Murphy Brown review: CBS' sitcom revival too often feels like old news

This doesn’t qualify as breaking news, but the current glut of TV revivals we’re experiencing isn’t exactly fueled by creative necessity. As fun as it is to see some of these old casts yukking it up together again, let’s be real: Most of these revivals are solely designed to provide a short-term ratings fix for desperate broadcast networks — and quality is beside the point. CBS’ revival of Murphy Brown, which debuts this Thursday (9:30/8:30c), at least has a compelling hook to hang itself on: the election of President Trump and the war on the press he’s currently waging. But based on the three episodes I’ve seen, it feels more obligatory than urgent, and a bit late to the Trump-bashing party.

Picking up twenty years after the original run ended, Thursday’s premiere finds decorated TV journalist Murphy Brown (Emmy winner Candice Bergen) enjoying retirement until she’s inspired to make a comeback by her fury at the Trump administration. (Instead of just yelling at her TV, she says, “I’d rather be on the TV, yelling out!”) So she recruits her old FYI pals — Frank (Joe Regalbuto), Corky (Faith Ford) and Miles (Grant Shaud) — to join her in launching an old-fashioned news program that will favor facts and journalism over spin and rhetoric. (Yeah, good luck with that.)

16 PHOTOS
Murphy Brown then and now
See Gallery
Murphy Brown then and now
Publicity portrait of the cast of the television series 'Murphy Brown,' Los Angeles, California, early 1990s. Pictured are, front row from left, American actors Charles Kimbrough, Candice Bergen and Faith Ford; Back row, from left: Pat Corley (1930 - 2006), Robert Pastorelli (1954 - 2004), Joe Regalbuto, and Grant Shaud. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 1: (Pictured left to right) Guest star Colleen Dewhurst (as Avery Brown Sr.) and Candice Bergen (as Murphy Brown, seasoned broadcast journalist) star on 'Murphy Brown' the CBS television situation comedy program featuring topical current events and satire. Episode titled: 'Bob & Murphy & Ted & Avery'. Image dated: January 1, 1990. Los Angeles CA. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - MAY 20: MURPHY BROWN. Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown in episode 'Uh Oh'. Original air date May 20, 1991. Image date April 5, 1991. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 5: MURPHY BROWN. Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown and Robin Thomas as Jake Lowenstein, Murphy's ex husband in 'Signed, Sealed, and Delivered'. Original air date December 5, 1988. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
Murphy Brown, played by Candice Bergen, holds her newborn son Avery on the television show 'Murphy Brown.' The story generated controversy when Vice President Dan Quayle commented on the show as being contrary to traditional family values because Murphy was a single mother.
LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 11: MURPHY BROWN. Candice Bergen (center) as Murphy Brown in 'Operation Murphy Brown'. Episode #229. Original air date October 22, 1997. Image dated September 11, 1997. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 11: MURPHY BROWN. Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown in 'Operation Murphy Brown'. Original air date October 22, 1997. Image dated September 11, 1997. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 1: Murphy Brown, a CBS television situation comedy program featuring topical current events and satire. Pictured is Candice Bergen (as Murphy Brown, seasoned broadcast journalist). January 1, 1993. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 1: Murphy Brown, a CBS television situation comedy program featuring topical current events and satire. Pictured is Candice Bergen (as Murphy Brown, seasoned broadcast journalist). January 1, 1993, Los Angeles. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 1: (Pictured left to right) Guest star Barry Kivel (as Stan) and Candice Bergen (as Murphy Brown, seasoned broadcast journalist) star on 'Murphy Brown' the CBS television situation comedy program featuring topical current events and satire. Episode Titled: 'Send in the Clowns' Image dated: January 1, 1992. Los Angeles CA. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - JUNE 19: Multiple Emmy Award winners Candice Bergen and series creator Diane English reunite for MURPHY BROWN, the revival of the ground-breaking comedy about the eponymous broadcast news legend and her biting take on current events, now in a world of 24-hour cable, social media, '�fake news'� and a vastly different political climate. Amid a divided nation, chaotic national discourse and rampant attacks on the press, Murphy decides to return to the airwaves and recruits her FYI team: lifestyle reporter Corky Sherwood, investigative journalist Frank Fontana, and her former wunderkind news producer Miles Silverberg. Joining them is social media director Pat Patel, who is tasked with bringing Murphy and the team into the 21st century. Murphy's millennial son, Avery, shares his mother'�s competitive spirit and quick wit, and is following in her journalistic footsteps -� perhaps too closely. The team still lets off steam at Phil'�s Bar, now run by his sister, Phyllis. Now back in the game, Murphy is determined to draw the line between good television and honest reporting, proving that the world needs Murphy Brown now more than ever. MURPHY BROWN returns Thursday, Sept. 27 on the CBS Television Network. Pictured Top Row, L-R: Nik Dodani as Pat Patel, Grant Shaud as Miles Silverberg, and Jake McDorman as Avery Brown; Pictured Bottom Row, L-R: Tyne Daly as Phyllis, Faith Ford as Corky Sherwood, Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown, and Joe Regalbuto as Frank Fontana (Photo by Robert Trachtenberg/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 3: 'Fake News'--Multiple Emmy Award winner Candice Bergen returns as the eponymous broadcast news legend in the revival of the groundbreaking comedy series MURPHY BROWN, which premieres Thursday, Sept. 27 (9:30-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown (Photo by Jojo Whilden/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 24: 'Three Shirts to the Wind' - Murphy and the team weigh the pros and cons of accepting the offer to have the first interview with a headline-grabbing former White House senior advisor (David Costabile) who wants to promote his divisive book and agenda on 'Murphy in the Morning.' Also, on his own program, Avery moderates a lively political discussion with locals in Buffalo, N.Y., on MURPHY BROWN, Thursday, Oct. 11 (9:30-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured L-R: Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown and Grant Shaud as Miles Silverberg (Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 1: 'Fake News'--Multiple Emmy Award winner Candice Bergen returns as the eponymous broadcast news legend in the revival of the groundbreaking comedy series MURPHY BROWN, which premieres Thursday, Sept. 27 (9:30-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured L-R: Grant Shaud as Miles Silverberg, Faith Ford as Corky Sherwood, Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown, and Joe Regalbuto as Frank Fontana (Photo by Jojo Whilden/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 24: 'Three Shirts to the Wind' - Murphy and the team weigh the pros and cons of accepting the offer to have the first interview with a headline-grabbing former White House senior advisor (David Costabile) who wants to promote his divisive book and agenda on 'Murphy in the Morning.' Also, on his own program, Avery moderates a lively political discussion with locals in Buffalo, N.Y., on MURPHY BROWN, Thursday, Oct. 11 (9:30-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured L-R: Merle Dandridge as Diana Macomber, Grant Shaud as Miles Silverberg, and Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown (Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 24: 'Three Shirts to the Wind' - Murphy and the team weigh the pros and cons of accepting the offer to have the first interview with a headline-grabbing former White House senior advisor (David Costabile) who wants to promote his divisive book and agenda on 'Murphy in the Morning.' Also, on his own program, Avery moderates a lively political discussion with locals in Buffalo, N.Y., on MURPHY BROWN, Thursday, Oct. 11 (9:30-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured L-R: Faith Ford as Corky Sherwood and Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown (Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

I was a regular viewer of the original Murphy Brown back in the day, so it’s an undeniable treat just to see the old gang back together again. The ensemble has held together nicely in the two decades since — especially Shaud, who’s still a hilarious ball of neuroses as Miles. (When Murphy finds him, he’s living like a hermit, traumatized by his previous producing experience: “Two years on The View nearly killed me.”) Charles Kimbrough makes a welcome guest appearance in Episode 3 as stuffy anchor Jim Dial, and there are sweet nods to Murphy’s house painter Eldin (played by the late Robert Pastorelli) and her beloved Aretha Franklin. But all of that nostalgic goodwill can only carry it so far. When it comes time to take aim at today’s political landscape, Murphy Brown misses its target.

It doesn’t wait long to make its political allegiances known: The premiere opens with footage of Trump’s election set to the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.” It’s not surprising that the new episodes take swings at Trump… but it is surprising how ineffective those swings are. Most of the Trump jokes feel at least six months too old — Frank wears a pink protest hat, which was already a sight gag on the revived Roseanne… and it was old then! — and not pointed enough to draw blood. I do wonder if Murphy‘s humor has been neutered at all by nervous CBS executives, but it doesn’t seem to have anything pressing to say about our current political climate that hasn’t been said ten different ways already in the past two years.

The revival’s strongest asset, actually, is Murphy’s relationship with her now-adult son Avery (Jake McDorman), who’s a journalist just like his mom, and serves as the liberal voice on the staunchly right-wing Wolf Network. (Har-har.) McDorman brings a much-needed dose of youthful vigor to the series, and his scenes with Bergen allow her to play more than just a political crusader. Nik Dodani is funny, too, as the new show’s fast-talking social media guru Pat, but the scripts have unfortunately saddled him with a string of tired “darn those millennials!” jokes seemingly left over from TheGreat Indoors.

53 PHOTOS
Candice Bergen through the years
See Gallery
Candice Bergen through the years
American actress Candice Bergen conducts her toilette on the European set of Guy Green's 'The Magus', adapted from the book by John Fowles, October 1967. (Photo by Terry O'Neill/Iconic Images/Getty Images)
The American actress Candice Bergen on the set of the movie T.R. Baskin, directed by the American director Herbert Ross. USA, 1971.. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - CIRCA 1966: Actress Candice Bergen attends a show in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
The American actress Candice Bergen poses with the stage dress she will wear in the movie The Sand Pebbles. USA, 1966.. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Bewitched, beautiful and bespectacled...Candice Bergen is an American model in Paris who wears glasses and laughs very hard at the telephone jokes of Yves Montano in Live for Life.
UNITED STATES - MAY 01: American actress, Candice Bergen wearing a B. H. Wragge dress and earrings by Mimi di N; Hair by Carita (Photo by Bert Stern/Conde Nast via Getty Images)
circa 1967: American actor and model Candice Bergen. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
circa 1967: US actress and photojournalist Candice Bergen (1946 - ). (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Half-length portrait of American actress Candice Bergen, who is smoking a cigarillo and looking at the camera. 1967.. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
Actress Candice Bergen on September 3, 1968 films scenes for the movie 'The Adventurers' at Cinecitta Studios in Cinecitta, Rome, Italy. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Candice Bergen and Bekim Fehmiu during Film Set of 'The Adventurers' - September 3, 1968 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Close-up of the American actress Candice Bergen, gazing into the distance with a serious look. September 1968.. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
American actress Candice Bergen on the set of the Magus in Mallorca, Spain. (Photo by Terry O'Neill/Iconic Images/Getty Images)
The wonderful American actress Candice Bergen wears the precious jewels provided by Buccellati jeweller's shop for the movie The Adventurers, directed by the English director Lewis Gilbert and based on the American writer Harold Robbins' novel The Adventurers. Italy, 1968.. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
Candice Bergen during the filming of the movie 'The Hunting Party', director Don Medford, 1970, Almeria, Spain. (Photo by Gianni Ferrari/Cover/Getty Images).
LIFE magazine cover dated 07-24-1970 w. logo & legend Activist Actress Candice Bergen w. photo by Michael Mauney. (Photo by Michael Mauney/Life Magazine, Copyright Time Inc./The LIFE Premium Collection/Getty Images)
Actress Candice Bergen, at home with her pet dog Leonard. (Photo by Michael Mauney/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
A close-up of the American actress Candice Bergen during the shooting of the movie The Wind and the Lion, directed by the American director John Milius. USA, 1975.. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
Headshot of Candice Bergen, US actress and fashion model, circa 1975. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - CIRCA 1979: Candice Bergen circa 1979 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Platzer/IMAGES/Getty Images)
Portrait of American actress Candice Bergen as she poses in front of a window that overlooks Central Park, New York,New York, mid 1980s. (Photo by Oliver Morris/Getty Images)
Candice Bergen during Candice Bergen File Photos, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - CIRCA 1980: Candice Bergen on movie set circa 1980 in New York City. (Photo by Images Press/IMAGES/Getty Images)
Candice Bergen pictured in New York City in 1984. (Photo by Walter McBride/Corbis via Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON -- Pictured: (l-r) Actress Candice Bergen, host Johnny Carson on March 29, 1984 -- (Photo by: Gary Null/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Candice Bergen and Louis Malle during 60th Annual Academy Awards at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, CA, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actress Candice Bergen and director Louis Malle attend the 45th Annual Golden Globe Awards on January 23, 1988 at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Actress Candice Bergen and daughter Chloe Malle and Disney executive Michael Eisner attend the 'Oliver & Company' Burbank Premiere on November 6, 1988 at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actress Candice Bergen and daughter Chloe Malle attend the 'Oliver & Company' Burbank Premiere on November 6, 1988 at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actress Candice Bergen attends the 49th Annual Golden Globe Awards on January 18, 1992 at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actress Candice Bergen attends the 44th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on August 30, 1992 at Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actress Candice Bergen attends the 48th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on September 8, 1996 at Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
CANDICE BERGEN ON MADISON AVENUE (Photo by Lawrence Schwartzwald/Sygma via Getty Images)
Candice Bergen and Dustin Hoffman during 1996 Pediatric Aids Picnic at Private Residence in Brentwood, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
Actress Candice Bergen attends the 'Miss Congeniality' Hollywood Premiere on December 14, 2000 at Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
(L-R) Television personality Oprah Winfrey and Candice Bergen at launch party for Winfrey's cable channel OXYGEN. (Photo by Dave Allocca/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
American actress Candice Bergen, circa 2000. (Photo by Nancy R. Schiff/Getty Images)
Candice Bergen during CBS at 75 at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
Candice Bergen during Miramax Films Premiere Screening of 'The Station Agent' at The Walter Reade Theater in New York, New York, United States. (Photo by Sylvain Gaboury/FilmMagic)
Candice Bergen and Robert De Niro during 2003 Tribeca Film Festival - Premiere of The In-Laws at Tribeca Performing Arts Center in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 29: Candice Bergen is on hand at the Dairy at Central Park to kick off a celebration of the park's 150th anniversary. The year-long celebration will include a birthday bash from dawn until dark on July 19. (Photo by Robert Rosamilio/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
THE 58th ANNUAL PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS -- Press Room -- Pictured: Candice Bergen, presenter for Aaron Spelling Tribute (Photo by Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Candice Bergen during 'Curse of the Golden Flower' New York City Premiere - Arrivals at Alice Tulley Hall - Lincoln Center in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
Candice Bergen at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
Candice Bergen during 'Boston Legal' Celebrates It's Season One DVD Debut at The 21 Club in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ryan Born/WireImage)
LUIS GUERRA/�2009 RAMEY PHOTO New York, Nov. 03, 2009 This Photo: CANDICE BERGEN *EXCLUSIVE* Celebrities sighting at the Harley Show. PGlg68 (Photo by Philip Ramey/Corbis via Getty Images)
LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 942 -- Pictured: Candice Bergen on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 11: Actress Candice Bergen attends the 'Murphy Brown' 25th anniversary event at Museum of Modern Art on December 11, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 02: Actress Candice Bergen attends the Museum of the Moving Image 30th Annual Salute at 583 Park Avenue on November 2, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jimi Celeste/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 23: Candice Bergen attends The World Science Festival 2016 Gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center on May 23, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 11: Candice Bergen attends Lincoln Center's American Songbook Gala honoring Lorne Michaels at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on February 11, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)
WESTWOOD, CA - MAY 06: Actress Candice Bergen arrives at the premiere of Paramount Pictures' 'Book Club' at Regency Village Theatre on May 6, 2018 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
WESTWOOD, CA - MAY 06: Actress Candice Bergen arrives at the premiere of Paramount Pictures' 'Book Club' at Regency Village Theatre on May 6, 2018 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

It’s not until the revival’s third episode, with character actor MVP David Costabile guest-starring as a Steve Bannon-style conservative firebrand, that we start to see what this new Murphy Brown could eventually become. When he and Murphy delve into a meaty debate about where this country is headed, it crackles with an intellectual energy that’s vintage Murphy Brown. (It’s a one-sided debate, of course, but hey, the original never pretended to be evenhanded, either.) It’s enough, along with McDorman’s presence, to make me want to keep checking in on this new Murphy, to see if something old can actually become something new again.

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: It’s nice to see the Murphy Brown gang again, but the revival lacks urgency and relies too heavily on tired Trump humor.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Entertainment Insider by AOL to get the hottest pop culture news delivered straight to your inbox!

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.