Murphy Has Baby, Quayle Has Cow: A Night “Murphy Brown” Creator and Star

From New York Times / Bay Citizen

February 4, 2011
By Reyhan Harmanci


Could Sarah Palin be the next Dan Quayle and face the wrath and ridicule of one of TV’s most famous characters?

The creator of the sitcom “Murphy Brown,” which became a hit by mocking politicians, appears eager to apply her brand of political satire to the former Alaska governor, who many believe will make a bid for the White House in 2012.

“If Sarah Palin runs,” said producer Diane English, “I’m going to ask CBS to bring us back.”

English made the remark, which drew wildly enthusiastic applause, on Wednesday night at San Francisco’s Sketchfest, a comedy festival. She appeared on stage at the Castro Theater in conversation with the sitcom’s former star, Candice Bergen.

“Murphy Brown” aired from 1988 to 1998, hitting its peak when Murphy, a fictional network TV news reporter, had a baby out of wedlock. This led then non-fictional vice president Quayle, during a speech in 1992 at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club, to publicly criticize the series:

“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 ‘life style choice’,” Quayle said.

English said this moment was the birth of the “family values” movement that has helped define the Republican Party ever since. While it might have been an early skirmish in the culture wars, the controversy also helped end Quayle’s political career (along with the great potato misspelling incident).

Was English joking about bringing back “Murphy Brown” to skewer Palin? This was, after all, a comedy festival appearance.

“I would only need six episodes,” she added.

At the height of its success, “Murphy Brown” had a 40 percent share of the audience in its timeslot. CBS surely knows – those numbers are nothing to laugh at.

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