“Murphy Brown” rises from the dead

The latest in reboot fever

Get ready… she’s going to be firing secretaries again.

CBS and Warner Bros. Television announced Wednesday a thirteen-episode order of Murphy Brown featuring the woman who played her, Candice Bergen. According to the press release, Bergen reprises her role “set in a world of cable news, social media, fake news, and a very different political and cultural climate.”

Bergen is also executive producer of the revival, along with original series creator Diane English.

There is no word on what or how many original cast members would join her. Two actors who appeared on the show – Robert Pastorelli and Jay Thomas (who was also morning personality at Los Angeles’ KPWR-FM at the time) have since died.

The move comes as the major broadcast networks are finding some success rebooting programs from the 1980s and 1990s and NBC with Will & Grace and Fox with The X-Files attests. Coming up is ABC’s Roseanne reboot, and Netflix successfully rebooted former ABC series Full House as Fuller House.

The original Murphy Brown premiered on November 14, 1988 and ran for ten seasons. The series was a linchpin of CBS’ Monday night comedy lineup (fondly remembered before it degenerated into junk like 2 Broke Girls and Superior Donuts) and ran on the night nine of those ten years. The series was a ratings and critical smash, winning a total of eighteen Emmy Awards with Bergen taking home five of them.

The series reached a high-water mark in 1992 when then-Vice President Dan Quayle criticized a fictional storyline from the show for Murphy Brown having a baby out of wedlock, regarding a lack of family values. The comments made Quayle a subject of ridicule – even from retiring late-night host Johnny Carson (and as you might have guessed, the topic is still a talking point for Republicans, as a GOP candidate running for office recently used the crutch as the main reason for Chicago’s gun violence problem in a recent forum.)

The fifth-season premiere of Murphy Brown addressed the controversy, with Bergen – in her Murphy Brown character – firing back at the Vice-President in an hour-long episode drawing nearly 70 million viewers. Unfortunately for Murphy Brown in Chicago, the premiere was up against a Bears game on ABC’s Monday Night Football, who thrashed it in the ratings.

In another controversy – though less publicized, Brown was struggling with breast cancer in the tenth and final season and used medical marijuana to ease the side effects of chemotherapy, as the treatment was criticized by conservative groups. By this time however, Murphy Brown moved to Wednesdays and fell to the bottom of the ratings.

Unlike other successful sitcoms from the period, Murphy Brown was basically forgotten from a pop-culture standpoint after it went off the air. Reruns of the series were sold into off-network syndication in 1992, but its performance was lackluster at best as WGN-TV in Chicago and KMSP in Minneapolis shoved the show into overnight time periods after only a few years. A post-syndication run on cable network Lifetime wasn’t successful. Only the first season (regarded by many fans as the best season) was released on DVD, as expensive music rights prevented the show from streaming.

But there is good news for fans who want to see the classic episodes – diginet Antenna TV (available locally over WGN-DT 9.2) runs Murphy Brown in primetime every weeknight.

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