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Original Issue

Brown vs. Bored of Explanation

The author prefers the wit of Murphy Brown to the glitz of Monday Night Football

I'm a man, I'm masculine, I'm muscular, I'm macho and, yeah, I watch Murphy Brown before Monday Night Football. There, I'm out of the closet. Boy, it was getting awfully crowded in there.

Murphy Brown versus Monday Night Football has become a fundamental fight in living rooms across America. It's about family values and individual rights. It's about topical humor versus top-dollar hoopla. It's about postmodern feminism versus the military-industrial complex. It's about creative nonviolence versus testosterone-fueled overdrive. Most of all, though, it's about who gains control of that damn remote.

There are powerful arguments on both sides.

Why you should watch Murphy Brown: 1) Dan Quayle doesn't; 2) unlike Monday Night Football, the script is intentionally funny; 3) no halftime; 4) because your wife doesn't give you a choice.

Why you should watch Monday Night Football: 1) Al, Frank and Dan talk a lot, but they don't shout like Murphy, Miles and Corky; 2) it doesn't have a laugh track; 3) no reruns; 4) because your ex-wife never let you.

This is the fifth autumn in which the two shows have gone head-to-head at 9 p.m. Eastern Time, and many of us are finally admitting that we watch the CBS sitcom first, then switch to the ABC hit-corn late in the first quarter.

Granted, I could tape Murphy Brown and watch MNF in its entirety, but—and I know this is going to sound very, very stupid to a lot of reasonable people—I prefer watching Murphy Brown when it airs. (Sure, I know Murphy Brown is a taped show, but I simply prefer watching good prime-time TV, well, "plausibly live," as NBC called its taped Olympic coverage. I'm trying to work this whole business out, but it has been a struggle; after all, I'm still trying to get over the fact that Little Ricky wasn't really Desi Arnaz Jr.)

Of course, it's a different problem for viewers on the West Coast, where MNF begins at 6 p.m. When the game runs long, it then bumps into Murphy Brown. My advice: If the game is still in doubt at 9 p.m. Pacific Time, tape Murphy; if Giff has started on "my son Cody" anecdotes, switch to Murphy. Either way, life is better on the West Coast because you don't drag around the next morning after you've watched the whole game.

Don't get me wrong: I love Monday Night Football. It remains the Taj Mahal of sports television. As for the announcers, Al Michaels is the best in the business, Dan Dierdorf is not the best in the business, and Frank Gifford throws terrific dinner parties with Kathie Lee.

Meanwhile, I only like Murphy Brown. Everyone talks too loudly, and Corky's gotta go. And what's the deal with Eldin? Michelangelo finished the Sis-tine Chapel in less time than it has taken this guy to paint Murphy's town house.

Speaking of too loudly, don't ever forget the biggest advantage of missing the first 30 minutes of Monday Night Foot-ball: No Hank Williams Jr.