Is there a reason to watch CBS rebooted MURPHY BROWN?
One reason might be to marvel over Candice Bergen and Diane English. Not marvel over what they're doing right -- they're not doing anything right -- but to marvel over how they portray African-Americans. Last week, the only African-American with actual lines in the episode, for example, thought she could show up at a DC bar and order a drink. Silly gal, doesn't she know Bergen and English and MURPHY BROWN are all about being White? Which is how the woman was left insulted and ignored by the bar owner played by professional tugboat Tyne Daly. And in the episode airing this Thursday, Murphy shows up at a White House press conference and upstages an African-American man in an attempt to take over with one of her typical rants but when the spokesperson calls on April Ryan, Murphy's not about to let some other woman -- especially not an African-American woman, speak.
And ROSEANNE had the problem with racism?
No, Roseanne Barr Tweeted a dumb joke. We'll get back to it because there are developments there too.
So you can watch to witness the casual way that MURPHY BROWN -- and CBS -- embrace and enforce racism.
Why in the world, by the way, would you hire Tyne Daly? She's not attrative and TV is a visual medium. More to the point, you need young characters for this reboot and you need people of color. If Susan Dey hadn't used her star power to get John Hancock cast on LOVE & WAR (the two worked together on LA LAW), when do you suppose that Diane English might have discovered actors of color?
English proved she was a faux feminist on LOVE & WAR, she needed to fire an actor because the leads didn't have chemistry -- so naturally she fired the woman -- Susan Dey -- the only one who carry a hit show. English's failed sitcom DOUBLE RUSH (1995) did feature D.L. Hughley in the supporting (and underutilized) role of Marlon proving that though she betrayed Susan Dey, she did at least understand when Dey said, as the pilot was being cast, that the show needed to reflect society "even just a little." So all of these 'workplace' sitcoms that Diane English did after MURPHY BROWN and after Susan Dey shamed her over the Whiteness of Diane's casting, the shows that followed? DOUBLE RUSH and INK featured one minor character of color. Again, these were workplace comedies. A family sitcom? Diane could have argued, "Oh, well the family members are all White." But she didn't do family sitcoms -- she did workplace ones. And by the time she got around to THE LOUIE SHOW, she was tired of people of color and went with -- like MURPHY -- and all White cast. It was 1996 and it didn't play well -- her sitcom with the shortest life. So two years later, Diane figured, what the hell, let's cast two African-Americans.
LOVE AND WAR -- seven regular characters, one was African-American. DOUBLE RUSH -- seven regular characters, one was African-American. INK -- seven regular characters, one was African-American. THE LOUIE SHOW -- seven regular characters, none were African-American. LIVING IN CAPTIVITY -- seven regular characters, two were African-American. Let's throw in MURPHY BROWN too, Diane was over the first four seasons. MURPHY BROWN -- seven regular characters, zero were African-American. As a sitcom 'pioneer' and show runner, Dianne created 42 regular characters and five were African-American.
And let's put this in perspective. In fall 1992, after Susan Dey fought to get John Hancock cast, on the Sunday night primetime line up alone, there were 10 African-American actors as regular cast members. Ten. And in her entire post-MURPHY BROWN sitcom career, Diane's only offered five.
And, let's give Susan Dey credit, Diane never would have added the first one if Susan Dey didn't (a) want her friend John Hancock cast and (b) hadn't noted just how White Diane's MURPHY BROWN was. Instead of being happy about that feedback, Diane nursed her grudge against Susan Dey and then fired her the first chance she got because that's the kind of 'feminist' (and racist) that Diane English is.
It's a PC culture, we get it. But maybe be a little less worried about people's words and a little more focused on the actions. Diane can spew all the correct language in the world but she's had how long to develop roles that reflect the world we live in and yet repeatedly fallen back on White, White, White.
Faux feminist Diane had no defense for women accusing Leslie Moonves of harassing them. By contrast, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (showrunner for DESIGNING WOMEN and HEARTS AFIRE) had no problem calling out Leslie Moonves. Diane? She was defending him (here and here). If you're wondering how tugboat Tyne got cast in the reboot, she's Leslie Moonves approved -- unlike Sharon Gless who is the unnamed CBS actress that Leslie propositioned before he was head of CBS and then, after he was head of CBS, told her CBS was done with her -- the unnamed CBS actress in Ronan Farrow's first NEW YORKER piece on Moonves.
Sharon was run off from CBS when Leslie was in charge but he always had a place for homophobic Tyne Daly (who kicked her late father's lover out of their shared beach house while the dirt was still being placed on her father's grave) -- hence, JUDGING AMY.
Candice Bergen, of course, spent her weeks defending Leslie.
Some people were sure the reboot would fail because Candice can't act. But stop for a moment and think how many people in the US believe Candice is heterosexual. According to the late Liz Smith, that's acting. But maybe Liz got it wrong?
Murphy's not a well written role, never has been. It's also never been a well acted role. Candice brought her STARTING OVER performance to TV -- her one-note STARTING OVER performance -- and parlayed it into a career.
She and Diane were supposed to be able to do it again. It was clear to CBS suits that this was not happening. But Diane and Candice were protected by Leslie Moonves. He's gone now.
So what's the network's position now? As we noted last week:
She's about as effective as Candice Bergen was on the CBS FALL PREVIEW. "They say in comedy, timing is everything," a lifeless Candice read from the cue card while decked out in Captain Kangaroo's old costume. And that was before we saw something really frightening -- Candice and 'youngsters' like Tyne Daily preparing for a table read when all the clips were from episodes that were over 20 years old. Why is Tyne in the cast, by the way? Ask Diane English and Candice about how they whored to Leslie Moonves to get this show back on the air. Better yet, ask why network people who've seen THE NEIGHBORHOOD think it's going to be huge and network people who have seen MURHPY BROWN are shaking their heads and saying, "Well it was just a thirteen episode gamble."
Things are no better for the show this week.
There are people being paid to spin this as a hit despite the ratings. There's the lie being spread that MURPHY's debut was hurt by the fact that it happened on the same day as the Kavanaugh hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
MURPHY didn't just do bad -- ROSEANNE got over twice the viewers for the debut of her reboot. MURPHY did bad for CBS. It wasn't just that MURPHY was low rated. It was that MURHPY was CBS' lowest rated sitcom for the night. People turned off, people changed channels, people actively avoided watching MURPHY BROWN. Even the audience for MOM was not in the mood for MURPHY. Equally true, as the minutes ticked by during MURPHY's broadcast, the ratings continued to fall. People watching the show, giving it a chance, had more than enough before the credits rolled.
The reboot was a bomb.
And it never should have been rebooted.
Let's get to that because people are lying there as well.
MURPHY BROWN was not a hit in syndication because -- look it up on CRAPAPEDIA -- the rights to the songs used in the show were too costly?
What a bunch of b.s. Did you ever hear of BOSOM BUDDIES? That Tom Hanks, Donna Dixon, Wendie Jo Sperber starring sitcom played endlessly in syndication. But it did so with a different theme song. Billy Joel's "My Life" was used when the show was in production and ABC broadcast new episodes. Joel didn't want it used in syndication. So they flipped it. Something similar happened to CHARMED. It happens on many shows. The easiest corrective is you use some instrumental notes (don't call it music). And MURPHY BROWN, if that was the problem, could have done so. There's only one song that has to be included -- and in two episodes. Aretha Franklin performs her hit "You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman" on one episode and Murphy sings it to her child on another. That's it. And it's not expensive. You're not paying to use the ATLANTIC RECORDS hit recording. Again, Aretha performs it live -- her voice, her playing at the piano. And Candice Bergen sings it live. All you're dealing with are the publishing rights -- and Screen-Gems has always been willing to take pennies.
The show went off the air in 1998. And it went off a show that was not a hit. Now if times were different, MURPHY would have gone into syndication while it was still airing and CBS would've had it in syndication by the fourth season. That's how it happens today. But back then it was a little different -- especially for the behind the times Tiffany network.
.Seasons seven and eight did not indicate the show would be watched -- both failed to make the top fifteen of what was being marketed as a top ten show. Then came seasons nine and ten where the ratings slid even further (by season ten, the 'hit' show as the 69th most watched primetime show on the big four -- CBS, ABC, NBC and FOX). It was a flop and people didn't want to watch it.
That's not good news when you're trying to syndicate.
It was a bust. No one wanted it when it went off the air and then came 9/11 ensuring it would remain a bust. (9/11, as we've long documented, saw women weakened and vanished on TV. You can also refer to Susan Faludi's THE TERROR DREAM.)
So grasp that. And grasp that Diane and Candice were right to be grateful to predator Leslie Moonves because no one else would have been stupid enough to bring that show back.
ROSEANNE was a hit show that people continued to watch -- in syndication and on NETFLIX and on DVD. (And they continue to stream it today -- even though the media has lied that it was pulled from every venue.) It built an audience. MURPHY BROWN? America ignored it in syndication and they refused it as a DVD (only season one ever came out on DVD).
So, for the reboot, all you really had was the core audience. You needed that original audience to tune it.
But, in 2018, there was a good chance that they wouldn't.
Most of that is fat ass Candice's fault. MURPHY BROWN will always be infamous for its battle with then-US Vice President Dan Quayle. But while Diane English missed no opportunity to rant about Dan, as soon as Candice was no longer working with Diane, she enraged many by insisting that Dan was right and his remarks were reasonable.
Grasp what a betrayal of the audience that was. It was the real and videoed battles with Dan that took the show to its highest ratings. Murphy was standing up to the Vice President! And then, a few years later, the actress who played Murphy was saying, eh, it wasn't all that important and I agreed with him.
The show never should have been rebooted.
And last Thursday, the few viewers that tuned in realized that as they watched what had to be the ugliest cast ever.
Candice should have lost some weight or they should have made a comment on Murphy's weight. (It would have really been funny, in a Carol Burnett skit way, if they'd done the whole episode trying to disguise Candice's weight, hiding her behind big purses and plants, like she was pregnant.) By 2014, even Candy Crowley had been dumped by CNN and she'd been the token heavy woman on TV 'news,' the only one.
But we're supposed to believe that looking like that, Murphy can get hired for CNN (or whatever network she's supposed to be on) to do a morning show that's like the FYI show she did over two decades ago? What world do they live in?
And could no one have fixed Grant Shaud? Yes, he needed to lose at least thirty pounds before stepping in front of the cameras as Miles. But even more important, he needed to have a consistent hair color. He could have gone Anderson Cooper grey. Or he could have died it a dark color. But he couldn't do both. That hair was hideous.
Sorry, do you hear that sobbing? That's Joe Regalbuto. He's afraid we're about to talk his hair -- or lack of it. No, we're not. We're just going to note he's butt ugly. Butt. Ugly.
Then you've got Tyne Daly -- tugboat Tyne. We love the jokes about how she was cast to make Candice look thinner but the reality is that Candice is larger than Tyne -- as well as larger than many single-family homes.
"Ava and C.I., you always harp on appearance and then say it's a visual medium to justify it!"
Well, it is a visual medium. But we're harping on appearances this go round because what else is there?
Did you watch the episode?
What else is there?
Let's note the Faith Ford looks fine. And her comedic touch is still there. Good for Faith, maybe CBS will notice and give her a sitcom.
But where are the characters?
The show has been off for decades. We're talking about FYI -- the newshow within a show -- but it's true of MURPHY BROWN as well.
The show has been off for decades. And what has anyone done with their lives?
Murphy? Okay, she parked herself in front of the fridge, clearly. But otherwise?
Does no one find it appalling -- and telling -- that after 20 years off the air, the show returns and not one character did anything worthwhile -- or even not worthwhile -- with their personal lives during the last 20 years?
No one's married. No one has had a child during the 20 years off the air. No one's tried a new career. No one has done a damn thing.
Far funnier than Frank still thinking he can sleep with any woman would have been Frank being married -- maybe to a Vera type (Norm's wife on CHEERS). Frank being surrounded by children -- or even by dogs. His wife has seven poodles. Anything.
These characters are threadbare. You last saw them 20 years ago and nothing has happened in their damn lives.
That's part of the reason that the dialogue played so poorly. All these attacks on Donald Trump or whomever, all this little I'm-so-much-better from characters who have done nothing.
Yes, Murphy has a child. She had him during the original show's run. He's now an adult. Or supposed to be. What adult moves in with Mommy?
That is what happened on the first episode. He's going to host a new, cable morning program on WOLF (think FOX). And he can't afford his own digs?
He's supposed to be around 26 but he's played by the 32-year-old Jake McDorman who looks . . . 32. What 32-year-old, single male wants to live in a tiny place with Mommy?
Not only have these characters done nothing with their lives in the last 20 years, they also don't appear to be planning to do anything with their lives in the future which is how the very adult son of Murphy Brown ends up back with Mommy.
Last week, we talked about how NBC's failed sitcom offering was using monologues for dialogue. It happened on MURPHY BROWN as well. What people will laugh at in a monologue from Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel or even Johnny Carson, they're not going to giggle over in a sitcom. That's because people are supposed to talk. That's what humans do.
But MURPHY BROWN served up a lot of robots and nothing that was recognizable as life.
Okay, Hillary Clinton.
We weren't referring to her with that remark. But since it's out there, let's really be clear: Hillary was part of the problem.
Hillary is a politician. She's serious and not noted for her sense of humor.
So it's really sad that she was actually funny. We're not saying "by comparison, she was funny," we're saying she was actually funny in the episode playing a character named Hilary Clinton ("one l" in the first name).
But that only made the rest of the episode even more awful. Hillary was funny. And yet, Joe, Candice, Grant -- everyone but Faith -- were not funny at all.
Hillary was playing Hilary, a woman who wanted to be Murphy's assistant. And that's another problem with this show. Murphy abused her assistants. Who wants to watch that today?
Certainly not the people at ABC.
Not the ones working for Extreme Bitch Channing Dungey.
They can take comfort in the prospect that Channing's days continue to dwindle.
She may be throwing even more things at the walls of her office and abusing her assistant -- ABC better get her ass to H.R. damn quick because two suits have had it with her bitchery and say it's enough to get her fired -- but it's the drama at the end of the storm.
See, bad news for bitches, GREY'S ANATOMY's debut was soft and the network itself, ABC, it's 27.5% lower in terms of ratings last week than the same week the year before.
That's not success. MODERN FAMILY, on Wednesday night, launched its new season -- with approximately two million less viewers than last year.
Channing fired Roseanne Barr. She did so without the consent of the shareholders or the board. She just made a unilateral decision (which, some say, was based upon the fact that her looks have been called "simian" before so she didn't like Roseanne's joke about Planet of the Apes and War Criminal Valerie Jarrett). That would have been fine if ABC were a taco stand that Channing ran or her own tax service.
But ABC is a media conglomerate. It is huge business.
And Channing decided all by herself that she was going to fire Roseanne -- the star of ABC's hit program. Because of a Tweet.
Channing took it upon herself to pretend that she was playing with her own money when, in fact, it was house money.
She never should have fired Roseanne. Having fired Roseanne, she should have immediately told the cast -- who were all going to be paid for season two whether it was filmed or not -- "Do not say anything because we may do a season without Roseanne."
She didn't do that which led to the ridiculous Sara Gilbert trashing Roseanne in public -- trashing the woman who saved Sara's job for years when ABC wanted to fire Sara because Sara was a lesbian. But there's no loyalty, so Sara tore into Roseanne publicly.
After that, Channing finally got the idea for a sitcom with all of the cast except Roseanne (one of us, the day Roseanne was fired, noted the show could continue without her -- that Channing didn't realize that until weeks later goes to how stupid she is). Too late. Sara's public bitchery has harmed the show as much as Roseanne's firing. She should never have been allowed to make the remarks that she did.
But Roseanne should never have been fired. She Tweeted. She Tweeted a bad joke. If it was too much for the audiences, then that would become evident in the fall when the show returned.
Let the audience decide.
That was too much for Channing. She wanted to pretend that she owned ABC when, in fact, she worked for ABC. Or she's supposed to work for ABC. Nothing she's doing right now warrants a pay check. It does demand a pink slip.
Oh, and did we mention LAST MAN STANDING debuted on FOX last Friday? And it had more viewers than MURPHY BROWN.
Why is it on FOX again? Oh, that's right Channing cancelled it. It was the highest rated scripted half-hour show ABC had. But Channing cancelled it. Another great decision by her, right?
It goes to why she's abusing her assistant and her underlings and why she's having screaming fits in her office and cursing out subordinates in the sort of langague that -- pay attention, Channing -- should result in being fired.
CBS knew before MURPHY BROWN aired that it was a turkey. They also knew they only had to put up with 13 episodes. Sadly, ABC has to put up with a lot more from Channing. Sad for ABC stockholders, she's going to ruin the network a lot more before she finally gets fired.