The other night, I watched the first episode of the CBS reboot of Murphy Brown, and my first thought is that I hope it gets better. A lot better. The only part I liked was the cameo by Hillary Clinton playing “Hillary Clindon,” a potential secretary for Candice Bergen’s Murphy Brown. (If I remember the original show correctly, Brown had a long and troubled history with secretaries, which puts a bit of icing on the scene.)
Seeing the main characters again, for me, was awkward and close to cringe-worthy. They seem very much a product of their era (1988-1998) and didn’t translate well across the two decades that have brought so much social and technical change.
Part of the problem might be that I find CBS half-hour sitcoms tediously dull, cliché-filled, totally unfunny, marshmallow realities.
I’ve liked many of their dramas (NCIS has been a favorite show for a long time), but their sitcoms, nearly all of them, just seem lame to me.
When I look at the list of CBS sitcoms, I realize I haven’t been into them since the days Murphy Brown first aired in 1988. Since then:
- Dave’s World and The Nanny (1993)
- Cybill (1995)
And, that’s it! Many of the ones since 2000 seem utterly unwatchable to me. Some seem downright repulsive (2 Broke Girls, Two and a Half Men, Everyone Loves Raymond, etc). They make me wonder, “Who watches this stuff?”
Maybe it’s just me, but when I consider the CBS sitcoms prior to 1990, the list is much longer and has some classic gems:
- Murphy Brown (1988)
- Designing Women (1996)
- Newhart (1982)
- WKRP in Cincinnati (1978)
- One Day at a Time and The Jeffersons (1975)
- Good Times (1974)
- M*A*S*H, The Bob Newhart Show, Maude (1972)
- All in the Family (1971)
- The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970)
Those are just the classics. I actually watched at least twice as many more.
Notice how we’re talking about a 20-year period compared to the nearly 30 years since, so it’s a more-than fair comparison and especially notable for having no worthy entries in this century!
At least in my mind, and this could all be me. Maybe one wears out on things. Maybe after seeing so many sitcoms over so many years, one truly has — at least for sitcoms — ‘seen and done it all.’
Except that real gems still do come along.
For instance, The Good Place (on NBC) is truly awesome and utterly fresh. In general, in my eyes, NBC has always been the place for decent sitcoms. Remember Thursday night’s “Must See TV” and all those great classic shows?
I absolutely loved: Scrubs and Community and My Name Is Earl and 30 Rock and The Office and Parks and Recreation and Mad About You and Just Shoot Me! (all NBC) and Soap and Cougar Town (ABC).
Currently I like the ABC show, Fresh Off the Boat. (I haven’t watched an ABC show since I gave up on Agents of SHIELD (season three, maybe?). I did watch a few seasons of Once Upon a Time on Netflix. Can’t say it really grabbed me much.)
TBS has also has sitcoms I’ve liked. Wrecked is just okay, but Angie Tribeca is a real hoot. And I really liked People of Earth, so naturally it was cancelled.
So I’m going to stick with my premise that CBS not only makes boring sitcoms, but sitcoms I would actively avoid.
Which, to return to the topic, doesn’t bode well for the future of the rebooted Murphy Brown. The first episode was exactly the excruciatingly awful sitcom dialog I’ve come to expect from CBS, so I have my doubts it’ll improve.
I’ll give it a few episodes, but I’m not sure how much of Frank and Miles I can take. I find them both painfully, even horrifically, unfunny.
There is also the NBC reboot of Will & Grace.
I got through the first season; we’re into the first episodes of the second season. I’ve been iffy on this one, and I may be reaching the end of my tolerance. The show tends to the same old thing, which can be a lot of fun when they really hit the mark, but gets old when they don’t.
It helps that I’m watching it commercial-free on Hulu, so new episodes present themselves in my queue, and watching is a simple click.
To watch Murphy Brown I’m stuck with Comcast Ondemand, which forces commercials on us, and which needs to be remembered and sought out.
[I’m very close to cutting the cable. I just need to figure out how to watch baseball and the MLB channel. And decide whether to give up Showtime, Cinemax, and Stars. And a couple of other details, but soon! Ish.]
A lot of my iffiness on Will & Grace comes simply from it being a reboot.
As I’ve said so many times, I’m not much one for the rear view mirror. I don’t really get nostalgia. I’m far more focused on now and what’s next.
So this desire to retread the old ground of TV shows mystifies me.
I like stories that take me someplace new (which is why I adore The Good Place).
But a lot of evidence suggests most people want more familiar ground in their stories. Hollywood movie trailers notoriously spoil movie plots, because that’s what most people want!
Utterly mystifies me.
Many science fiction fans were thrilled and delighted by the news that Patrick Stewart will be returning to Star Trek as (presumably) Jean-Luc Picard. And apparently some of the other old gang from TNG as well.
I was horrified!
Speaking of CBS, which we are, and of Star Trek, which we are, I’ve had no interest whatsoever in their reboot of the show. (Which has the unintentionally hilarious abbreviation: STD.)
Part of it is that it’s only available through their streaming app, so fuck you CBS, eat my shit. (And I hear it’s not a great app.)
More of it is that everything I’ve heard about the show makes it sound like complete crap. Not just shitty Star Trek, but shitty SF. The sort of thing only a far gone love-blinded fan could like.
I did watch the first episode, which CBS aired to suck us in, but it was pretty bad to my eyes, and (as I said) everything I’ve heard since confirms that it’s as bad as it seemed. (Nothing I’ve heard gives me any interest in it at all.)
Steve Carell, bless his heart, recently said he thought a reboot of The Office would be a horrible idea. Apparently some fans were crushed by this.
I applauded his good sense and intelligence.
I do not want new episodes of The Office. I do not want to see what the characters lives are like all these years later. I don’t want to see them in some new context.
The Office was a wonderful show (proof again that sitcom isn’t dead). Why can’t we let it be? Why can’t it stand alone as a TV classic?
Why this infantile need to keep sucking the same teat?
(No wonder I think most people are morons.)
Compare that class from Carell to the HBO show, Big Little Lies, which was really very good, I enjoyed it immensely.
The show was written as a stand-alone set of episodes telling a specific story. We were promised this was it, just the one season. That was part of its charm, that it was a one-off (like Netflix Maniac).
The show was critically acclaimed and popular as well.
So guess what.
Yep. Another season.
Which I will not, under any circumstances, watch.
(I have exactly the same issue with the continuation of the Harry Potter canon. That story was told; it was over and done. For god’s sake, let it be; let it go! Everything added now just dilutes and tarnishes the original beauty. That these new “Fantastic Beasts” movies are pretty awful makes it all the worse.)
I can’t help but wonder if we’re gone culturally stale.
Is it possible to use up various creative wells?
Is it possible, for instance, for rock and roll to be dead, because the ground has been thoroughly plowed? Can a given art form be so well explored it has nothing new to offer?
One might ask the same question of fiction in general. It’s a question I ponder with regard to science fiction, which sometimes seems to me a very well-plowed field.
And yet new gems do come along and sparkle brightly. A band finds a new sound, an author finds a new twist, a sitcom finds a new premise.
Perhaps we’ve picked the low fruits, and it takes a real creative stretch to find the new, fresh ones.
I wonder, too, if the glut of content, so many new content producers, doesn’t induce a kind of exhaustion, both among viewers and among creators.
Or are commercial content artists simply too timid these days, too willing to pander to perceived large group interests, too unwilling and scared to venture outside well proscribed lines?
Does it take a bold, unafraid artist to find something in that special territory outside the box?
Maybe it just depends on how you look at it. Or how long you’ve been looking at it. Maybe it’s the viewer — specifically this viewer — who’s just gotten very weary of the SOS (Same Old Shit).
But I just have a sinking feeling that the Murphy Brown reboot is gonna suck.
The first episode was not encouraging.
October 16th, 2018 at 8:32 am
I’ve watched a couple of episodes of Murphy Brown and have mixed feelings. I like that she said what I’m thinking, but what I really liked was the character of her son. That’s the character I want to follow and find out what is going on.
Do not watch The Cool Kids, horrible waste of time. There was potential there as a good idea (not going gently into the dark night), but then they had people in the retirement home without disabilities at 65 – total bullshit. They should have cast as 75 or 85. This could have been great, humor about growing old – but I think the writers are in their 20’s they certainly didn’t get it. Our generation needs a show about growing old – an ignored demographic, but hey, we watch a lot of TV now.
I suspect what you are seeing with the drivel level is the business machine. For creativity you might seek things on the internet. Pod casts have lots of interesting material. Sounds like radio to me – everything old is new again.
October 16th, 2018 at 4:40 pm
There are some interesting podcasts, for sure, and a lot of creative content on the web in general, but podcasts and audio books just don’t work for me. On two counts.
Firstly, my hearing is so bad that sometimes it’s almost impossible (and no closed captions on podcasts or audio books).
Secondly, speech is about the most inefficient possible means of disseminating information. I tried listening to a Twins podcast one season and decided to not bother thereafter. At least half the time spent was on “noise” (laughing, silences, hemming and hawing, pointless diversions and tangents, etc). So inefficient!
I’d way rather read or watch a well-done video! 😀
I’ll take your advice on The Cool Kids. Have you tried Frankie and Grace (Netflix)? It’s fun to watch those older actors work; they’re all quite good at what they do. And it does have a lot of that growing old stuff.
I’ll give Murphy Brown a few more episodes to prove itself, but if it remains anything like the first episode, that’s probably gonna be it.
It’s weird that CBS sitcoms seem so lame to me, but the more I think about all the other sitcoms, the more I realize it’s true. What happened, CBS? You used to turn out some pretty great classics!
November 16th, 2018 at 2:37 pm
Several episodes in, and the show still seems ultra lame to me. The jokes are ancient and very, very tired, and the whole thing with her son, Avery, working for the “Wolf” network falls flat in treating it all as a benign source of jokes.
CBS seems to be trying to position the show as a serious commentary, which is a joke, and they’re trying to have it both ways. As a result, the show has no real direction, no drive, and it isn’t funny at all.
I’m not sure how much longer I’ll watch it. I’m only watching out of loyalty to an old show I used to really like. This reboot has almost nothing to like.
December 11th, 2018 at 1:05 pm
The last three episodes have introduced serious themes, so the show is trying to be like M*A*S*H.
The challenge is the contrast between their Idiot Clown comedy and attempts at a deeper, and very serious, subject matter. In a sense, they end up trivializing FNC, which I think can be dangerous.
(As I’ve said before, I think that’s true to some extent of all these comedy shows that use current events. I think they risk numbing the outrage when outrage is what we need most to sweep those fuckers out of politics forever.)
And it remains that most of the cast is shallow caricature, the jokes are stale and predictable, and the staging is flat and lifeless, and the acting is often questionable.
December 3rd, 2021 at 10:52 am
It never did get any better. It remained at awful and only lasted the one season (thankfully).
December 4th, 2021 at 7:48 am
[…] I am not a fan of reboots, but they do offer at least some chance at original storytelling. I am even less a fan of remakes, because I see them as fundamentally cowardly. Some far less skilled storyteller trading on the skills of their betters. […]
September 23rd, 2022 at 11:57 am
[…] (The legitimate negative response shows one danger of reboots! I’ve always been a little askance at them. See Reboots.) […]