One week after a poignant Thanksgiving episode, Murphy Brown returns to portray the day-to-day ugliness of interactions between the American press, the president, and the people. Episode ten, “Beat the Press,” reminds how deeply the divide runs between members of the two major American political parties these days and how Trump’s “enemy of the people / fake news” rhetoric often fills the divide with violence.
As the crew signs off another episode of Murphy in the Morning, Murphy gets off a joke about Trump in relation to other world leaders, calling him a baby. Miles scolds her for raising the ire of the president again and Frank decides to attend a Trump rally in Altoona, Pennsylvania (my home state!). Later, Murphy and Avery watch the rally and hear Trump when he calls out “Old Murphy” and “Fibbin’ Frank Fontana,” then says that the crowd should body slam Frank as Murphy turns the channel to Hoarders. Hours later we find Avery lost in a familiar TV binge as the Browns’ receive the call that Frank was attacked at the rally and injured.
Franks describes leaving the press pen after Trump’s speech; first to conduct interviews then to find himself surrounded “by a sea of red hats” and attacked by a group of Trump supporters. While a seriously injured Frank comically enjoys his pain meds Murphy feels responsible and Corky reveals that she has a permit and carries a small handgun – L’il Lucy – with her for safety, much to the surprise of her longtime friends. She points out that the gun usually stays at home in the closet without saying directly that she has started to carry it because of concerns for her safety.
Later, Avery visits Frank in the hospital to announce that he intends to go to Altoona to interview the people who helped Frank as well as those who attacked him. Avery thinks that because he is with WOLF he will be safe in “red hat country” so Frank gives his blessing. This is America and we’ve all seen the news lately, so no one is surprised when Avery is attacked as well after standing up to Frank’s attackers. After, Murphy and Avery discuss mob mentality and objectivity, highlighting how people’s fears and apprehensions are used to manipulate their actions.
Side effects of the two attacks are revealed the next day when Murphy pulls punches during an interview with a guest. She keeps her responses neutral, only to feel shame and regret later. At Frank’s “welcome home” party at Phil’s, Frank says that he doesn’t know America anymore and doesn’t feel as safe as he once did back in the days of war zone coverage in far-off lands.
Frank, Murphy, and Corky prep for a story on the Muller investigation at the end of the episode, knowing that they will draw the president’s gaze, like Sauron’s Eye, again. The mood is one part hopelessness and one part bravery at the implied threat to their future safety. You feel it. They’re scared of the new world order in Trump’s America, but they rise in the face of that fear in order to report the news to people on both sides of the aisle – whether they want the news or not. Though there were several laughs throughout the episode, it highlights the many problems that arise from the president attacking the press and from presenting all sides that oppose him as “fake news.”
Despite cancellation rumors, Murphy Brown endures for a second (twelfth) season to be announced at a later date. While my mom, myself, and probably others agree that the show doesn’t quite punch the way it once did, it’s still swinging in an attempt to portray some of the greater and lesser moments of the modern-day relationship between president and press. We are reminded that people from both parties watch Prime Time programming, a fact that Murphy Brown doesn’t seem to have forgotten.