It’s not just Roseanne that’s back from the ’90s. CBS announced new details Wednesday about Murphy Brown returning to TV. The politically-charged sitcom that was carried by Candice Bergen for 10 seasons and once drew the ire of Vice President Dan Quayle is set to return in the fall. This time around, with the Emmy-winning Bergen, now 71, reprising her iconic role, the show is taking aim at cable news.
According to the network, Bergen’s character, who during the show’s initial run hosted a fictional prime-time newsmagazine called FYI, will now host a cable news morning show titled Murphy in the Morning. But in a twist, Murphy Brown will be going up against her son, who hosts a show during the same time-slot on a rival network.
CBS entertainment president Kelly Kahl said that the comparison to the Fox & Friends and Morning Joe — or Fox News versus MSNBC — dynamic is an apt one. She also noted that the network is hoping to replicate the success ABC has had by resurrecting Roseanne from the 1990s culture bin. “We fully expect a lot of people are going to come to [Murphy Brown],” Kahl said. “We felt … this could be a great piece to make this block the strongest on TV.” She added, “We’d love to get Roseanne numbers. I’m not sure we’re going to get Rosanne numbers.”
Murphy Brown was no stranger to politically-driven plot lines or controversy during its first run on TV. Bergen portrayed the title character, an acid-tongued single woman who returned to her hard-hitting TV news job after a stint in the Betty Ford Clinic. She was a no-holds-barred feminist hero who retains her credibility to this day.
The show famously irked then-Vice President Dan Quayle in 1992 as he and George H.W. Bush were stumping for a second term in the White House. Quayle took issue with the fourth season finale in which Murphy Brown, who was not married, gave birth to a baby boy. Quayle objected what he saw as a disintegration of family values, and mentioned the show in a speech on “moral values” that he delivered to the Commonwealth Club of California.
“It doesn’t help matters when prime time TV has Murphy Brown — a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid, professional woman — mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another ‘lifestyle choice,'” Quayle said at the time. The issue was so divisive and such a pivotal battle in the culture wars that it ended up at the top of Page One of The New York Times, an occasion the paper revisited earlier this year when news of the Murphy Brown resurrection initially broke.
The show even took on Quayle directly the following season. “These are difficult times for our country,” Bergen, in character as Murphy Brown on an episode of FYI, said directly into the camera. “And in searching for the causes of our social ills, we could choose to blame the media, or the Congress, or an administration that’s been in power for 12 years. Or,” Bergen deadpanned, “we could blame me.” The line drew an eruption of laughter from the live studio audience.
Later that year, Quayle and Bush were defeated in the general election by Bill Clinton and Al Gore, and Murphy Brown continued on television for another six years. It will return this fall on Thursday nights at 9:30 p.m.
Below, watch to see a clip of Quayle remarks and how the show responded.