When the revival of CBS newsroom comedy Murphy Brown was first announced at the beginning of this year, we opined that it was the rare sitcom that would actually feel timely and relevant in the era of “fake news” cries and Trump’s reckless war of words against the media. Obviously, its creator agrees.
In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Murphy Brown creator Diane English and star Candice Bergen hold court on a number of issues—the importance of responding to real-world events, how the show will address the #MeToo movement, its storied history of landing guest stars from among Washington politicians and news reporters—but with a certain rage-Tweeter in the Oval Office, English is already anticipating 240 characters of ill-conceived spleen being vented in the direction of her series’ return. “I don’t think he’s going to be able to resist making a comment, and we welcome that,” she says. “That’s fun for us.” And probably not bad for watercooler buzz about the revival, either, though there’s almost no chance it will reach the zeitgeist heights of the days when the Vice President was calling Bergen’s character a terrible role model.
Still, she’s probably right—especially if Fox News decides to cherry-pick something from an episode as an example of how the republic is crumbling or whatever, since our president doesn’t seem capable of formulating original thoughts so much as parroting whatever talking points he saw 10 minutes prior—but English is less thrilled about the much more unsettling follow-up by his supporters on social media. “We don’t welcome what might be a very aggressive reaction from some of the supporters out there. We’re bracing ourselves.” Bergen agrees: “Because you could be hurt. His followers are very vocal. I posted an Instagram of a Trump dog toy. I didn’t say a thing, and I got reactions from Trump supporters that I’m still trying to understand. They were rabid. It’s a dog toy! And suddenly it was all, ‘Death!’ and ‘Hollywood elites!’”
It’s unclear if younger audiences will connect with a series they likely don’t remember—it ended its original run months before current revival success story Will & Grace aired the premiere episode—but it sounds every bit the welcome perspective we thought it would be. The show worked hard to get its view of a TV newsroom right the first time, but finds the job much simpler in the era of cable news’ dominance. (“There’s no mystery as to how this is happening. These people just sit there, have a cup of coffee, and spout out their opinions,” English acerbically notes.)
Still, it’s fun to hear stories about the old days, when now-dinosaurs of the Senate like Orrin Hatch were clamoring to land a guest spot on the show. Recounting how the whole Beltway would empty out Monday nights to go home at watch Murphy Brown at 9, English delivers the best anecdote about the real-life pols angling for some camera time on her series: “The crazy thing is that we started getting headshots from people like Arlen Specter and Orrin Hatch. They wanted to be on the show. I remember Arlen Specter’s photo was him posing next to a piano.” Let that sink in, then take some time to imagine what Trump’s PR headshots probably looked like then, because you know he had them. Posing next to a gold-plated piano, maybe? Nah, not classy enough.