Charles Kimbrough looked like a local news anchor. He had the hair and the tight smile and looked good in a suit in that middle-aged white man tradition found on Eyewitness newscasts in dozens of North American TV markets.
His ten season stint on Murphy Brown as anchorman Jim Dial cemented that impression. The series, which starred Candice Bergen, ran from 1988 to 1998 and was briefly revived in 2018.
Kimbrough, who died at 86 on January 11, had more than Murphy Brown on his resume. His Broadway credits included a role in the original production of “Company” (1970-72). Kimbrough was singled out with a Tony award nomination as Best Featured Actor in a Musical. Directed by Harold Prince with music by Stephen Sondheim, the play also featured Elaine Stritch, Barbara Barrie, Dean Jones (for a brief run) and Beth Howland (who later enjoyed a long run as waitress Vera on the sitcom Alice).
Howland clearly missed Kimbrough’s company; she would become the actor’s second wife in 2002.
He went on to other Broadway work, including Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George,” before gaining wider fame as Dial in Murphy Brown. He picked up a Supporting Actor Emmy nomination for the series in 1990.
While at TV Guide Canada, I did a phone interview with him during the run of Murphy Brown and found him to be memorably humble, friendly and self-effacing. He joked that Bergen and others did all the work while he cashed a big cheque for a few scenes a week. He wasn’t wrong, but what’s wrong with that?
Typecast after 250 episodes, he segued to voice-over work on several animated projects including Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996), Pinky and the Brain and Family Guy.
On the latter he played a familiar role: Jim Dial.