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The Murphy Crown of Glory

May 3, 2010

I have a lot of movies in my netflix queue, many of which others with a less stout heart would deem shameful, but I am mostly resistant to such standards.  However the one movie that lately has been taunting me every time I scroll through is the 2009 Diane English remake of “The Women”.  It is supposed to be terrible and I believe all of those who’ve been supposing.  And while not a rabid fan of the original, one doesn’t have to be a purist to doubt their ability to capture what is interesting about the George Cukor original.  But I have a soft spot for Diane English and her late 80s/early 90s white women, that started with My Sister Sam [aka the show starring Rebecca Shaeffer, who was murdered by a stalker”fan” who showed up at her door] and Foley Square [I see you, Margaret Colin!] —  if you had cable in the early 90s that included the USA Network, you probably caught those shows then, I think the syndication fees were $19.99 and thinking about these shows is making me ponder a career running a MeTV type station, with cast-off sitcoms from the 80s and 90s.  But I digress.

Diane English had been semi-retired for ten years and came back with a terrible movie, that is a small tragedy, but not uncommon, what I’m trying to decipher is what exactly is it about her shows that were so appealing to me, lying on the floor every Monday night with my parents, drinking in every second of Murphy Brown.  Oh, Murphy Brown, we loved Murphy Brown, I loved Murphy Brown, everyone in America loved Murphy Brown, it won dozens of emmys, each year cast member’s took turns, at one point Candace Bergen withdrew her name from competition to let someone else win.  Who does that?  Meryl Streep doesn’t do that isht, she’s like, let the wins come, mtherfckers!  Candace couldn’t find any more space on her mantels for the Emmy, so she went on hiatus from collecting awards.

But get this, for all the popularity and awards, they released the first season out on DVD a few years ago, and due to low sales, they didn’t make the effort to keep printing up discs of the rest of the show.  I am not surprised.  I can’t imagine wanting to sit down and relive those 10 years of television, I saw them all twice the first time (we gathered around EVERY MONDAY, whether it was a rerun or not!).  They are probably a painful time capsule of the Message 90s, the earnestness that appealed to my dreamy eyed liberal 14 year old but would make my skin crawl now, like a 10,000 Maniacs album.   And I still recall a few funny punchlines, a few running gags and influential moments, but what stays with me the most all these years later, is the glory of Murphy Brown’s hair, captured so elegantly here by FRYBUTTER’s own p0plife.

Now, I suppose this is also the glory of Candace Bergen’s hair, and obviously one wouldn’t exist without the other.  I remember how every season it would change slightly, and I would always notice how they adjusted the flair of her wings, the height, the shape.  It was news anchor hair.  It was powerful 90s corporate hair.  It was Big Hair and I could never take my eyes off of it.  Did I want to have her hair?  Maybe.  I think I really wanted to just look at it, be near it.  Looking back, this is probably part of the reason why I am not a man who needs to touch a woman’s hair.  Some people feel compelled to run their fingers through someone’s follicles, as some sort of gesture of affection, but I was raised Southern, I never saw this happen anywhere but in movies that had been filmed in the 70s.  Murphy Brown’s big immovable crown of glory was a different type of Impervious Hair that I have never encountered before, and so that is what has stayed with me long past the expired sitcom time capsule of the 90s, and should I ever find the right investors, will be the muse for my new television channel of syndication rights found in the bargain bin.

[Special thanks to p0plife for the artistic rendering of my inspiration]

22 Comments leave one →
  1. May 3, 2010 1:26 pm

    and Foley Square [I see you, Margaret Colin!] —

    No. You. Didn’t.

    I see you, Pretty in Pink teacher!

    This was phenomenal.

    Now, I suppose this is also the glory of Candace Bergen’s hair, and obviously one wouldn’t exist without the other. I remember how every season it would change slightly, and I would always notice how they ajusted the flair of her wings, the height, the shape. It was news anchor hair. It was powerful 90s corporate hair.

    What I enjoyed was the empowerment of Bob Carol Ted and Alice mixed with the seriousness of Working Girl. Murphy Brown’s hair was the bomb. Even more so than her giant padded shoulders or square helmed skirts.

  2. araymondjohnson permalink
    May 3, 2010 1:29 pm

    Margaret Colin was also the first lady in Independence Day! Damn, I would still make out with her.

  3. May 3, 2010 1:30 pm

    Also, how does this “Impervious Hair” compare to say The People’s Courts Doug Llewellyn?

    And of course – well played, Mr. Bear.

  4. May 3, 2010 1:31 pm

    I’m one of those few people who own Murphy Brown season I on DVD. And though I’ve watched a few episodes, I don’t feel compelled to watch the rest. Now I know why. OTOH I was too much a die-hard 10,000 Maniacs fan — I still revisit “The Wishing Chair” every year or so.

  5. araymondjohnson permalink
    May 3, 2010 1:32 pm

    @snarky — thanks, I wanted to jump back in right!

  6. araymondjohnson permalink
    May 3, 2010 1:34 pm

    @redlami: I still have a few songs on active playlists right now, so I’m off them entirely, but I just can’t do a whole album with the deep cut message songs. do you listen to that record alone? that would be only way I could do it.

  7. araymondjohnson permalink
    May 3, 2010 1:46 pm

    @snarky, omg, Margaret Colin was in another failed sitcom with Frances McDormand called, wait for it: Leg Work.

  8. May 3, 2010 1:48 pm

    That hair is magical thing. One of the great mysteries of the 20th Century. As I drew it, I began to wonder at what sort of wizardry was needed to give it that structure. My lines are a mere reproduction of how it looks from the outside. But inside, something special was going on. I wonder if hair and makeup for that show was something like Michael Jackson getting makeup for Thriller. 3 hours of prep before and after the show. I mean, are there Fraggles in there, little Doozers building intricate structures out of balsa and floral wire? I WANT TO KNOW WHAT’S INSIDE THAT THING.

  9. May 3, 2010 1:49 pm

    Bravo, for bringing me back to Murphy (and other failed 80’s sitcoms). A real treat to read.

  10. araymondjohnson permalink
    May 3, 2010 1:55 pm

    FRAGGLES IN HER HAIR. damn. nice one.

  11. Damon Brown permalink
    May 3, 2010 2:13 pm

    This post cracked me up. I was also an earnest Murphy Brown teen, with the additional thought of “This is what journalism is about!” I later found the real thing to be both true and absurd, albeit in a different way than I believed two decades ago.

  12. May 3, 2010 3:00 pm

    My partner and I have been re-listening to 10,000 Maniacs to see if they hold up.
    Judgement: The rool when they’re being popstar and drool at the soapbox songs.

  13. araymondjohnson permalink
    May 3, 2010 4:22 pm

    I got “Don’t Talk” in my head a couple years ago and downloaded it, and was enjoying it even, until I listened closely to the lyrics and was like, wait, this is about alcoholism?!? damn. ruined.

  14. May 3, 2010 4:29 pm

    @raymond HAHAHAAHAHAHAHA we were JUST talking about that one.

  15. Heather Flescher permalink
    May 3, 2010 4:35 pm

    Murphy Brown was awesome. I love how it was full of topical jokes, like the one about Bob Dole needing to take smiling lessons. The whole Dan Quayle controversy and the response showing a truck dumping a load of potatoes in front of the White House. And when the series was running out of steam, they brought in Lily Tomlin. Lily Tomlin! She brought the sass factor back up to where it belonged.

    And I’d love to see Doozers working on Candice Bergen’s hair… but then the Fraggles would try to eat it.

    Re: 10,000 Maniacs. I think their early “message” songs, like “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, are clumsy and annoying. But some of the later ones, when Natalie Merchant started learning how to be subtle, really do it for me. “City of Angels” can still make me cry. There… I admitted it.

  16. May 3, 2010 4:54 pm

    @Heather – pop that makes you tear up is never a bad thing. Unless it’s so bad it’s making you cry. But that’s another post for another day…

  17. evmaroon permalink
    May 3, 2010 5:37 pm

    FANTASTIC post, Raymond! I miss Miles so much, because who’s funnier than a Type A nervous nelly? But it gave us one of the best non sequiturs from a Vice President ever. That right there is reason enough to love the show. And then there’s the HAIR.

  18. araymondjohnson permalink
    May 3, 2010 5:43 pm

    @Heather: The 10,000 Maniacs were on my mind when I wrote this because I caught myself singing along to “These Are Days” in the grocery store this morning.

  19. araymondjohnson permalink
    May 3, 2010 5:50 pm

    @Ev: I know, the integration of the Dan Quayle speech into the plot was pretty awesome on the part of the writers. less awesome is that years later Candace Bergen said “actually I agreed with most everything in his speech, it wasn’t that bad.”

  20. May 3, 2010 6:08 pm

    Re: 10KM, I have been known to skip a few tracks when listening to some of their albums, but only one or two on The Wishing Chair, which contains some real gems (IMO) like Can’t Ignore The Train, Everyone a Puzzle Lover, My Mother The War, Lilydale, Back O’ The Moon, Maddox Table, Cotton Alley, and Arbor Day. I generally listen to it alone, on my phone, but then that’s how I listen to almost all my music these days. About the only time anyone around me is subjected to my love for 10KM is when I sing their songs (loudly) in the shower.

  21. May 3, 2010 9:16 pm

    Also in case I didn’t say it before, SPOON, you rocked that illustration.

  22. May 3, 2010 11:09 pm


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