Another beloved comedy series is coming back for a new installment on its original network. CBS has given a 13-episode series order to Murphy Brown, a revival of the 1988 sitcom with its creator Diane English and star Candice Bergen both set to return. Warner Bros. TV, which was behind the original series, is the sole studio.
Bergen will reprise her role as the famous investigative journalist and TV anchor at the FYI network, as Murphy Brown returns to a world of cable news, social media, fake news and a very different political and cultural climate. I hear talks are underway with other original cast members to return.
The multi-camera revival will come on the 30th anniversary of the original series. Murphy Brown aired on CBS for 10 seasons, from 1988-98, with English leaving after Season 4. The show was known for its political satire and for reflecting current events, regularly weaving in real-life political headlines. It famously was referenced by Vice President Dan Quayle in a speech during the 1992 presidential campaign.
In 2012, English said that she was having conversations with CBS about bringing Murphy Brown back for a few episodes during the election year. Chatter about a Murphy Brown revival restarted a year ago, around the time of Donald Trump’s inauguration, with rumors about English mulling an updated version to take on the new political climate and holding informal meetings with Bergen and some of the show’s former writers to brainstorm ideas. At that time, the revival was just a notion. It was a slow process, but the project finally came together, with deals closing in early January.
Because of Murphy’s Brown‘s history on CBS, the pitch, accompanied by a finished script, was taken there first. I hear CBS bought the revival pre-emptively, with WBTV retaining full ownership based on the existing IP and high profile of the competitive package. The network stepping up makes sense since Murphy Brown is a signature CBS show. NBC did the same with the new Will & Grace as did ABC with the Roseanne revival, all airing on their original networks.
CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves ran WBTV for two seasons of Murphy Brown‘s run and then oversaw the show’s final years on CBS, including the final season that saw English back at the helm and Murphy Brown battling breast cancer.
In the two-part series finale — aptly titled “Never Can Say Goodbye,” in light of the upcoming revival — Murphy contemplated retirement. While under anesthesia for a surgery that ultimately confirmed she was cancer-free, she scored an interview with God, who convinced her to stay at FYI. In the final scene, Murphy returned home to find that that her former house painter Eldin (Robert Pastorelli) was back.
English serves as writer/executive producer of the CBS revival through her Bend in the Road Productions banner, with Bergen also executive producing. The series, which likely will bring back more of the show’s original writers, is expected to film a pilot episode followed by the rest of the order.
During its original run, Murphy Brown won 18 Emmys — including two Outstanding Comedy Series trophies and five best lead comedy actress statuettes for Bergen — three Golden Globes, two DGA Awards and two WGA Awards.
With Murphy Brown back on CBS, three of the Big 4 networks have a top comedy returning with its original creative auspices and stars, along with Will & Grace on NBC and Roseanne on ABC. The critical and commercial success of the Will & Grace redo, which has been earning award recognition and has ranked as NBC’s highest-rated comedy series, no doubt has helped fuel the current interest in reviving some of TV’s top comedies of the past few decades and the ongoing resurgence of the multi-camera sitcom format.
Murphy Brown is one of two straight-to-series orders at CBS for next season, along with an FBI drama from Law & Order and Chicago boss Dick Wolf.
English and Bergen are repped by ICM Partners. English also is with Jackoway Tyerman.