Diane English (born May 18, 1948) is an American screenwriter, producer and director, best known for creating the television show Murphy Brown and writing and directing the 2008 feature film, The Women.
English was born in Buffalo, New York, the daughter of Anne English and Richard English who was an electrical engineer. She graduated from Nardin Academy in Buffalo, New York, and then from Buffalo State College in 1970.
English began her career at WNET, the PBS affiliate in New York City, working first as a story editor for The Theatre in America series, and then as associate director of TV Lab. From 1977 to 1980, she wrote a monthly column on television for Vogue magazine.
In 1980, she co-wrote PBS' The Lathe of Heaven, an adaptation of Ursula K. LeGuin's classic science fiction novel of the same name, and received her first Writers Guild Award Nomination. She followed that with the television movies Her Life as a Man for NBC (1984) and Classified Love for CBS (1986).
In 1985, English created her first half-hour comedy series, Foley Square, which aired on CBS during the 1985-1986 television season. It starred Margaret Colin, Hector Elizondo , Michael Lembeck, and Jon Lovitz. The show premiered on December 11, 1985, and languished near the bottom of the Nielsen ratings in the weeks that followed. After being put on hiatus after only eleven episodes CBS rescheduled it to another night and aired the 3 remaining episodes of the season. With ratings low CBS was quick to cancel the show after only fourteen episodes with the last episode airing on April 8, 1986. During 1986 and 1987, English executive produced and wrote the CBS comedy series My Sister Sam, starring Pam Dawber which lasted for 2 seasons with 12 episodes that never aired before being cancelled.
In 1988, she created the CBS television series, Murphy Brown, for which she won three Emmy Awards (one for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series and two for Outstanding Comedy Series). The series ran from 1988 to 1998 for a total of 247 episodes. It garnered 18 Emmy wins from 62 nominations. In 1992, English stirred up controversy when the title character decided to have a child out of wedlock. Vice president Dan Quayle gave a speech entitled Reflections on Urban America to the Commonwealth Club of California on the subject of the Los Angeles riots. In this speech, Quayle blamed the violence on a decay of moral values and family structure in American society. In an aside, he cited the single mother title character in the television program Murphy Brown as an example of how popular culture contributes to this "poverty of values", saying, "It doesn't help matters when prime time TV has Murphy Brown – a character who supposedly epitomizes today's intelligent, highly paid, professional woman – mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another 'lifestyle choice'.
English responded with a statement that read: "If the vice president thinks it's disgraceful for an unmarried woman to bear children (Out of wedlock), and if he believes that a woman cannot adequately raise a child without a father, then he'd better make sure abortion remains safe and legal." In 2002, Candice Bergen, the actress who played Brown, said "I never have really said much about the whole episode, which was endless, but his speech was a perfectly intelligent speech about fathers not being dispensable and nobody agreed with that more than I did." This controversy along with the shifting times of that decade touched off a debate over the meaning of "family values" of Americans during that election year in which Bill Clinton and Al Gore ran against George H.W. Bush and Dan Quayle.
English also created the comedy series Love & War (1992–1995) for CBS which starred Susan Dey and Jay Thomas - Annie Potts replaced Dey after the first season. Other series she co-created and/or executive produced include Double Rush (1995), Ink (1996), and The Louie Show starring Louie Anderson (1996) for CBS, and Living in Captivity (1998) for FOX. Unfortunately non of the series were picked up for more than a single season with The Louie Show only lasting 6 episodes.
In 2008, English wrote, produced and directed The Women, her feature film debut. The comedy, a remake of the 1939 George Cukor film of the same name, stars Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, and Jada Pinkett Smith. It was released to mostly negative reviews but tripled its budget when worldwide markets are factored in.
That same year English and the ensemble cast of The Women were honored with the Women in Film Crystal award which honors women in communications and media.
- 3 Emmy Awards, 8 Nominations
- 2 Writers Guild Awards, 5 Nominations
- The Golden Globe Award for Best Comedy Series
- The George Foster Peabody Award
- American Women in Radio and Television's Genie Award
- The Freedom-to-Write-Award from PEN Center USA West
- The Women in Film Crystal Award
- 2011 Paddy Chayefsky Award from the Writers Guild of America