ENGLISH, DIANE

U.S. Writer/Producer

Diane English is in the enviable position of having several successful shows to her credit, a credit often shared with co-producer husband, Joel Shukovsky. In addition to the programs--Murphy Brown, Love and War and the earlier Foley Square and My Sister Sam--their company also manages a lucrative eight-figure multiseries contract with CBS. The two started their careers in public television (New York City's WNET) with English's adaptation of The Lathe of Heaven, and English went on to write nine TV movies before being offered the opportunity to "create-write-produce" the pilot for Foley Square, which like her later shows featured a strong female central character.

In a demanding professional job, however, English's career has not been without controversy; Murphy Brown was attacked by Vice President Quayle in the summer of 1992 when the main character on the series, a single professional woman played by Candice Bergen, decided not to terminate her unplanned pregnancy. Quayle's primary criticism was that the series mocked the importance of fathers by having a woman bear a child alone and call it "just another lifestyle choice." Quayle and English engaged in a heated and prolonged dispute through the media which made the series and English herself a household word. Some industry experts called the incident the single most important element contributing to the long-term ratings success of the show. For advertisers, in the following season Murphy Brown was the most expensive show in television, with 30-second commercials on the show costing an average $310,000. Syndication sales were said to exceed $100 million. Because of her unusual combination of business and creative skills, English is often mentioned as "the only woman in television now capable of taking over the entertainment division at a major network."

-Cheryl Harris


Diane English and Joel Shukovsky
Photo courtesy of Shukovsky/English Entertainment

DIANE ENGLISH. Born in Buffalo, New York, U.S.A. 1948. Graduated from Buffalo State College, 1970. Married: Joel Shukovsky. High school Englsih teacher, Buffalo, New York, 1970-71; WNET-TV, New York City, 1970s; columnist, Vogue magazine, New York City, 1977-80; in commercial television from 1985; creator, writer, producer, Murphy Brown, 1988. Recipient: Writers Guild Award, 1990; Genie Award, American Women in Radio and Television, 1990; Commissioners' Award, National Commission on Working Women. Address: Shukovsky/English Productions, 4000 Warner Blvd., Burbank, California, U.S.

TELEVISION SERIES

1985-86 Foley Square
1986-87 My Sister Sam
1988-    Murphy Brown
1992-95 Love and War

FURTHER READING

Alley, Robert S. and Irby B. Brown (1990) Murphy Brown: Anatomy of a Sitcom. New York: Delta Books, 1990.

DeVries, Hibry. "Laughing off the Recession." The New York Times, 3 January 1993.

 

See also Murphy Brown