By Valerie Milano
Beverly Hills, CA (The Hollywood Times) 9/27/18 – As the world hinges on the upheaval of Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, one of the most prominent feminist figures of television, Murphy Brown, makes her return to network TV Thursday night.
In its heyday, Murphy Brown ruffled more than a few conservative feathers as she carved a space for powerful, independent women into the landscape of mainstream entertainment. Who can forget Dan Quayle’s assertion that Murphy was “mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another ‘lifestyle choice’”?
Oh, how far we’ve come. Candice Bergen, who breathed life into the empowered Brown for 10 seasons between 1988 and 1998, sat down at a Television Critics Association panel in August to discuss the eponymous feminist hero’s return to the airwaves. Joining her were cast members Nik Dodani, Faith Ford, Joe Regalbuto Grant Shaud,and Jake McDorman; and creator/executive producer Diane English.
English said it wasn’t an easy task to return to such iconic material. “They paid me in advance, and then I didn’t turn it in for nine months because, as you can imagine, it was kind of a daunting experience to go back and revisit this,” she told the audience. “But once I did, it came pouring out of me.”
Bergen admitted that the journey back had been emotional, and that seeing the townhouse on the soundstage at the studio in Queens again made them all get “tears in our eyes.” “Murphy was so important to all of us, and so to be back there, we’re just grateful,” said Bergen.
English said that the show is now being written, and seen, from a different perspective. “I’m focusing the show really through the prism of the press,” said English. “The First Amendment and free press is under attack like I’ve never seen before, I don’t think anybody’s ever seen before. The press is not the enemy of the people, and these guys, our characters, are the press. So we deal with that a lot.”
That’s not the only socially relevant issue “Brown” is tackling, either. English says an episode has been entirely devoted to the #MeToo movement. “I just want to say that on behalf of everybody on our show that we take the allegations of sexual misconduct extremely seriously, so seriously that we actually developed an episode about the #MeToo Movement many months ago, and that will be our fourth episode.”
Indeed, much has changed since 1998—not the least of which is the age of Brown’s son, who is now being used as a foil to Brown’s liberal personality and views. “We’re older by a lot,” said Bergen. “And Murphy’s son, who you saw when he was being born on ‘Birth 101,’ is now played by Jake McDorman, and wonderfully played, and he’s also a television journalist who is working for an opposing network called The Wolf Network, FOX.” That, obviously, creates fireworks between the two characters in the reboot.
“When we left these characters in 1998, there was no internet,” added English. “There was no social media. Cable news was just getting started. So to take these characters and put them in the world of 24 hour cable news, which is what their new show is, it was very rich for us, very, very rich.”
Similar to the first episode of “American Horror Story: Cult,” English reveals that the opening montage begins on November 8th, 2016 and tackles the fallout for society and the nation since. The revival is, in many ways, different from its original format. But it’s still brave; still brazen; and still unapologetic. And for those reasons, “Brown” may just endure for another ten seasons.
“Can I just say that the script of the first episode is so ambitious and so fearless,” said Bergen. “During the taping, I turned to Joe at one point, and I said, “This show has no fear of anyone”
It never did, and obviously, it never will.
Murphy Brown premieres tonight on CBS at 6:30 PM PST (9:30 ET)