to vote, and he’s busy making sure the camera gets the ad for Bruno Plumbing on the back of his shirt. “You can’t hurry love,” he intones, “and you can’t put a clock on patriotism.” Corky snarls, “Sweet baby Jesus, get in the damn booth and cast your damn vote.” Oh, no. She’s never sworn on camera before; it’s “the (bleeeeeep)ing menopause.” Miles offers to fill time with more catheter commercials, but Murphy’s determined to win her bet with Avery.
Over by the coffee service, Phyllis finally sacks up for democracy when she overhears two staffers talking about “a new challenge to Roe v. Wade.” Miguel has researched the City Council candidates and made her a cheat sheet. How thoughtful! Maybe they’ll talk about that health insurance when she comes back.
It’s 9:41 p.m. when President Trump finally hangs up. Callie Clark’s betrayal has had consequences, we see: She has been replaced by a fresh beautiful and vacuous woman. Cut to commercial, which is an opportunity for the audience to order Mike Pence: God’s Vice President on their phones. Adds Avery, the audiobook’s read by Ted Nugent. Haggerty has had enough. “If you want a permanent seat on this couch, you better start to get with the program! Capisce?” Oh, ho, ho. “Funny thing, John. No seat’s ever permanent, even yours. There’s always some young wolf coming up right behind you. Capisce?” I realize we’re supposed to find this satisfying, but Avery’s so ageist.
Things are falling apart at Murphy in the Late Evening, where Miles has his tie around his head and Murphy has flung hers aside. The polls are closing and the returns are coming in. Frank, practically vibrating at this point, squints to see the numbers from … Mippisippi, Missusippy, Minnisippy. Murphy gratefully signs off, reminding viewers that Americans have had their voices heard from “Sea to signing she.” The anchors all lose it. “We were this close, Pat,” Miles says. “Cut to the zhush,” Pat replies firmly. “I’m going in.”
It’s almost midnight, and Haggerty wants to call Nevada. Just as Avery starts to argue with him about it, Nevada comes in. What happened? It’s a cliffhanger, sorta. In both studios, the returns are greeted with wide eyes and sober demeanors all around. “Wow, how about that, I did not see that coming.” Intones Murphy Brown, “Welcome to the next two years.” Fade to black and a message from Diane English in white text: “Elections have consequences. Vote.” Louder, for the disaffected millennials in the back, please!
MISC. & ASSORTED:
• This episode needs more party horn, and I’m now holding BuzzFeed responsible for the rise of enfant terrible Avery Brown.
• Feeling some kinda way about the weird little jabs at women. The Wolf anchor babes are beautiful and vacuous. Corky’s menopause is mined for joke after joke, and the stories about her backwater family are playing increasingly poorly.
• He gets a little more airtime here, but I’m unhappy with how one-note Miguel is. I mean, I understand how sitcoms work; every character’s got to trade in some sort of shorthand if you’re going to fit them all into 20-minute episodes. But the writers are doing a drastically better job with Avery and Pat. They have roles to play, but they’re also sketched with a light hand.
• It may interest you to know that zhush is included in the Google Docs dictionary.