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Much like the premiere of Murphy Brown, the show’s fourth episode featured Candice Bergen’s titular character facing off against a conservative leader — and this time, though the character was fictional, the confrontation happened face to face.
In the show’s premiere, Murphy got into a Twitter fight with the president that led to a ratings win for her new cable show, Murphy in the Morning. In the fourth episode, “Three Shirts to the Wind,” the exec of Murphy’s cable network home CNC encouraged the news anchor to debate a conservative commentator and former White House adviser named Ed Shannon — hmmm, who could have inspired that character? — live on the air.
The episode opened on Murphy’s son, Avery (Jake McDorman), hosting his Wolf Network show from Buffalo, New York, where his regular-Joe guests began to fight about a man named Ed Shannon (David Costabile) speaking at an “America First” rally. This Steve Bannon stand-in wears three shirts at a time and sports unshaven, slightly unkempt facial hair, and rants about “bleeding-heart lib-tards” and “crimmigrants.”
At Murphy in the Morning, CNC exec Diana (Merle Dandridge) told Murphy that Shannon wanted to debate her on her show — and she expected it to happen on account of the ratings boost it would bring. While Murphy, Corky (Faith Ford) and Frank (Joe Regalbuto) were vehemently against it, Miles (Grant Shaud) thought that maybe Diana had a point. While lunching at Phil’s later, he told Murphy she was the only person who could cut him down to size.
Murphy wished anchorman Jim (Charles Kimbrough) were there to advise her what to do, and guess who showed up? None other than the happily retired Jim himself, who encouraged Murphy to stay true to herself and trust her own instincts.
“You don’t have to give equal time to someone who claims Tom Hanks is running a shadow government,” he told her, though Miles argued that if she didn’t have him on her show, someone else would have him on theirs.
Later, Murphy went on the air and said the interview wouldn’t happen. “We’re here to report the news, not to become the news,” she said, adding, “I like to think integrity won out.”
Diana, however, wasn’t so impressed with her move. “Integrity: it’s impressive. If only we can eat it for dinner or use it to pay rent,” she said.
Back at Phil’s, Shannon himself came looking for Murphy and the two managed to have that argument after all (with Murphy getting in plenty of biting barbs). “I just didn’t want to help you further your ugly agenda,” she told the man.
At home with Avery later, Murphy learned that not only did someone film her telling Shannon off, but that the video had already gone viral. It might not have gotten the ratings Diana wanted, but it certainly brought more attention to Murphy.
Murphy Brown airs Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on CBS.
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