overthinking the idiot box

December 6, 2005

PODCAST: Envy, or Morality Plays for Today's Audiences

A commentary on Murphy Brown's "Soul Man"

by D. Roberts Keenan

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You remember Murphy Brown, right? The late '80s-early '90s workplace sitcom starred Candice Bergen as the eponymous opinionated TV journalist. It took in oodles of Emmy awards, including a staggering five for Bergen in the Best Actress in a Comedy category. (After her fifth win, Bergen asked she be excluded from all future nominations.) It made headlines more than once, most notably when then-Vice President Dan Quayle criticized the show for featuring Murph as a sympathetic single mother. Critics praised the show for its smart approach to political humor. Audiences responded to the brash, sardonic wit of the main character and her exploits. And while many of the show's topical jokes seem dated today, it captured the zeitgeist perfectly. ("Zeitgeist"? Seriously? No one knows what zeitgeist means. — Liz) (The name of this Web site is SMRT-TV, so I'll damn well use the word "zeitgeist" when I please.) (Live it up, smartypants. I'm reducing your salary by half for every complaint I get. — Liz)

Ahem. Back on topic.

So what does Murphy Brown have to do with medieval drama? Quite a lot, actually. In our first exploration of the Seven Deadly Sins, we talked about pride, the gateway sin. This time, we uncover envy. Envy might not lead to the other seven deadlies — it could, but it doesn't have to — but it can sure lead to lying, cheating, backstabbing and... well, more about that later.

This week's exemplar episode? Murphy wants to join an exclusive men's-only club. Simply put, she gets jealous of the guys in the office. With humorous, albeit predictable sitcom results. ("Albeit"? Seriously, dude. — Liz) The name of the episode? "Soul Man." Fitting, since we'll be talking a lot about sin and redemption. (Trust us, it's not as churchy as it sounds. Unless you want it to be churchy, in which case it's just churchy enough to be interesting to you, but not churchy enough to put off people who don't like it churchy.) ("Churchy" is a funny word.)

To listen to the commentary along with your DVD, cue up the first episode of Disc 3 on Murphy Brown: The Complete First Season.

Coming soon: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and gluttony. (That is, if I can get Whitney Cox's blessing to talk about the Jossverse.) (Churchy.)

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Return to Season 2, Episode 6.