Murphy Brown aired on CBS (CNET's parent company) over 10 seasons from 1988 to 1998. It returns to the network for a highly anticipated reboot this month that promises to rattle the residents of the White House.
It's been two decades since the fictional Washington, DC team of broadcast journalists from a show called FYI skewered IRL politicians so precisely they practically bled. Even on the occasions when the show wasn't deliberately trying to ruffle the feathers of George Herbert Walker Bush's administration, what happened on this sitcom had real-life consequences.
Star Candice Bergen, show creator Dianne English and most of the original cast have signed on for the revival, which the women both admit was inspired by the last presidential election. The first episode begins on Election Day 2016, and the production team hasn't fully plotted out each episode of this 13-episode season in order to leave room to react to breaking news, as they did (albeit with less speed) back in the day.
What's the big deal about this show?
Viewers saw the character Murphy Brown as a respected journalist who became a strong, single mother at 42 years old, a decision that was criticized by the real Vice President Dan Quayle in a May 19, 1992 speech for "mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice." Quayle, Murphy Brown and her baby made the front pages of The New York Times and New York Daily News the next day, the latter running with the headline "Quayle to Murphy Brown: You tramp!"
There appear to be no qualms about taking aim at 45, who Bergen, while playing a game on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, admitted to once dating in college. She asserted that there was "no physical contact whatsoever" and that he was "very handsome, and a douche." And everyone else in office and in the administration is likely to be fair game.
In the original run, the crew mocked the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas Senate hearing, which met claims of sexual harassment with more sexual harassment, when Murphy testified in a Senate hearing with particularly lecherous senators who joked openly about corruption. Fans of the old show are excited to see Murphy apply the same pressure to current politicians and topics such as climate change, immigration, health care and taxes.
"She certainly does not hold back," Bergen told Vanity Fair of the current Murphy Brown character, adding that viewers can expect "the wacky physical humor and slapstick, and then very tough attacks on various people in the administration. It's allowing people to vent a certain amount."
Are the original 1988-1998 episodes available to watch now?
Unfortunately, it's not too easy. Only Season 1 (1988) is available on DVD, and no episodes of the 10-season run are available for streaming.
The show was notorious for having music licensing issues in later years because a different Motown hit was used as the theme song each week, and CBS doesn't own the original run of episodes as they were produced by Warner Bros.
Cast (The OGs)
- Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown, defender of the press and real news.
- Faith Ford as Corky Sherwood, the former Miss America-turned-anchorwoman who was briefly had the married name Corky Sherwood-Forrest.
- Joe Regalbuto as Frank Fontana, an investigative reporter who's traditionally been willing to take risks.
- Grant Shaud as Miles Silverberg, who was the executive producer of FYI and now of the new faux show, Murphy In the Morning.
Where are the other OGs?
Charles Kimbrough, who played anchorman Jim Dial on the original run of Murphy Brown, is the most glaring omission to the permanent cast in the reboot, although Diane English revealed at Television Critics Association panel that he will appear on the show in a three-episode story arc this season. Robert Pastorelli, who played Murphy's house painter and unlikely pal Eldin, died in 2004, and Pat Corley, who played the eponymous owner of Phil's Bar, where the crew would blow off steam after work, passed away in 2006.
Cast (The newcomers)
- Jake McDorman as Avery Brown, Murphy Brown's now-grown son who works for a conservative rival network called Wolf — and has ideological clashes with his mother.
- Nik Dodani as Pat Patel, the social media director of Murphy In the Morning who is faced with working with a staff not exactly accustomed to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
- Tyne Daly as Phyllis, the sister of the late bar owner Phil (played by Corley) who appears to assume his confidant and informal therapist role.
What about cameos?
Diane English said at the TCA event that someone "enormously famous" pops up in the first episode, and if the heavy guest appearance quotient in the original series is any indication, there will undoubtedly be more familiar faces making cameos this season.