×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Murphy Brown’ Boss Breaks Down Trump Rally Episode

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Beat the Press,” the 10th episode of “Murphy Brown.”

Diane English, creator and showrunner of “Murphy Brown,” set out to tell the revival season of the classic 1980s and 1990s sitcom through the “prism of the press.” So it was really only a matter of time before the characters came face-to-face with angry citizens who have come to believe members of the media are the enemy.

In the 10th episode of “Murphy Brown’s” revival season, “Beat the Press,” Frank Fontana (Joe Regalbuto) attends one of Donald Trump’s rallies, and when Trump (voiced by Bob Dibuono) spots him in the audience, he calls him “fibbing Frank” and tells his supporters to “let him know what you think of him.” This incites a small mob of “red hats” to surround Frank and beat him up, ultimately landing him in the hospital.

“It was something that we planned to do from the beginning when we first went into the writers’ room in May because of the angry rhetoric that was being directed toward the press, which I found shocking,” English tells Variety. “Then it escalated from there as we saw journalists get body-slammed by a politician and we saw the president, at his rallies, encouraging all of this vitriol against the press and CNN in particular — and even very recently saying that he would admire somebody that would body-slam a journalist.”

“Beat the Press” used real-life footage of Trump at one of his rallies to set the scene but then cut away and used Dibuono’s voice off-screen as the camera watched Murphy (Candice Bergen) watch the rally on TV.

“We were very careful not to specifically show people’s faces at the rally,” she says of the footage they did use. “And we did have a conversation about the difference between the people who go to these rallies all fired up, screaming obscenities at the press and so on, versus the people who voted for Trump who had real, legitimate reasons — like my entire family. There’s a difference; we see there’s a difference there. It’s a different animal, the rally crowd, and we all have been very horrified at the level of hostility, and our feeling was, at some point, if the flames are continued to be fanned, somebody is going to get hurt.”

However, English admits she isn’t as concerned about how the show portrays Trump because every storyline they take on has been well-researched first, as well as vetted by CBS’ lawyers.

“I don’t care if he comes after us, honestly. What’s he going to do to me? Maybe he’ll give me a nickname. I don’t know, there’s not much he can do,” she says.

English purposely kept the act of violence against Frank off-screen, noting that seeing people beat up Frank would be fodder for a drama, not a sitcom. “That’s where we kind of drew the line and said, ‘Let’s not even see the beginnings of it,'” she says. “I think it’s pretty shocking when we see him for the first time [after].”

But later in the episode, during a field report, Avery (Jake McDorman) confronts the Trump supporter who took the first swing at Frank and gets punched in the face, as well — this time on-camera.

For English, it was important to show that it wasn’t Frank’s liberalism that was targeted. Avery, after all, works for a conservative network and still became a victim of the ire. “When it comes to this kind of division, they saw him as a member of the press, first and foremost, and therefore he was a target,” English points out.

“Beat the Press” followed a Thanksgiving-themed episode that turned political when members of ICE showed up to take Miguel’s (Adan Rocha) parents into custody. English notes that the “balancing act” of mixing the politics of today into the traditional format from the original version of the show has been challenging at times.

“There is a difference because we’re in a much more divided atmosphere, and everything seems to be a lot more jacked up, and we’re in an era where if you made some of this stuff up 20 years ago people would [have] said, ‘You’ve gone too far; it’s too broad; it’s too crazy,'” she says.

Still, as a sitcom, finding the funny in any situation is always of utmost importance. With “Beat the Press,” English says it was important to go outside the actual acts of violence and find moments where the gang could breathe together — such as the “Holy Cannoli” moment between Frank and Avery or how Frank responds to his coworkers when he’s been given painkillers in the hospital.

“You’re never going to get a laugh out of, ‘Wow, you almost died,'” English says. “It’s obviously a really tricky topic [but] when we pick a topic, we make sure we can find the humor [before proceeding]. This was the hardest one, but we felt that since our characters are all members of the press, it was an important one.”

“Murphy Brown” airs Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on CBS.

More TV

  • Jussie Smollett The Black AIDS Insitute

    Jussie Smollett Case: Two Suspects Released Without Charging as New Evidence Emerges

    After two days of questioning, the Chicago Police Department announced Friday evening that it has released two suspects in the Jussie Smollett case without filing charges. On Friday evening, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that detectives had developed new information through the interviews. “Due to new evidence as a result of today’s interrogations, the individuals [...]

  • GOTHAM: L-R: Guest star Cameron Monaghan

    TV News Roundup: Fox Drops 'Gotham' Final Season Trailer (Watch)

    In today’s TV news roundup, Fox released a new trailer for an upcoming episode of “Gotham” and Disney has announced the cast for its upcoming “High School Musical” series.  FIRST LOOKS Showtime released a new trailer and the official poster for the upcoming fourth season of “Billions,” premiering March 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. In [...]

  • Chris Rock

    Chris Rock to Direct Kenan Thompson Comedy Pilot at NBC

    Chris Rock has come onboard to direct the NBC single-cam comedy pilot “Saving Kenan,” Variety has learned. Rock will also executive produce the pilot, which stars “SNL” mainstay Kenan Thompson. Thompson will play a newly widowed dad determined to be everything for his kids while begrudgingly letting his persistent father-in-law become more involved in their lives [...]

  • Peak TV Saturation TV Placeholder

    Apollo Global Management Buys Majority Stake in Cox TV Stations

    Private equity giant Apollo Global Management has cut a deal with Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises to buy a majority stake in Cox’s 13 TV stations as well as three newspapers and a handful of radio stations in Ohio. Apollo has been in the hunt for broadcast TV stations for some time. Cox’s station group, which includes [...]

  • Ken Jeong TV Take Podcast

    Listen: Ken Jeong on His Return to Stand-Up and New Netflix Special

    Welcome to “TV Take,” Variety’s television podcast. In this week’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway, talks with Ken Jeong about his Netflix comedy special, “Ken Jeong: You Complete Me, Ho,” and being a judge on Fox’s “The Masked Singer.“ Jeong started working on his new standup act after ABC canceled his show “Dr. [...]

  • "Brother" -- Episode 201-- Pictured (l-r):

    CBS Interactive's Marc DeBevoise on Streaming Boom, Content Strategy, and Apple

    Not everyone wants or needs to be Netflix to succeed in the streaming space. And not everyone sees Apple’s enigmatic new service as a threat. Even as rival streaming services offer gobs of content, CBS Interactive’s president and COO Marc DeBevoise sees the company’s targeted original programming strategy continuing to attract viewers to its All [...]

  • Ken Jeong to Star in CBS

    Ken Jeong to Star in CBS Comedy Pilot From 'Crazy Rich Asians' Author Kevin Kwan

    A “Crazy Rich Asians” reunion is happening at CBS. Ken Jeong has been cast in a lead role in the multi-camera comedy pilot “The Emperor of Malibu,” which is being co-written and executive produced by “Crazy Rich Asians” author Kevin Kwan. In the series, Auggie, the son of a Chinese tech billionaire, announces his engagement [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content