“I might have to have some protection,” English told reporters in a scrum after her show’s Q&A panel at TCA. “I’m not kidding.” English referenced the “scary times” in which the show is coming back with original episodes after two decades.
The very first episode, which takes place on November 8, 2016, “really sticks our head into the lion’s mouth,” said star Candice Bergen, boasting, “This show has no fear of anyone.”
These “scary times” includes a death threat to CNN on-air talent phoned in to C-span by a Trump supporter that Brian Stelter played on his CNN program. New York Times columnist Bret Stephens similarly revealed a threat from someone warning, “I don’t carry an AR but once we start shooting you f*ckers you aren’t going to pop off like you do now” Stephens warned President Donald Trump will have blood on his hands if his enemy-of-the-people attacks on journalists pushes a supporter to such extreme violence.
The first episode of Murphy Brown features a cameo by an “enormously famous person,” English said, calling the casting “top secret.”
According to English, she and Bergen first jokingly toyed with idea of bringing back the show in 2012 when Sarah Palin was running for Veep, but realized it only had about six episodes in it.
“Then we had an election. And [Warner Bros TV chief] Peter Roth came to us and said ‘Would you consider bringing it back?’”
“As the months ticked by, we felt like we had a real reason to come back,” she acknowledged. She spent the next nine months writing a script.
“Once I did that it came pouring out of me. I handed it to Candice.” Bergen’s response, English said, was “Let’s do it.”
Our show has always lived in the real world,” English said. “It has always been a political show with something to say.”
Making the newsroom comedy’s return ultra-relevant, she said, is that the First Amendment “is under attack like I’ve never seen before. The press is not the enemy of the people and these characters are the press, so we deal with that a lot.”
Speaking of “dealing with things,” she made a statement about the New Yorker article on sexual misconduct allegations against CBS Corp CEO Les Moonves, among other CBS execs. “We take the allegations …very seriously. So seriously we developed an episode about the #MeToo movement many months ago that will be our fourth episode. We support the investigation fully.”
Asked if she’d do a Moonves-ish episode about the network’s chief and harassment allegations, English said no, explaining the planned episode will be “more personal to Murphy,” and was already in the works when Ronan Farrow’s Moonves story broke.
“I don’t think there is a woman out here who hasn’t had some experience with misogyny or misconduct, so it’s a powerful movement and I want to do it justice,” she said during the show’s Q&A.
An African American women heads the cable news network at which Murphy and gang work in 2018, she said.
Trump-bashing jokes will be left to late-night TV shows, English said. Murphy Brown will focus on “bigger themes” including Russian election tampering and climate change.
One early episode tackles the White House press briefing room, and the fact that you “can’t get the truth” there. Another early episode centers on an Alex Jones/Steve Bannon-type personality, and “do they have him on the show or not.”
(Cough – Megyn Kelly, NBC News – Cough).
Six of the series’ original writers are back, English said, noting their “uncanny ability to look ahead at what might happen politically in real life, in episodes that sometimes aired before the events actually happened.”
“The same thing is happening again,” English reported happily, saying they stopped developing stories at Episode 9, so as not to “get too far ahead” of current events.
As with the show’s original run, English has reached out to real journalists and Washington personalities, asking it they will do cameos. “We have always tried to blur the lines between fiction and reality,” she reminded. “We were so successful that the vice president thought Murphy was a real person.” That would be Dan Quayle she’s talking about, who famously gave public remarks scolding Murphy Brown for having a child without being married.
That son, Avery, is now grown, also a TV journalist, and working for a competing cable news network called Wolf.
“Fox,” Bergen said in case anyone in the room did not get it.
Faith Ford, Joe Regalbuto and Grant Shaud reprise their Murphy Brown roles. Charles Kimbrough, who was the newscast anchor in the original series, is set to do three episodes of the remake as a guest star; his character now is retired “but he does find a compelling reason to return to the gang for a shot time,” English said. The actor lives in Los Angeles and “relocation would have been tough for him,” she explained.
For the revival, Murphy is now anchoring a cable morning show, Murphy In the Morning, with her old team.
And, the show’s trademark revolving door of Murphy Brown secretaries will carry on in the show’s revival, which seemed to please TV critics in the hall.