Murphy Brown and Everything is New Again…

My Christmas wish is for ’90s sitcom Murphy Brown to become available online. Because sadly, we need her more than ever.

So please take a gander at THIS CLIP. It is under eight minutes. It has Wallace Shawn in it. And it is– how shall I put this– RELEVANT.


 Everything old is new again.

Whatcha Talking about, Sitcoms?

A little background: I belong to a quiet, silly, and non-intrusive little club called Sitcom Club, started by the inimitable actor and friend Doug Plaut. Each month, a member nominates a sitcom for the group to consider, and writes up an e-mail about why they’ve chosen this sitcom and suggesting some links to favorite episodes. The group is made up of creatives of all types– actors, directors, et cetera– and even, I am guessing, some civilians outside of the industry. We all love the art form of the sitcom for various reasons.

This month, Doug asked me to write about Murphy Brown, and it made perfect sense to me to pay tribute to the original ’90s sitcom power woman, at this time when liberals and progressives like me need to shore up our energy and optimism for the fights ahead. So I looked online to refresh my memory and was super sad to realize that only one season of Murphy Brown is available to purchase, and none are available for streaming. I started to Google more, and found different theories about why Murphy’s not around.

Where You At, Murphy?

Star Candice Bergen has said she thinks the absence has to do with the Motown music rights; it is too expensive to make streaming deals. And others have posited that the show was too topical in a “you had to be there” way. Some nasty trolls say Candice shouts her lines (despite her five Emmys), and the show went on a few seasons longer than it should have.

But it is also possible the show isn’t available because of its unabashed left-leaning politics and bad-ass feminist storylines. Show-runner Diane English created a workplace comedy at a 60-Minutes style news show whose employees (led by a working woman) cared deeply about journalism, respect for all citizens, and about finding and uncovering the truth (using facts, these things that the entire country still used and in which we all still believed.)

And that’s why it’s so f***ing delightful to watch RIGHT NOW. And thank goodness, we have clips. We can strap in to Youtube and click away.

Bring on the Secretaries

Now don’t get me wrong; I do have some gripes with the show. It’s not racially diverse, and it got very heavy-handed with guest stars. But I suggest watching the Youtube clips about Murphy’s revolving door of secretaries– a great running gag–and enjoy Bette Midler and Pee Wee Herman and even our beloved Marcia Wallace from The Bob Newhart Show. Or better yet, watch the lucky lesser-known actors who get to play delightful bits like trying to talk with lit cigarettes in their mouth holes. (Can you imagine the thrill at getting that audition? Oh please, let it be me someday…)

Watch here: Murphy Brown’s Secretaries

Quayle v. Hamilton

And of course, a discussion of Murphy Brown wouldn’t be complete without factoring in the culture wars brought on when Dan Quayle, the Vice President of the United States of America, gave a speech expressing his dismay that a fictional character who was intended to represent a successful and intelligent working woman of the day was portrayed making the choice to have a baby by herself, without a father in the picture. He thought it represented the wrong values. He called out a sitcom.

Can you imagine that happening today? I certainly can. Our current President Elect would Tweet about an ill-fitting brassiere on Broad City if he thought it would bring him attention.

But at the time, it was unheard of. A national politician was expected to be above complaining about pop culture. They were supposed to have more serious work to do.

So when the Hamilton flap occurred weeks ago, I couldn’t help but think about Quayle versus Murphy. It was the politicians versus the artists yet again. And this time it was Diane English and Candice Bergen who took on the challenge.

Watch Murphy speak truth to power here:

Anyhoo, that’s all I’ve got for now. I’ve purchased the DVD for Season One on Amazon and I look forward to taking a bath in smart funny lady pantsuit journalism porn. I wish it for you as well.




My thoughts on Hillary’s health – a personal post


My thoughts on #hillaryshealth:


I am someone who has lost two parents out of the blue, both after clearance from medical professionals; both would have been considered at extremely low risk for the adverse events that caused their deaths.

I, myself, keep managing to truly thrive and accomplish absolutely everything I care about despite some medical doozies, with the help of both awesome science and some good luck and support. And I know many extraordinary women and men of all ages who do the same.

So to me, the idea that we can learn, predict, or guess what ANYBODY can accomplish in their remaining lifespan is an absurd denial of the human condition.

That denial, of course, is the same denial that stops curiosity. Prefers authoritarianism. Whipsaws between believing broad emotional statements, and conspiracy theories. Cannot tolerate nuance. Et cetera.

We cannot be in denial about the precarious nature of our lives and health. But none of us can see the future. What we can do is be present to the moment and continue to learn from the past. (Isn’t that basically the definition of the scientific method?)

Through that lens, I will continue to support, work and vote for a woman who has spent years fighting for justice. At present, her passion for the people of this country caused her to work through pneumonia, something I’m pretty sure 90 percent of my Facebook friends would do. This is optimism. This is dedication. As much as Hillary deserves a little rest and some good fluids, she deserves our vote.






How to Survive Summer Stock Theater: 10 Rules for Actors With Bug Spray and a Dream

I’ve done it. A lot. And I’ve been thinking of what I wish I’d known back when I was first costumed in fair isle wool sweaters, in mid-July, in a barn without appropriate climate control. For better or worse: some lessons I’ve learned.



1.  Just because there’s a lake doesn’t mean there are no rules.

You still may have a significant other in some other geographical location. There may be beautiful natural surroundings, porch swings, and pie, but there is no wrinkle in time, so keep it in (or out of) your pants if that’s what your real-life relationship requires.


2.  Write down your first impressions of people.

It will be hilarious to you later on. Your standards will slip after weeks in the hinterlands; especially if you’re single and/or you disregard rule number one. When you find your heart broken in August, you will want to remind yourself who wore an Ed Hardy t-shirt to the read-through. It will help.


3.  Bring one dress-up outfit. 

There will be zero reasons to wear it. (YOU: But the opening night party! ME: Birkenstock up. You’re in the middle of the woods. Put the platforms down and walk away from Rent the Runway; they hold no power here.)


4.  Do not forget warm clothes.

If you’re near a body of water, mountains, or old people A/C, you will need more layers than you currently imagine. You will repeat outfits anyway, because the cast washing machine will be eternally in use, broken, or too far to get to easily. Put a clean color on top and rotate your way through.


5. Have a substance abuse game plan.

If a bomb dropped on the outdoor dramas of the mid-Atlantic, US marijuana consumption and probably production would dip by 60 to 70 percent. Interested? Start saving up for the vape. Not interested? Maybe don’t audition for outdoor drama. And give yourself some bottom lines.




6.  Related: pick one form of alcohol you won’t mind having a physical aversion to for the rest of your life.

You may want to go crazy for one summer season; but once you vomit at a bonfire you’ll never be able to drink that form of alcohol again. (Not kidding. I haven’t had a drop of gin since September of ’02.)


7. Be prepared for bats.

Or ticks, water beetles, mosquitoes, sweltering heat, or disturbingly curious locals. Management is busy plunging the toilets and returning the last show’s wigs at the Walmart. They don’t have time to protect you. You have to protect yourself.


8. Speaking of plunging the toilets… learn to spot influence in the most surprising places.

Your artistic director is not the person having three-hour lunches at the yacht club with patrons. A development volunteer or board member *may* be doing that. Your artistic director is the person scraping pine tar and muffin crumbs off the front of the stage and attempting to install a new memory chip into a 2006 Dell desktop computer to give to “the education department.” Never be rude or dismissive to anyone doing what seems to be hard, disgusting, or menial tasks. They probably hired you.


9. Do good work.

It’s hard to get a job. When you do have a job, you should have one mission. To spread your actor wings and do the best work you possibly can. Imagine it’s your ticket to Broadway if you have to. (It’s probably not.) Convince yourself that a bad play is wonderful, or that your work will raise the consciousness of the people in the summer stock community who are able to see it. Work hard. You really do have the best job in the world.


10.  Go to the crick.

And then AFTER you’ve insured that you can do good work, go to the crick every time you are invited. Walk to the water, play the midnight croquet game, and explore the town. Watch the deer in the dusk, talk to people at the general store, run your lines with cast members at the boat launch, and get your nose up in nature every chance you get.


This, combined with the work, is how you will become the best version of you that you can be. Well-fed, well-exercised, and well-rounded.


You are so lucky. It’s your summer stock experience. Don’t forget to live it.


If you go climb the hill past the cemetery and take a right at the big white barn, you’ll get cell phone service. So follow me on Twitter! @jtparson


A Very Short Post Regarding My 6 Train Ride.

Questionable “solo dancer” on the subway today. I wish I had the confidence to plunk down a massive amp and expect money to do something a few people told me I was good at once. I’d be all “Hello, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Joanna and I make wise decisions.” And then I’d stand in the middle and play the soundtrack to “The Piano” loudly while I tell people about my last breakup and why it’s good to make soup from your farm share vegetables, and they’d all nod solemnly and give me dollars.




Lady Band Loves Shonda Rhimes; and what that has to do with me



(Shonda Rhimes)

Note: This is the origin story for Lady Band. To skip to our new Shonda Rhimes musical shout out, go to: Lady Band Shout-Out to Shonda Rhimes. Follow Lady Band on Twitter (@ladybandnyc) and Youtube (Ladybandnyc). And let us know who you want us to shout out to next! 


Shonda Rhimes is the creator of ScandalGrey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and now the upcoming How to Get Away With Murder. This fall, she will have a three-hour block of TV programming on ABC Thursday nights– which to my eyes, makes her not only one of the most powerful women in TV, but one of the most bad-ass women ever.

Fortunately, I have a way to express my non-stalker-y admiration for ladies I think the world ought to celebrate. Last year, dynamite singer/actress Liz Asti approached me and the sublime singer/actress/Marie’s Crisis pianist Franca Vercelloni. “Let’s work together for fun!” she said. “I want to sing with you!”



So Franca (center), Liz (right) and I took a look at our combined schedules, threw up in our mouths a little bit, and realized if we wanted to work together, it would need to be squeezed in among our other obligations-slash-joyful-artistic-commitments.  And we knew it had to be something we cared about. And I mean really cared about. Like, “mission-critical, this aligns with the reason I am living,” cared.

Basically, we came up with the idea for Lady Band for the following reasons:

1) We love each other.

2) We love inspirational women.

3) We want all women– our friends and people we don’t know– to become more aware of what is possible in this world. To become more aware of each other. And to celebrate the shit out of that.

4) We’re really good at writing, arranging, and singing two-minute a cappella songlets.


And so Lady Band, the world’s foremost creator of three-voice a cappella video shout-outs to bad-ass women, was born. We’ve got more in the hopper, and you can see our videos to Holland Taylor and Cyndi Lauper on Youtube already.

But today, the day after the 2014 Emmy’s, I present to you our latest creation: Lady Band’s musical shout out to The Great Shonda Rhimes!