Saturday, January 27, 2018

MURPHY BROWN is back!

CBS has announced that it has ordered a reboot of MURPHY BROWN starring Candice Bergen.  I assume they'll reassemble as many of the original cast members as they can.  (A few have passed away.) 

Readers of this blog have been asking me what I thought.

I'm not sure of the reasoning, especially if networks are trying to attract the 18-49 audience.  I can't imagine anyone under 50 watching this show.  But CBS is very savvy and I'm sure they have a game plan for making on from it. 

The problem with MURPHY BROWN during its original run was topicality.  As a result those episodes today are incredibly dated.  There are references to politicians that wonks don't even know.  So I'm certain there's no thought of taking advantage of future syndication possibilities.  It'll have the same shelf life as THE DAILY SHOW. 

But I suspect a lot of the humor will be at Trump and the government's expense so I'll be watching.

And the bottom line for me is this:  MURPHY BROWN had some wonderful writers.  If creator Diane English reassembles them then I will be TOTALLY on board. 

It's also nice to see multi-cams making a comeback.   NBC recently ordered four multi-cam pilots including one from Mike Schur.   Now we just have to make sure the new crop of multi-cams are executed properly, and the original MURPHY BROWN staff is a big step in the right direction. 

48 comments :

Terrence Moss said...

"Murphy Brown" just started airing on Antenna. I was never bothered by the show's topicality, as a fan of TV history,I like watching shows that are very much of their era.

I hate the trend, but I am on board for this since the originals are involved.

Liz said...


Ken, have you written for that show?

A related Friday Question:
I do know that many writers do help in re-writes but never get the credit. Have you done re-writes for any TV shows or movies, without getting any credit?

I have read that Carrie Fisher was a script doctor, have you done any such work?

Peter said...

I'm sure I speak for everyone who reads this blog that we want a new multi-cam written by you and David!

On a related topic...I really enjoyed Must Kill TV (available on Amazon) and think it would make a great movie. With Netflix making so many movies in a variety of genres, have you considered adapting it into a screenplay?

Re. Murphy Brown, it's savvy timing bringing it back, especially if Trump is headed towards impeachment with the revelation that he attempted to fire the special prosecutor Nixon style. It's something of a comfort that even the White House lawyer told Trump he'd resign if Trump fired Mueller. These are the people history will look kindly upon as standing up for what's right. And Rex Tillerson for privately calling Trump a moron.

Andrew Ross said...

People 40 and up are the only ones left who remember setting aside time to watch shows at the time they were broadcast. (Yeah, we had VCRs, but those were a real pain to set up to record, especially compared to today's DVRs.) So all of the shows those people remember liking are being revived. I bet they'll have higher "watched at the time of broadcast, including commercials" numbers than brand-new shows which are recorded, binge-watched, and commercial-skipped. I'm making all of this up but does anyone have a better explanation for shows from the 80s and 90s being revived?

BobinVT said...

The other night I was watching Colbert, and it started with a very funny bit about an FBI agent speaking out against Trump and wanting to be identified despite the show’s attempts to pixilate him. Then came the monologue, which I found tinged with anger and not particularly funny. More like a rebuttal of Republican allegations about the FBI that you’d see on a political show, but the audience ate it up. Then, after commercial break, he settled into the non-Trump portion of the show. The main guest was Gwyneth Paltrow, and she and Colbert did a very long skit involving her (fictional?) skin care line called Goop. The skit was painfully unfunny and way too long. That was it for me. After seeing this, I wondered if Colbert is becoming too dependent on the easy laughs he gets from bashing Trump. I don’t watch him often enough to form an opinion, but that night, without Trump he was comedically helpless.

E. Yarber said...

Slightly off-topic, but I guess this is the only chance I'll have to share this story.

One of my earliest jobs was working in a luxury hotel. One morning I was in the restroom and the Secret Service came in and said everyone had to leave because Dan Quayle had to use the facilities.

My first thought was to say, "Yeah, I wouldn't trust his aim, either," but I kept my mouth shut and avoided a federal jail term.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Topical humor is tough. There is an over abundance of it on TV. Especially late night

Someone noted that these shows (and their hosts) are looking more for claps-of-agreement rather than laughs. Humor is second.

I used to enjoy Murphy Brown. Especially the first few seasons. I look forward to seeing it.
I hope they want people to laugh. Not clap.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

I appreciate your response, Mr. Levine.

As I wrote on my Facebook page, I was a fan of the old show, but also had mixed feelings about it.

I felt it legitimized rather than mocked the self-important celebrity status of network television news people. (Being a reporter means keeping yourself in the background and keeping your ego in check. It does not mean covering your office wall with magazine cover photos of yourself.)

Plus the seemingly incessant name-dropping of Washington figures grew old fast. Still, the show's cast--especially Ms. Bergen--made me laugh, and I look forward to seeing "Murphy Brown" again.

Rashad Khan said...

"I can't imagine anyone under 50 watching this show."

I resent that, says the 38-year-old "Murphy Brown" fan.

But seriously, Ken, this is one reboot I'm actually looking forward to, if only because the current political climate DEMANDS a voice like Murphy's.

Bringing back as much of the original cast and writing staff as possible WOULD be a step in the right direction. But you know what would be another? Hiring a "name" actor to play Murphy's son, Avery, who'd be in his mid-twenties now. Not necessarily a "name" MOVIE actor, but certainly, a well-recognized (television) actor whom the younger audiences might tune in to see.

Also (...just putting this out there in the universe...):

1. Avery MUST be a staunch conservative -- maybe even working at a Fox News-like cable news network. It'd be the perfect grist for the mother/son conflict mill AND it'd be perfectly ironic given the long-ago dust-up between Murphy Brown and a certain, then-Vice President over the definition of "family values."

2. Jim Dial (a #NeverTrumper, as I see him) MUST be an unfortunate target of the #MeToo/#TimesUp movement when he is accused of sexual harassment by a former co-worker at "FYI." (Yes, I said Jim, and not Frank. In this particular scenario, Frank would be too obvious.)

Glenn said...

The main problem the Murphy Brown characters would be dealing with this time around would probably be how to function as a news organization in a world of worthless talking heads, bloggers and every idiot with a cell phone camera trying to do their job for them.

Bryan said...

I await the reboot of Big Wave Dave's.

Stephen Robinson said...

Avery as a modern-day conservative would be, well, depressing. We've come a long way from FAMILY TIES where Alex Keaton was a Reaganite but also capable of empathy and someone who appreciated culture and education. Murphy Brown raising a Trumpkin or worse someone like Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz who *enable* Trump wouldn't be funny.

(Also, statistically speaking, it's more likely that Avery would be among the minority of white men who are liberal, given his background -- more so, say, than the lead characters of THE MIDDLE)

sanford said...

I read this morning that they are doing pilots for reboots of Magnum and Cagney and Lacy.

Matt from Westwood CA said...

Friday question....

Regarding the MURPHY BROWN reboot, you’ve mentioned many times the topicality is the reason the show disappeared over time. That issue parallels ALL IN THE FAMILY. From a topicality perspective do you think the latter holds up better? Both shows have plenty of episodes or storylines that didn’t depend on the politics of the day. Tons of shows use pop culture references that pre-date millennials, but they also have a simple solution they use...they just google it! Ironically it was a 28 year old coworker that pointed out the MURPHY reboot at work, even though he’d never seen it. I asked if he knew who Dan Quayle was and he said no. I pointed out he was referenced in many episodes. So he googled him.

ScarletNumber said...

@Rashad Khan

I'm with you that Avery should be working at FoxNews. However, Haley Joel Osment is still acting, so I would have no problem with him reprising the role.

---

As for the main cast, we have lost Eldin the painter, Phil the bartender, John the stage manager, Jerry Gold, and Stan Lansing.

We have NOT lost Jim Dial. I thought we had, but I had him confused with Jim Jensen, the longtime WCBS2 newsanchor who was one of his inspirations. For those who like to cringe, watch this famous exchange between Jensen and Bree Walker. Jensen was forced into rehab afterwards.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-_UR93_9Ro

Mike Bloodworth said...

I'm OVER 50 and I was never a fan of the original Murphy Brown. Therefore I have no intention of watching the re-boot. As to why they would bring it back; you hit the nail on the head. "Make hay while the Sun shines." Pardon the cliches, but at this point in time people can't get enough of shows that say bad stuff about republicans and now males. The question is, can they make it funny or will it just be more conservative bashing?

suek2001 said...

I loved MB when it was on originally...and I have found myself watching the reruns and loving it all again. I noticed they tend to yell a lot on that show..which I find comforting..as has been pointed out, most people mumble on their shows now.
I would watch them take on Trump but also the media today...and please, let the recurring assistant gag come back...

VincentS said...

Friday Question: Have you gotten a good writing idea from a dream?

david kelly said...

Ken, please bring back Frasier. Please! I beg you.

Buttermilk Sky said...

As tired as I am of people saying "FYI," on MURPHY BROWN it would finally be acceptable.

Peter said...

David Kelly

I asked Ken a Friday question last year about whether Cheers could be revived. I imagine his answer would also apply to Frasier.

http://kenlevine.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/friday-questions_21.html?m=1

Barry Gilpin said...

I'll probably watch it. I always enjoyed it even if I was too young to get some of the political humor. (I'll be 40 by the time this airs)

Curt Alliaume said...

I don't see a problem with this, even if Candice Brown is the only cast member returning (the setup lends itself to cast members coming and going). CBS isn't taking a risk by bringing a show back that doesn't have a long shelf life; that's Warner Brothers' issue. Let's see what happens.

Anonymous said...

ScarletNumber: Don't forget the wonderful Colleen Dewhurst and Darren McGavin as the Brown parents. We lost both of them also. Just saw a rerun of Murphy and her mom.Janice B.

Anonymous said...

I am 34 and can't wait! In this political climate, the show will be very interesting. I will admit that I am really liking all of these reboots. Will & Grace has been great, I am excited for Roseanne. As I haven't seen the original Magnum P.I. and Cagney and Lacey they just don't hold any nostalgia for me like the other ones do.

- Rebecca

Mike Doran said...

Murphy Brown:

If they're bringing back the original cast, all of them will have aged in real time, which means most of them would be in danger of losing their jobs for that reason.
There, I think, is where most of the story thrusts would come from: if Murphy is still in her perpetual '60s time-warp, and Jim Dial's already advanced age starts to catch up with him on air, you've got situations that aren't dependent on That Man In The White House ...

The actors would no doubt be affected by the passages they have made:
Faith Ford had a successful run playing the smart one on Hope & Faith, so Corky couldn't still be the ditz of days gone by.
Charles Kimbrough is a recent widower, so it would make sense for Jim Dial to be the same (and that possible MeToo story would have some real meaning, especially if it turned out to be a misunderstanding).
With Garry Marshall gone, so is Stan Lansing - and somebody has to have taken his spot in network management (maybe Paul Reubens's character, the nephew (I think it was)?).
All of you can come up with your own spins, I'm sure.

Actually, Murphy2.0 would do well to hold Trumpstuff to a discreet minimum; the characters were always the attraction here, and now that they're older they're less likely to be hidebound in their beliefs (that's how I am, anyway ...).

So let's see ...

Diane KH said...

I've been hoping for a Murphy Brown return ever since the election, so I was very happy when I heard this news. As to relevance, I don't see the original run as any more dated than any other show. They did episodes on sexual harassment, the environment, addiction, journalism vs sensationalism, and of course, women's issues. CBS could save themselves some money and just drop in some old episodes with the new ones.

Anonymous said...

Sean spicer as the first assistant would be funny imo.
Cheers
Dave

Douglas Trapasso said...

Another angle that would minimize the need for Trump asides/subplots is to promote Murphy (albeit kicking and screaming) into management where one of her charges is a newbie who practically idolizes the Murphy of three decades ago and tries to mimic her as much as possible.

DwWashburn said...

"Will and Grace" has been a disappointment (quality wise). And if Roseanne achieves the same level of "quality" it exhibited during its run, it will be a disappointment. So I'm not holding a lot of hope for this one.

MikeN said...

BobinVT, I didn't see the show, but I'm pretty sure it was not a skit and Goop is real.

E. Yarber, there's no obligation to leave the room. This is as bad as when they demanded to search everyone on a golf course because Obama was going to play there.

Matt said...

Can you give a detailed explanation of the difference between single cam and multi cam shows and why you seem to prefer multi cam?

Gwendolyn said...

Yesterday I tuned to Antennae to see if they were advertising the Murphy Brown reruns... and there she was. Fun to watch and it was followed by an episode of Wings (Bryan sinks boat) written byKen Levine and David Isaacs. That was followed by a Becker episode
directed by... Ken Levine. I hope you're having a nice rest today.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I loved Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown (though not the show as much in the later seasons) and the original writers' first few seasons, so yes, I will check this out. Interesting to note that Corky at this point would be at approximately the time of her career that Murphy was when the original show started. It would make sense if they played on this (though I doubt Corky would have become an alcoholic). I would expect modern-day Washington - plus the internet, mobile phones, and churnalism - to give them lots to work with.

wg

Cap'n Bob said...

Good. Now I can not watch it all over again.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

In the finale episode, Brown has Breast Cancer, surely she woukd be dead by now? My mother had it and was gon in less than two years.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Albert Giesbrecht: I'm sorry for your loss, but many, many women survive breast cancer and live on for many years, even decades. A lot depends on catching it early before it's metastasized.

wg

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

I'm truly sorry about your mother, Mr. Giesbrecht. I lost my own mother to a different form of cancer several years ago.

But there have been a number of prominent long-term breast cancer survivors, including Betty Ford, Happy Rockefeller, Nancy Reagan, Jill Eikenberry, Ann Jillian, and Betty Rollin, an NBC News correspondent portrayed by Mary Tyler Moore in a 1978 TV movie dealing with Ms. Rollin's illness.

Joe Klein said...

One of my more "lucrative" voice-over jobs was back in the mid-90's, when I was hired to perform an off-camera voice for the opening of the third act of the finale of the seventh season in 2005 (S07E24). Murphy is facing the camera watching TV with a remote in her hand. She switches the channel twice after becoming annoyed with each channel. As it turns out, one of the channels featured an announcer who was cut off by Murphy after just four words, and that very short line was overlooked by the production person who casted the voice-overs. She realized her error in the post-production studio just as I finished recording the lines I was cast for and began to panic, as the show had to be "in the can" that day (or the next) as the episode was airing the following week. I asked her what was wrong and, almost in tears, she responded, "I'm toast! I forgot to cast one of the off-camera parts in the scene!" I told her that, as a voice actor, I could change myself pretty drastically and could probably pull off the other part as well. Her face lit up, "You could do that?" she asked, enthusiastically. "Sure, no problem," I replied. Just let me call my agent real quick so you and he cand work out the fee details." Of course, as this was a pretty high-paying SAG network TV gig, I was working for scale. But, happily, I earned DOUBLE-SCALE for the session and on-air usage, just for performing the extra part, which was only FOUR WORDS! With the network first fun, rerun and then YEARS of reruns in syndication, I do believe that the Murphy Brown gig might have been the highest-paying half hour of my entire voice over career! So, CHEERS, from me, to that wacky and wonderful original series. Hope it does well in the reboot! Here's the scene, for those of you who may give a damn! https://www.facebook.com/Joe.Klein.Producer/videos/t.1494025635/10206359870144305/?type=2&video_source=user_video_tab

MiikeN said...

Matt, I think the main point is that there is a studio audience.

Jon B. said...

I will miss Jay Thomas' involvement. He won two Emmys playing Jerry Gold on Murphy Brown. RIP Jay.

Paul Reynolds said...

Call me skeptical of this show's chances. Will &Grace which has been a constant in streaming and reruns and ended a decade later then MB is just pulling 1.2 ratings in the last few episodes of it's revival. A show that ended 20 years ago and hasn't been in major cable or syndicated reruns since the Clinton administration, I'd say that is the tipping point where Networks are highly overreaching.

Anonymous said...

Matt
The singlecam vs multicam question has been asked many times. I don’t think Ken has ever answered it, but various commenters have made the effort. Here are some things I’ve learned from those efforts:

1. Multicam has a live audience, unlike singlecam. Ken has stated he likes that because the actors seem to respond in a positive way to an audience, and the writers get to see what the audience finds funny, unlike the tv audience.

2. Multicam is more like watching a play where you see the whole stage (set).

3. In the 80s and 90s (Cheers, Frasier) most comedies were Multicam; now most of them are single cam (although that is apparently starting to change again).

4. Singlecam has been considered more sophisticated, and people have been looking down their noses at multicam for some time.

5. Singlecam has a more movie-like look and there is more versatility with lighting, etc. and has fewer standing sets.

McAlvie said...

I was one of those people who asked, and I thank you, Ken, for responding.

As I mentioned then, I occasionally find the original show airing on what I think of as "off off Broadway" cable channel, and when I do, I will generally watch it. I admit I don't always remember why this or that reference was supposed to be funny, but it doesn't bother me because it still has that fast-paced banter, great writing, great cast. Honestly, it only feels dated to me because of the hair and clothing styles. And I am so very tired of dumbed down tv. Yes, even the cable channel shows are cliché now - some anti-hero who says F*&^ a lot. It's only 'cutting edge' the first time; after that you are clumsily bouncing around on someone else's coattails.

Anyway, I hope you are wrong about the reboot appealing only to us old-timers. I'd like to think there are millennials who will appreciate smart writing about smart people, and just possibly some of them have paid enough attention to current events to get the jokes.

Because if they don't appreciate all of the above, that will be saying something very, very sad about our future. Frankly, I think they are ready for something smart. And if they do the reboot right, they'll bring in some fresh young faces for the under 50 crowd to relate to. In fact, I'm gleefully rubbing my hands together as I imagine Murphy locking horns with some youngster who can match her barb for barb.

McAlvie said...

@Albert Giesbrecht - I am terribly sorry about your mom.

Murphy did deal with having breast cancer in the final season, but IIRC the final episode ended with a cancer free diagnosis. I might be remembering that wrong, I admit, but that's how I remember it.

I'm hoping, actually, that the reboot will mean more season available on DVD and one of the streaming services making it available. Well, the old shows are really popular now, so it is not a stretch.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

I think you're right, McAlvie, about MB's diagnosis in the final episode. Diane English had a cameo as the doctor or nurse delivering the good news to "Murphy."

Albert Giesbrecht said...

Thank you all for the kind words about my mother. Murphy Brown was one of the few sitcoms that my mom and I watched together. Thank you also for jogging my memory about the final episode, I forgot about it, so I had to look up the plot details.

My mom was just a couple of years older than Candace Bergen, so I guess that's why I got emotional. It will be 2 years next month since she passed. I wanted to take your sitcom writing room workshop, Ken, but I had to look after my mom.

2018 will be the start of a new adventure for me and I hope I can meet you someday Ken.

David G. said...

Would be kind of cool if this was put on again on Monday nights this fall. And -- to make it even cooler -- if CBS got around to introducing us to some of the current residents of rural Alaska and maybe even toss in a couple of familiar faces to let us all know what they're up to these days for a show that could be scheduled at 10 p.m. that same night called "Cicely." (We don't need to recruit a bunch of the former "NoExp" stars. It was the town itself that was the star of that great show!)