Mur­phy Brown Re­turns

The po­lit­i­cal sit­com is com­ing out of re­tire­ment, ang the shows cre­ator, Diane (English, is itch­ing for a fight

Newsweek - - Contents - BY ANNA MENTA @an­nalikest­weets

in early 2017, the head of warner bros. stu­dio, Peter Roth, ap­proached Diane English about re­viv­ing Mur­phy Brown—the ’90s po­lit­i­cal com­edy that turned star Candice Ber­gen into Amer­ica’s most beloved fake news an­chor. Roth thought the elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump of­fered the per­fect tim­ing for an up­date. But English said no.

She was work­ing on an­other TV pi­lot at the time, but her hes­i­ta­tion had to do with legacy. “We were an iconic show,” she tells Newsweek. “We had lots of Emmy awards [18, to be ex­act]. You don’t want to re­visit some­thing 20 years later for a poor im­i­ta­tion.”

Given Mur­phy Brown is re­turn­ing to CBS for 13 episodes start­ing Septem­ber 27, what changed? The 70-year-old cre­ator says she re­lented when Warner Bros. of­fered to pay her for a test script, just to see how she and Ber­gen felt about it. “A pretty smart idea on their part,” says English. Once she fi­nally started writ­ing, in Novem­ber 2017, “it just sort of poured out of me.” Mean­while, “head­lines were get­ting worse and worse,” and fans on so­cial me­dia were ask­ing, What would Mur­phy say about this? “It was the idea of be­ing rel­e­vant that re­ally changed my mind.”

At a time when the pres­i­dent of the United States is ques­tion­ing the free press, “our show was one of the few with a real rea­son to re­turn,” she adds. “Twenty years ago, Wal­ter Cronkite was the most trusted man in Amer­ica. Now, the press is vil­i­fied be­cause the pres­i­dent keeps re­peat­ing ‘fake news.’” One episode of the re­turn­ing show, English adds, is de­voted to the dif­fi­cul­ties of “get­ting to the truth in the White House brief­ing room.”

Mur­phy Brown’s orig­i­nal run—10 sea­sons, from 1988 to 1998—show­cased an am­bi­tious, out­spo­ken and de­fi­antly un­mar­ried re­porter in her 40s who reg­u­larly name-checked real politi­cians and sparked a na­tional con­ver­sa­tion about sin­gle moth­er­hood. A 1989 Newsweek cover (see Page 4) de­clared her “a revo­lu­tion­ary new force in prime-time tele­vi­sion.” In that story, Ber­gen called Mur­phy “the tomboy who prac­ticed all win­ter to get on the all-boys teams.”

The new show has Brown—played by Ber­gen, now 72—an­chor­ing a morn­ing ca­ble show, Mur­phy in the Morn­ing. Six of the orig­i­nal writ­ers have re­turned, as has most of the orig­i­nal cast, in­clud­ing Faith Ford, Joe Re­gal­b­uto, Grant Shaud and Charles Kim­brough (fan fa­vorite Robert Pa­s­torelli died in 2004). And, yes, Brown’s no­table in­abil­ity to keep an as­sis­tant con­tin­ues, as will the pointed swipes at cur­rent af­fairs. Even two decades later, many of the orig­i­nal show’s jokes hold up (sadly in some cases). “Women in this coun­try legally have a choice,” Brown quipped in 1991. “At least I think they still do. I

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