I got an email today asking me about the 1988 ABC TV series MURPHY’S LAW, which starred George Segal as an insurance investigator and Maggie Han as his much-younger girlfriend. The email said, in part:
“I am a big fan of Murphy’s Law, and I am not sure anyone else can answer my question! What happened in the unaired episode? (I believe it was called “All’s Wrong That Ends Wrong”.) And while I have you, were there plans for where the series would
go, had it continued? […] Did you enjoy the series? What was it like working for Michael Gleason and Leonard Stern? There is so little written about the show, I would love to know any of your recollections.”
The series was based on the TRACE and DIGGER novels by Warren Murphy. Michael Gleason, the creator and showrunner of REMINGTON STEELE, was the executive producer and Ernie Wallengren was the supervising producer. Each episode was titled after one of the Murphy’s Laws from the books published by Price Stern & Sloan (a company co-founded by Leonard Stern, one of our producers).
I have enormous affection for MURPHY’S LAW because working on it had a lasting impact on me personally and professionally. It was the first staff job that Bill Rabkin and I had ever had…and it came right after the longest writers strike in the history of the TV industry. We wanted the job so bad and it was astonishing to us that we actually got it.We were working on the CBS/Radford lot and sharing a floor with the staff of THIRTYSOMETHING, which was pretty cool, too.
I was a huge admirer of Michael Gleason’s and, frankly, couldn’t believe we were actually working for him. He was so charming, creative, funny and friendly…he couldn’t have made it easier or more exciting for us… but even so, I was intimidated to actually have achieved my dream, and so afraid of failing, that for the first day or two after we got the green-light to write our script I suffered complete writer’s block, which broke only because Bill was there to walk me through it. We wrote two scenes together, line by line, and it was so much fun that I got so caught up in the writing that I forgot to be afraid.
I could go on and on about the show but the best thing about it was that Michael Gleason and Ernie Wallengren were wonderful writers and producers and very nice people. They taught us everything they knew, let us into casting, editing, music spotting and every other aspect of production…and gave us far more responsibility than we had any right to have. They also became more than our bosses…they became very close friends who we would work with again and again over the years. Series regular Kim Lankford introduced her cousin Carrie (or was it her niece?) to Bill, who promptly fell in love and married her…and they are still together today.
To answer your specific questions…we worked closely with Michael Gleason and consider him our mentor. We owe our careers to him and Ernie. We met Leonard Stern many times, but he wasn’t actively involved in the writing or producing of the series.
By the time we shot the 13th episode, we knew we’d been canceled and were going through the motions. The final episode, at New World’s insistence, was designed as a spin-off starring Joan Severance as a thief-turned-insurance investigator. Two versions were cut — one as a MURPHY’S LAW episode, the other as a pilot that largely cut our cast out of the action. I don’t know who had the brilliant idea of trying to sell a spin-off from a canceled show but, needless to say, it went nowhere. At the end of the episode, Murphy wins his long battle for unsupervised visitation rights with his daughter and the final shot is the two of them embracing on an airport runway. The episode never aired…but I have a copy.
As far as I know, the show has never been in syndication and the only episode ever released to home video was the pilot…
Here’s the main title sequence…