'Murphy Brown' revival to tackle MeToo movement, free press
By LYNN ELBER and BETH HARRIS
Aug. 06, 2018
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — A roundup of news Sunday from the Television Critics Association summer meeting, at which TV networks and streaming services are presenting details on upcoming programs.
"MURPHY" AND METOO
"Murphy Brown" will weigh in on the MeToo movement when the series starring Candice Bergen returns to a very different world in September, the show's creator said.
The 13-episode reboot reunites Bergen as a sharp-tongued investigative journalist and TV anchor with most of the original cast from the CBS show's initial 10-year run that ended in 1998 — before the internet and the rise of 24-hour cable news took hold. Once again, scripts will be inspired by current events, including the fourth episode entitled "(Hashtag) MurphyToo."
Executive producer and writer Diane English told a TV critics' meeting the episode was developed months ago and inspired by the movement against workplace sexual harassment and assault that first gained momentum last fall.
"It's a powerful movement," she said. "We wanted to do it justice."
English said the show's writing staff, comprised of men and women of different ages who are gay and straight, spent days discussing what she calls "a complicated issue."
"We came at it from so many different angles. Just the conversations we had in there, the perspectives that people have from their own particular prism," English said. "I don't think there's probably a woman out here that hasn't had an experience with misogyny and misconduct."
However, English is not one of them. She says she never experienced any kind of sexual misconduct or misogyny at CBS, where CEO Leslie Moonves is under investigation for such behavior.
English said everyone on "Murphy Brown" takes the allegations against Moonves and other network employees raised in a recent New Yorker magazine article "extremely seriously" and fully supports the investigation.
"I'm focusing the show really through the prism of the press," English said. "The First Amendment and the free press is under attack like I've never seen before. The press is not the enemy of the people."
The series debuts Sept. 27.
NO 'STACHE FOR NEW 'MAGNUM'
The reboot of "Magnum P.I." won't forget fans of the original hit starring Tom Selleck, paying quiet homage recognizable to long-time viewers.
They include a pair of Dobermans, the red Ferrari, and the bickering relationship between Magnum, who is played by Jay Hernandez, and Higgins, with Perdita Weeks taking on the role that was a man in the original.
Just don't look for the big moustache that Selleck sported in the 1980s original on CBS. His character, along with those of Higgins and T.C., all sported 'staches. Executive producer Peter Lenkov says Selleck brought that aesthetic to the role and the reboot aims to step away from his version of the character.
However, there will be what Lenkov calls a little moustache "nod" in the second episode. The series debuts Sept. 24.
The president of CBS Entertainment defended his division as a safe workplace despite sexual misconduct allegations against CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves, but said any large company is imperfect.
Kelly Kahl, who appeared at the Television Critics Association's summer meeting to promote the network's fall season lineup, instead fielded a barrage of questions about Moonves and the effectiveness of CBS policies regarding misbehavior.
Kahl spoke on the same day that CBS News said "60 Minutes" executive producer Jeff Fager, who was scheduled to return to work Monday, was extending his vacation until an investigation into misconduct claims wraps up. Allegations against Fager and Moonves appeared in a New Yorker article last month.
"I've had many female colleagues come to me this week who've been saddened about what they're read about our company. They said it does not represent their experience at CBS," Kahl said. "I'm not saying we're perfect. No large company is, and there's always room for improvement."
Kahl's calm and steady defense of his division didn't stop questions about its handling of a specific case, that of "NCIS: New Orleans" executive producer Brad Kern.
Kern was investigated by CBS Studios in 2016 and action was taken, Kahl said, not offering specifics on the findings or the action.
There have been no complaints about Kern to the network since, Kahl said. But he is "troubled and frustrated that reports continue to come out in the press. And because of that we've opened up another investigation with outside counsel."
He expressed confidence that investigators will "get to the truth."
When reporters questioned the effectiveness of CBS' human resource policies given the allegations involving the company, Kahl said the department does a "very thorough job."
CBS hired two outside law firms to investigate claims of sexual misconduct from six women spanning three decades at the company. The New Yorker article was focused on Moonves but contained allegations of inappropriate behavior by Fager, who has denied any wrongdoing.
Moonves has acknowledged he may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances years ago. But he says he never misused his position to hinder anyone's career.