Sitcom Episode Face-off:Night Court vs Murphy Brown
Hello my friends, welcome back as I take an episodes of two different series with the same plot and see which did it better. Today the always important debate on free speech gets tackled by :
I am comparing “It’s a Joke” from Night Court’s 8th season to “Brown and Blue” from Murphy Brown’s 3rd season. These episodes aired within months of each other in 1990 on different networks. At the time Andrew Dice Clay was making headlines for his raunchy and offensive act which many, women especially, insisting Clay should be banned from his shows and not allowed to perform. Though while you can find someone offensive they will always the right to say what they want, even if it is garbage. So these two shows decided to their spin on the Clay story and tackle the subject of freedom of speech in their own ways. Which was better?
BASIC PREMISE:On Night Court a shock comedian appears in the courtroom when a reverend tries to claim the man’s act is obscene and should be banned. On Murphy Brown, Murphy reluctantly takes on the task of interviewing a shock comic. Can she make it through the interview?
I’ll spare you the rant on how Night Court sucked at this time because it stopped being funny, and just judge the episode on its own merits. Ok so let’s break the plot down. Since these show’s offer a different structure (Murphy Brown is three acts opposed to Night Court using the standard two). I may have to tweak the categories a bit.
ROUND 1 : How does the plot begin?
Murphy Brown has decided to interview controversial shock comedian Tony Rocket (played by Michael Chiklis). While Miles has his doubts, Murphy thinks it’s a great 1st amendment story even though she hasn’t heard the man’s act yet.
On Night Court, the always disgusting Monty Potter (played by Louis Mustillo) is playing in New York. We get introduced to him in the teaser as the characters discuss his act and how Dan is a huge fan who bought tickets
VERDICT-the idea Murphy would want to tackle the controversial interview is much more believable than Potter being dragged into Harry’s courtroom on a “citizens arrest”
ROUND 2 : How does the complication occur?
Murphy watches the man’s act and is unable to do the interview. Unfortunately Miles has already set it into motion, and when he appeals to her competitiveness she decides to do it anyway. We finally meet Rocket and he walks into the newsroom and takes all kinds of shots at the staff specifically the female’s.
Court is in session when Potter is brought in when a reverend made a citizens arrest. Claims that the man’s act is obscene and should be banned, even presenting a transcript of that night’s performance as evidence. Unlike Murphy Brown, Judge Stone doesn’t want anything to do with the case and throws it out.
By the way both of these characters are appropriately played as disgusting comic’s who are really rotten in real life. But I think I’d give the edge to Mustillo’s character for being closer to a real person and less of a caricature like Chiklis, who is a good actor and did a fine job.
VERDICT: Night Court gives a much better glimpse of this guy before we meet him (Dan repeating his jokes for instance) unlike Murphy Brown which says that the man is offensive but doesn’t back it up until we finally meet him. Just watching the gang reacting to his act is a lot less effective than actually getting to hear some of it.Â Night Court also lets Potter take shots at the main cast while Murphy Brown has Rocket taking his shots at the extra’s, and the main cast lecturing. It seemed like Brown played safer almost as if they were afraid to make their main characters targets.
ROUND 3 : How does the complication get more complicated?
Murphy forces herself to do her job despite the presence of protestors.Â But her aggravation with the man finally causes her to explode by lunging across the table and attacking him in Phil’s. Miles almost pulls the story, but Murphy insists she needs to do it in order to prove to herself that she can.
On Night Cort Potter makes an obscene gesture and ends up being thrown in jail on a contempt charge. While the reverend plays to the reporters about how justice has been served. When Harry sees this, he realizes something may be up.
VERDICT=the big difference here is Stone manages to stay professional unlike Murphy Brown. I know the show was created by a woman but having Murphy lose her cool comes off as a slam against women, as if they are saying women can’t control themselves. Another difference is in Murphy Brown we see protestors which doesn’t really add anything, while in Night Court the man is followed by reporters which makes more sense the media is causing publicity.
ROUND 4 : What about that B story?
Murphy Brown had no B story, Night Court has this stupid B story about Bull writing his own book.
VERDICT=You’d think that this would be a no brainer but that Night Court B story is just awful. Bull writes an autobiography that everyone hates, there about a million things wrong with that. Murphy Brown would not often no have B stories so that it could focus on the main plot. I give that show credit for that in this case.
ROUND 5 : How is Complication resolved?
So Murphy does the interview, figuring that it will be easy since Rocket will reveal himself as the jerk he really is. Instead, he puts on a giant act pretending to be a soft touch and a nice guy who plays a character. So Murphy calls him out in a big speech saying that while he has a right to what he says that doesn’t mean people have to listen. And if people do listen and like him than they should take a good hard look at themselves. Rocket gets angry and drops the nice act and becomes the jerk again, causing Murphy to cuss him out on air. Thankfully Miles was right near the delay switch.
What about Night Court? Harry realizes Potter appearing in the courtroom was part of a publicity stunt between Potter and the reverend.Â Since it would have been impossible for the reverend to have a transcript of that nights show that fast, Potter had to have given it to him before. After Stone tells the revered to get out, he decides to let Potter go only if he does his act in the courtroom. Potter starts his act in the courtroom, but when the lights are on and Potter can see his audience it makes doing his act harder. Especially when the audience calls him out on some of his statements. Harry points out that what Potter does is make people feel superior to others, which is never a good thing to do. When he takes a truly cheap shot at Christine, Dan realizes what a fool he was liking the man’s act, and Potter ends up being chased out of the courtroom.
VERDICT. Honestly, Night Court did it better. In fact, before the interview Murphy says all she has to do is let Rocket talk and sink himself. This is exactly what Harry does too, but his plan works. And the scene works better having Potter sink himself rather than having Murphy stand up and speechify rather than simply letting Rocket reveal what a jerk he is, like Night Court did. Night Court makes the same free speech argument without slamming it in out face. No one questions his right to say these thing, the problem is that what he says hurts people and that’s wrong.
ROUND 6: Final Scene
We get a final scene between Eldin and Murphy which is OK. As with most scenes with Eldin there was really no need for it. But it was always cute to see the two banter. And having him making fun of her for her dirty mouth was kind of cute. On Night Court the closest we get is a quick throw back gag to the Bull B story which is so rushed it’s laughable.
Murphy Brown says that Rocket is offensive, but Night Court shows why Potter is offensive. All we get in Murphy Brown are speeches while Night Court takes a little more risks, letting the character cause his own downfall and the episode did a better job demonstrating why shock comics aren’t really funny at all. It may be hard to believe but I really think Night Court did it better on this one.
Funny that I am doing a free speech article on Memorial Day, guess I should comment that if not for the people who gave their lives for our country this debate would be a moot point.