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…)
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.