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