When “Murphy Brown” premiered in 1988, the CBS series broke new ground in its portrayal of women in the workforce. The show gently pushed the envelope with regard to gay characters, too, according to Seattle-based writer Matt Baume.
In the latest installment of his “Culture Cruise” video series, Baume breaks down a 1992 episode of “Murphy Brown” titled “Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are.” In it, the character of Miles Silverberg (played by Grant Shaud) recalls a dream he had about touring the Washington Monument with a new colleague, Rick (Brian McNamara). After co-workers point out that Rick is gay, Miles begins to contemplate the dream’s arguably homoerotic undertone and, in turn, question his own sexuality.
In some respects, “Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are” is laughably dated, especially as Rick’s colleagues resort to stereotypes in an effort to decode his sexuality. But as Baume points out, the episode is also forward-thinking.
Other sitcoms had based jokes on a gay character’s sexuality. But “Murphy Brown” delved into a straight man’s thoughts and fears about what it means to identify as queer.
“Instead of only speculating about whether someone else is gay, the show gives a character wondering if he himself might be gay,” Baume told HuffPost.
Noting that the episode aired in 1992, when many discussions about the LGBTQ community centered on the HIV/AIDS crisis, he added, “Not only does the show answer a lot of questions about what exactly gay people are ― and aren’t ― but it shows something extremely rare on television at the time: We meet a gay man who is happy, confident, successful and unafraid to talk about who he is.”
The original incarnation of “Murphy Brown,” which ended in 1998, took a progressive-for-its-time look at LGBTQ issues in at least two additional episodes after “Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are.” Today, the reboot of the series boasts out actor Nik Dodani as social media expert Pat Patel, who identifies as gay.