In what has been the year of rebooted television shows, last week saw the return of two sitcoms, “Last Man Standing” and “Murphy Brown.” One did significantly better than the other.
I blame Kavanaugh!
At least that’s what some in the media are saying.
“Murphy Brown,” which originally ran from 1988 to 1998, followed a fictional journalist played by Candice Bergen. Its vigorously promoted reboot premiered on CBS last Thursday to an audience of 7.5 million people.
The next night, the return of Tim Allen-headed “Last Man Standing,” now on its new network, Fox, got 600,000 more people to tune in.
In its first week, AP reporter David Bauder said, it was Fox’s “most popular entertainment show, particularly impressive considering Friday is one of the least-watched nights on television.”
But Bauder offered an excuse for “Murphy Brown,” saying Bergen’s show “had the misfortune of competing against real-life politics, since the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh aired the day of its premiere.”
He said viewers tuned into Fox News and MSNBC instead of watching the politically charged “Murphy Brown” premiere.
The first episode saw Bergen’s character wearing a shirt reading “Original Nasty Woman” and screaming at her TV screen on 2016’s election night. The show continued its distinctly left-wing, heavy-handed approach to “topical” political humor, which was a signature of the show’s original run.
This culminated in a cringe-worthy appearance by none other than failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Her cameo set the stage for jokes and revelry over her email-related misdeeds and reminded us that we could have had her instead of President Donald Trump.
Sounds like some crucial viewing material, right? But somehow the show’s first episode failed to reach the high ratings of other recent revivals, such as ABC’s now-canceled “Roseanne,” which drew 18 million viewers for its premiere in March.
Fox picked up “Last Man Standing” after ABC canceled it last year despite its consistently high ratings. Many blamed the move on the show’s conservative slant.
Perhaps it wasn’t Kavanaugh who somehow hurt “Murphy Brown,” but that people would rather watch a sitcom that focuses on family and encouraged unity in the first episode of its new season. The premiere of “Last Man Standing” revolved around how politics was dividing the fictional Baxter family and ended with the message that family was more important.
“We’re gonna disagree … but we can’t let that break us apart,” the Baxter family matriarch said in the closing of the episode.“You have to always remember that we love each other.”
“And because of that, we treat each other with dignity and respect because that’s who we are,” Tim Allen’s character summed up.
Meanwhile, the revival of “Murphy Brown” boasted subpar humor relying on political buzzwords and making fun of people who “drive pickup trucks” and “go to church on Sunday.”
So let’s not misplace the blame for the show’s underwhelming ratings.
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