Murphy Brown: The Complete First Season (1988)
Review by Thespia

Created by Diane English
Starring Candice Bergen, Pat Corley, Faith Ford, Charles Kimbrough, Robert Pastorelli


Released by: Warner Brothers.
Rating: NR.
Region: 1
Anamorphic: N/A; episodes appear in their original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Fans of the show should own.

The show is called FYI and makes Washington, D.C. its home. Murphy Brown (Bergen) is the top reporter on the show, who has just returned from a nice vacation at the Betty Ford Clinic. Also on the staff at FYI are Jim Dial (Kimbrough), who's even more uptight than Murphy, Corky (Ford), who has gone from being Miss America to being a newscaster, and Miles (Grant Shaud), the show's green executive producer. There's also Eldin (Pastorelli), who makes a career out of repainting Murphy's residence.

Well, this is a doozie of a sitcom. How many shows can wish for the kind of publicity that comes from getting a veep to make disparaging remarks about them? You can't pay for that kind of goodness. But that comes much later. Here we get the ground floor of the show, the first season of ten. Here, Murphy spars with the overly bubbly Corky, we get to meet Murphy's ex-husband and her mom, and she winds up killing a judge on the air.

While the cast is extremely solid, this is Bergen's show. It's another example of having an excellent ensemble that's there to let an excellent lead do her thing. The next standout other than Bergen herself is the writing, which has aged remarkably well, considering we've got some distance on us since this show ended. In the features, they even make reference to jokes known as "ten percenters," in which they pretty much accept that only ten percent of their audience will get the joke. Gotta respect that.

You also have to respect the attention given to features for this set. They're not the best in the world, but we'll take just about anything over nothing. First up, Bergen gives a commentary for the pilot episode. What it turns into is Bergen seemingly taking this opportunity to talk about the entire series in an overview rather than give specifics about the show in front of her. She's acting like this is her one shot to get all this out, which means she won't be back for a season two boxed set--or she'll have less to talk about. Creator English fares a little better with her episode, "The Summer of 77," but again it's a lot of general stuff. So just be forewarned.

The retrospective docu is pretty tame as well. You get a look at the characters and how they developed, and the later attack by Quayle is touched upon, but there's no surprises in store. No "oh, cool...I never knew that" sort of moments. It was nice to hear the character note for Murphy described as "Mike Wallace in a dress," which is a disturbing image but we'll get over it.

For fans of the show, even the so-so features won't deter them from picking this up. The show is still sharp and funny as ever, so that's almost worth it right there. Still, the casual fan might want to just settle for a rental.

(UK) (CAN)

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