Now in its sixth season, the broad comedy “Murphy Brown” remains an acquired taste but a steady ratings winner, and series shows no letup in tonight’s episode, one of its better (i.e., more subdued) efforts.
Seg has Frank (Joe Regalbuto), one of the anchors of TV newsmagazine “F.Y.I., ” dealing with his insecurity after his therapist terminates their seven-year relationship.
Subplot has Murphy (Candice Bergen) — who, in one of the show’s best running gags, can never keep a secretary more than one episode — landing the perfect assistant (Marcia Wallace, ubersecretary in the old “Bob Newhart Show”).
Segment, well written by Russ Woody and directed by Lee Shallat, follows the series’ formula of having the principals aggravate and bully each other, only to repent and get human in the last five or 10 minutes.
Comparisons to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” surfaced when “Murphy” debuted, but those have understandably faded. For one thing, this series has formed its own identity.
For another, “MTM” had one newsroom buffoon, Ted Baxter; here, nearly all the characters are playing at that broad level.
“Brown’s” producers and writers seem to delight in having their characters be mean and/or insensitive, and rely on the charm of the actors — most of whom have proved themselves elsewhere to be talented — to carry the day.
To an extent, the ploy works; and, to sanitize a Hollywood truth, don’t muck with success.
The series gets most of its class from Bergen. Like the others, she has a frequent tendency to push for laughs, but she’s capable of being a great deadpan comedian, and she provides this seg’s best moments in her rapprochement with Regalbuto.
Otherwise, there are solid contributions by Wallace and Debra Mooney as the therapist, and tech credits are fine.