Father Murphy

Father Murphy is an American western drama television series that aired on the NBC network from November 3, 1981, to September 18, 1983. Michael Landon created the series, was the executive producer, and directed the show in partnership with William F. Claxton, Maury Dexter, Victor French and Leo Penn.

Father Murphy
Father Murphy.PNG
Created byMichael Landon
Directed byMichael Landon
William F. Claxton
Maury Dexter
Victor French
Leo Penn
StarringMerlin Olsen
Moses Gunn
Katherine Cannon
Timothy Gibbs
Byron Thames
Lisa Trusel
Richard Bergman
Ivy Bethune
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes34
Executive producerMichael Landon
Running time60 minutes
Production companyNBC Productions
Original networkNBC
Audio formatMono
Original releaseNovember 3, 1981 (1981-11-03) –
September 18, 1983 (1983-09-18)


The series stars former NFL Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle football player and Little House on the Prairie actor Merlin Olsen as an 1870s frontiersman named John Michael Murphy who teams up with prospector Moses Gage (Moses Gunn) to shelter a group of orphans who are being threatened with internment in a workhouse. Murphy disguises himself as a priest and befriends a schoolmarm to help the children find a home.

At the end of the first season, John's true identity is revealed to the head of the workhouse, and the orphans seem destined for a life of labor. Instead, Murphy marries the schoolmarm and they get custody of the children.


Many of the episodes were filmed at the Old Tucson Studios and theme park just outside Tucson, Arizona. The main village featured in the show was located at Big Sky Movie Ranch in Simi Valley, California; this was also the filming location for the television series Little House on the Prairie. The village was located approximately 200 yards (180 m) uphill from the Ingalls' farm set.

Father Murphy is an NBC production and is syndicated worldwide by Sony Pictures Television. However, Sony does not own the video rights.[citation needed]


Notable guest appearances on the series include: Shannen Doherty, Mykelti Williamson, Kellie Martin, John M. Pickard, Eddie Quillan, Christina Applegate, Amanda Peterson, Donna Wilkes, Tina Yothers, Mary Beth Evans, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Jerry Hardin, and James Cromwell.

US TV ratingsEdit

Season Episodes Start Date End Date Nielsen Rank Nielsen Rating Tied With
1 21 November 3, 1981 April 11, 1982 52[6] N/A N/A
2 13 September 28, 1982 September 18, 1983 66[7] N/A N/A

List of episodesEdit

Season 1 (1981–82)Edit

Ep Title Directed by Written by Original air date Prod.
"Pilot"Michael LandonMichael LandonNovember 3, 1981 (1981-11-03)101-102
Two-hour (with commercials) movie.
33"Eggs, Milk and a Dry Bed"Michael LandonMichael LandonNovember 10, 1981 (1981-11-10)103
44"Establish Thou the Works of Our Hands"Leo PennPaul W. CooperNovember 17, 1981 (1981-11-17)104
55"A Horse from Heaven"William F. ClaxtonFrank K. TelfordNovember 24, 1981 (1981-11-24)105
66"By the Bear That Bit Me: Part 1"William F. ClaxtonRon Bishop & Steve Hayes & Michael LandonDecember 1, 1981 (1981-12-01)106
77"By the Bear That Bit Me: Part 2"William F. ClaxtonRon Bishop & Steve Hayes & Michael LandonDecember 8, 1981 (1981-12-08)107
88"False Blessings"Leo PennVince R. GutierrezDecember 15, 1981 (1981-12-15)108
99"The Ghost of Gold Hill"William F. ClaxtonJohn T. DuganDecember 22, 1981 (1981-12-22)109
1010"Graduation"William F. ClaxtonPeter DixonJanuary 5, 1982 (1982-01-05)110
1111"Will's Surprise"William F. ClaxtonChris AbbottJanuary 12, 1982 (1982-01-12)111
1212"Eighty-Eight Keys to Happiness"Victor FrenchGeorge AtkinsJanuary 19, 1982 (1982-01-19)TBA
1313"Knights of the White Camelia"William F. ClaxtonDon BalluckFebruary 2, 1982 (1982-02-02)TBA
1414"The Parable of Amanda"William F. ClaxtonPaul W. CooperFebruary 9, 1982 (1982-02-09)TBA
1515"The Spy"William F. ClaxtonMichael LandonFebruary 16, 1982 (1982-02-16)TBA
1616"The Heir Apparent"William F. ClaxtonMichael LandonFebruary 23, 1982 (1982-02-23)TBA
1717"In God's Arms"William F. ClaxtonPaul W. CooperMarch 2, 1982 (1982-03-02)TBA
1818"The Dream Day"Maury DexterMichael LandonMarch 14, 1982 (1982-03-14)TBA
1919"Laddie"William F. ClaxtonLarry BischofMarch 21, 1982 (1982-03-21)TBA
2020"Matthew and Elizabeth"William F. ClaxtonChris AbbottMarch 28, 1982 (1982-03-28)TBA
2121"The First Miracle: Part 1"William F. ClaxtonChris AbbottApril 4, 1982 (1982-04-04)TBA
2222"The First Miracle: Part 2"TBATBAApril 11, 1982 (1982-04-11)TBA

Season 2 (1982–83)Edit

Ep Title Directed by Written by Original air date
231"Happiness Is..."TBATBASeptember 28, 1982 (1982-09-28)
242"The Father Figure"TBATBAOctober 5, 1982 (1982-10-05)
253"Stopover in a One-Horse Town"TBATBAOctober 26, 1982 (1982-10-26)
264"Outrageous Fortune"TBATBANovember 9, 1982 (1982-11-09)
275"The Reluctant Runaway: Part 1"TBATBANovember 16, 1982 (1982-11-16)
286"The Reluctant Runaway: Part 2"TBATBANovember 23, 1982 (1982-11-23)
297"Buttons and Beaux"TBATBANovember 30, 1982 (1982-11-30)
308"John Michael Murphy, R.I.P."TBATBADecember 7, 1982 (1982-12-07)
319"The Witness"TBATBADecember 14, 1982 (1982-12-14)
3210"Blood Right"TBATBADecember 21, 1982 (1982-12-21)
3311"Sweet Sixteen"TBATBADecember 28, 1982 (1982-12-28)
3412"The Rockets' Red Glare"TBATBAUNAIRED?
3513"The Matchmakers"TBATBAUNAIRED?

Home mediaEdit

Image Entertainment (under license from NBC Studios) released both seasons of Father Murphy on DVD in Region 1 in 2004/2005.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
Season 1 22 October 26, 2004
Season 2 13 January 25, 2005


  1. ^ "Merlin Olsen". IMDb.com.
  2. ^ "Katherine Cannon". IMDb.com.
  3. ^ "Timothy Gibbs". IMDb.
  4. ^ "Lisa Trusel". IMDb.
  5. ^ "Byron Thames". IMDb.
  6. ^ Lina. "The TV Ratings Guide: 1981-82 Ratings History -- Primetime is Awash in a Bubble Bath as Nighttime Soaps Become the Rage". Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  7. ^ Lina. "The TV Ratings Guide: 1982-83 Ratings History -- Soap Bubbles Rise, Several Veterans Part and NBC Renews Poorly Rated Masterpieces". Retrieved 1 April 2018.

External linksEdit