NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, October 5th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
Coming next on The World and Everything in It: A tale of two reboots. Here’s Megan Basham.
MEGAN BASHAM, TELEVISION CRITIC: Last week, two formerly popular sitcoms premiered on two separate networks. One was a reboot from the 1990s. The other was revived after only a year off the air. And though they demonstrate two fundamentally different methods of approaching the subject, both reflect how much politics continues to invade every facet of our lives—seemingly leaving no space safe from it.
Perhaps it was inevitable in this golden age of TV reboots that CBS would decide feminist icon Murphy Brown was due for a comeback. From the very first seconds, the show makes it clear that years haven’t softened its main character in the slightest. Murphy enters the scene fresh from a women’s protest march wearing a pink-accented Roman battle helmet.
AUDIO: The pink hats were fine for the first march, but people need to step it up. We’re at war now. I spit on Wisconsin Avenue, which was also a blue state that turned red, so it’s kind of a statement.
Fired up and ready to fight the Trump administration, Brown comes out of retirement to anchor a morning news show. She brings old friends Corky, Miles, and Frank with her. The twist is she’s competing in the same time slot with her handsome son Avery, who works for a Fox News stand-in known as “The Wolf.”
You would think this might set mother and son up for some lively political sparring. Except that Avery isn’t a conservative. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. Just like mom. Which doesn’t leave much room for engaging conflict—just speech-making.
In the first three episodes, the series relentlessly shows Murphy knocking down conservative straw men so weak they can’t but blow away in the puffs of her self-righteousness.
AUDIO: You’re just a scared white guy who’s afraid of losing his place at the table…sad dinosaurs who went extinct.
Without conflict—or much of anything not already being screamed on Twitter—the show didn’t draw much of an audience. Even with the nostalgia factor and a surprise cameo by Hillary Clinton, Murphy put up dismal numbers.
It was a different story for Last Man Standing. Its themes of politically incorrect debates among wisecracking family members shocked the industry when it delivered the biggest audience for a Fox comedy in nearly seven years.
From the outset, Tim Allen and his cast make a lot more effort to entertain and not lecture. That begins with an inside joke about how ABC canceled the show—a strange move, it was the network’s second highest-rated comedy.
AUDIO: Why would they cancel a popular show that everybody loves? Maybe they’re a bunch of idiots.
Little has changed with the network move. Last Man Standing is still our generation’s All in the Family—the lone television show directing jokes at both the right and the left.
AUDIO: Politicians and politics always change. Sometimes it’s my guys, sometimes it’s your morons.
The lesson seems to be that Americans are happy to watch a comedy about politics, so long as it plays fair. And unlike verbal knife-fights on social media, there’s a core of love underneath. No matter how much the Baxters may disagree on the issues…
AUDIO: She’s being a right-wing idiot. She’s being a left-wing idiot.
When the bickering stops, they’re all patriots who’ve got each other’s backs.
It’s a perspective worth hearing at a time when our nation seems hopelessly divided.
AUDIO: We saw something worth saving, and we were both willing to do the work. If you have that, you can put anything back together.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Megan Basham.