Thursday, January 25, 2018

Quality TV Time

Murphy Brown” is back in town.

Photo: Spike Nannarello/CBS

If it was a hit in the 1980s or 1990s, there’s a good chance it will be back soon.

CBS announced on Wednesday that “Murphy Brown,” its 1988-98 TV newsroom sitcom, was making its return to prime time. It joins revivals of numerous other vintage shows — including “Roseanne,” “Will & Grace,” “Full House,” “Amazing Stories,” “Twin Peaks” and “The X-Files” — to get the green light in recent years from executives eager to foist attention-grabbing names in front of an increasingly distracted audience.

CBS ordered 13 episodes and said the sitcom will be part of its 2018-19 season. Candice Bergen, who won five Emmys for her work on the show, will return in the title role. Diane English, the creator of “Murphy Brown,” who also produced lesser-known 1990s programs like “Love & War,” “Ink” and “Double Rush,” will be back as a writer and executive producer.

The winner of the best comedy Emmy in 1990 and 1992, “Murphy Brown” aired mostly on Monday nights and was regularly a top 10 show. While the sitcom, like its 1970s predecessor “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” focused on the workplace, it included scenes from the main character’s home life, many of which featured the actor Robert Pastorelli as a perfectionist house painter. Mr. Pastorelli died of a narcotics overdose in 2004.

In 1992, the show’s main character, a single divorced woman, became a subject of the culture wars of the day when Vice President Dan Quayle criticized her decision to have a child outside marriage. More than two decades later, Murphy Brown “returns to a world of cable news, social media, fake news and a very different political and cultural climate,” CBS said in a statement.

If, as the immortal Fred Allen once noted, “imitation is the sincerest form of television,” then recycling is the new way to go.  Hey, there’s even talk about rebooting “77 Sunset Strip.”

The appeal of “Murphy Brown,” though, was good acting, good writing, and no fear about taking on the topics of the day and punching up.  Of course, in 1988 was a different time…

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