Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.
In this week’s episode, Variety’s managing editor of TV, Cynthia Littleton, speaks with “Murphy Brown” star Candice Bergen and creator/executive producer Diane English about the revival of the CBS sitcom, which bows on Sept. 27.
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“Murphy Brown’s” creator and star speak candidly about how the rise of Donald Trump drove them back into business together, 20 years after the original CBS comedy signed off. The pair also offers a glimpse into how the show is tackling a wildly different media landscape, and discusses the emotional journey of reuniting with cast and crew members.
English was a rare example of a female showrunner at the helm of a network primetime series in 1988 when “Murphy Brown” began its original 10-season run. English admits to battling doubts about whether she could find Murphy’s voice again.
“I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to write the show at all,” English says. “When I finally did force myself to sit down and do it — because the script was due — it just came out of me.”
Bergen, a five-time Emmy winner for the original series, has every confidence that English and the writing team she’s assembled have the right stuff. The revival features Murphy now working for a cable TV morning news program. Her 25-year-old son Avery (the kid whose birth famously stirred Dan Quayle’s ire back in 1992) is also in the family business, but working for the rival Wolf network.
“You would not believe how she went for it” on politically charged humor, Bergen enthuses. “This show is fearless. She’s sticking her head in the mouth of the lion and flossing. It’s just totally fearless.”
Returning to the world of “Murphy Brown” allows the show to comment on how much technology has changed the way we live now and how the TV news business operates.
“There’s so much technology that has come and changed our lives,” English says. “Taking these characters into this world is really rich.”
The election of Donald Trump as president was the final push that English and Bergen needed to bring “Murphy Brown” back to life. English is energized to have a platform to comment on the chaotic world of national politics and how the hyper-active media landscape influences all of it.
For the episode that will air a few days before the Nov. 6 midterm elections, English made a point of building a story around the extreme political polarization in the country, as reflected on air and at the polls.
“We’re going to cut between (election coverage on) the Wolf network and Murphy’s network and how differently they see this particular event,” English says.