Murphy Brown is an American sitcom that aired on CBS from November 14, 1988, to May 18, 1998, for a total of 247 episodes. The program starred Candice Bergen as the eponymous Murphy Brown, a famous investigative journalist and news anchor for FYI, a fictional CBS television newsmagazine.
Murphy Brown's title card
|Created by||Diane English|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||10|
|No. of episodes||247 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Shukovsky English Entertainment
Warner Bros. Television
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television Distribution|
|Original release||November 14, 1988 – May 18, 1998|
The program was well known for stories inspired by current events and its political satire. It achieved a high level of cultural notoriety in the 1992 presidential campaign when Dan Quayle mentioned the show in a campaign speech.
The show began in the Monday 9/8 p.m. timeslot and remained there until its final season when it was moved to Wednesday at 8:30/7:30 p.m. The series finale aired in its original Monday timeslot.
The show did not have a regular opening theme song, but would instead play a different classic Motown song over the opening credits each week.
Cast and charactersEdit
Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) is a recovering alcoholic, who, in the show's first episode, returns to the fictional newsmagazine FYI for the first time following a stay at the Betty Ford Clinic. Over 40 and single, she is sharp-tongued and hard as nails. In her profession, she is considered one of the boys, having shattered many glass ceilings encountered during her career. Dominating the FYI news magazine, she is portrayed as one of America's hardest-hitting (though not the warmest or more sympathetic) media personalities.
Her colleagues at FYI include stuffy veteran anchor Jim Dial (Charles Kimbrough), who affectionately addresses Murphy as "Slugger" and reminisces about the glory days of Murrow and Cronkite. Murphy's best friend and sometime competitor is investigative reporter Frank Fontana (Joe Regalbuto), the only person who addresses her as "Murph". Though a daredevil reporter, insecurities regarding fame and (especially) his personal relationships have him in psychotherapy for the majority of the series. In early seasons, there was a running gag about Frank's toupée, which he hated, but which producers insisted he wear on the show.
Also present are the two newest members of the FYI team introduced to Murphy. A new executive producer was appointed during her stay at Betty Ford: Miles Silverberg (Grant Shaud), a yuppie overachiever who was 25 and fresh from public television. Naive and neurotic despite his lightning intellect, Miles is the perfect object for Murphy's skewering wit. Corky Sherwood (Faith Ford) was Murphy's replacement during her "sabbatical". A former Miss America from the (fictional) town of Neebo, Louisiana, Corky is the bane of the other journalists with her perky, relentlessly sunny personality—and utter lack of sophistication when it comes to world affairs. Due to overwhelming audience reaction, management decides to retain Corky's services after Murphy's return, usually assigning her to lifestyle pieces or lightweight celebrity profiles.
Shaud left at the end of the eighth season, and his character was replaced during season 9 by veteran TV producer Kay Carter-Shepley (Lily Tomlin). Kay did not have a background in journalism, but instead had made a career as a producer of game shows.
The FYI team also frequently socializes at Phil's, a bar-and-grill across the street from their office/studio in Washington, D.C. Phil, the bar owner, was played by Pat Corley. Phil's was portrayed as a Washington institution, whose owner knew everything about everybody who had ever been anybody in the capital—ranging from what brand of lingerie J. Edgar Hoover preferred to the identity of Deep Throat (unknown to the public at the time of the series' production). In a running gag during early seasons, whenever someone entered Phil's (casting bright sunlight from the open door into the dark, murky bar), the patrons would all shout in unison "close the door!".
Brown was unmarried, but had a home life as well: she hired a laid-back, New Age philosophy-dispensing house painter named Eldin Bernecky (Robert Pastorelli) to repaint her house. He had so many grand ideas that he was in her employ for six seasons. Being a highly talented artist, his renovations were often delayed when struck by the urge to paint socially-relevant murals throughout the house. The character of Eldin was based on real life painter Gabe Kis, New York City's Painter to the Stars.
Main cast and charactersEdit
|Candice Bergen||Murphy Brown||Main|
|Faith Ford||Corky Sherwood (also Forrest, Silverberg)||Main|
|Pat Corley||Phil||Main||Main[N 1]||Guest|
|Charles Kimbrough||Jim Dial||Main||TBA|
|Robert Pastorelli||Eldin Bernecky||Main||Guest|
|Joe Regalbuto||Frank Fontana||Main|
|Grant Shaud||Miles Silverberg||Main||Main|
|Lily Tomlin||Kay Carter-Shepley||Main||TBA|
|Dyllan Christopher||Avery Brown||Recurring|
|Haley Joel Osment||Recurring|
- Corley was only credited for the episodes in which he appeared during season eight.
A number of recurring characters also appeared during the show's run:
- John Hostetter played John, the unflappable stage manager in 62 episodes.
- Ritch Brinkley played Carl Wishnitski, FYI's cameraman and in love with Murphy.
- Janet Carroll appeared as Doris Dial, anchorman Jim Dial's equally stoic, but kind-hearted wife, in several episodes. In the final season the role of Doris was portrayed by Concetta Tomei.
- Jay Thomas appeared in several episodes as tabloid talk show host Jerry Gold, who became a friend of Murphy's and an occasional love interest, despite their significantly different journalistic values.
- Colleen Dewhurst appeared in a number of episodes as Murphy's opinionated museum curator mother, Avery Brown. Dewhurst won two Emmy Awards for her appearances. When Dewhurst died in 1991, the writers chose to have her character die as well, and dedicated the episode to the memory of Dewhurst. Murphy, who was pregnant at the time of her mother's death, named her son Avery in her mother's memory the following season.
- Darren McGavin appeared in several episodes as Murphy's driven father, newspaper publisher Bill Brown. Bill shared an adversarial relationship with his ex-wife Avery—especially after marrying a fresh-faced twentysomething who taught yoga. McGavin earned an Emmy nomination in 1990 for his performance as Bill Brown.
- Scott Bakula appeared as reporter (and occasional love interest for Murphy) Peter Hunt.
- Jane Leeves appeared in a number of episodes as Miles' girlfriend Audrey Cohen. Though they were headed for marriage, the relationship ended when Leeves joined the cast of Frasier as Martin Crane's physiotherapist and Niles' love interest, Daphne.
- Robin Thomas appeared as Jake Lowenstein, underground leftist radical and Murphy's ex-husband. Murphy and Jake had another brief relationship during season three, which resulted in Jake becoming the father of her child.
- Christopher Rich played Miller Redfield, an empty-headed, pretty-boy reporter with a local affiliate who had semi-regular appearances on the show, first as a substitute anchor when Jim was on leave, and also when the team went on strike.
- Paula Cale appeared as McGovern, a conservative young reporter based on MTV's Kennedy. She was added to the program when management tried to appeal to a younger demographic.
- Alan Oppenheimer appeared as news-division executive Gene Kinsela.
- Garry Marshall appeared as micro-managing network president Stan Lansing. His frequent and impromptu whims were the bane of the staff.
- Rose Marie appeared as Frank Fontana's mother.
- Paul Reubens appeared in several episodes as Lansing's sociopathic nephew Andrew J. Lansing, III. He is introduced as one of Murphy's 93 secretaries du jour and, with Carol Kester (Marcia Wallace), was one of only two who measure up to Murphy's standards. Like Carol, Andrew is lured away from Murphy by another job by the end of the episode; in his case, he is promoted to a network executive position through nepotism. He periodically appears in later episodes in that capacity, mostly as his uncle's "black-ops" expert.
- Marian Seldes appeared as Murphy's eccentric and often-married aunt Brooke.
- In the show's final seasons, when the younger Avery Brown was of school age, he was portrayed by Haley Joel Osment, replacing child actor Dyllan Christopher.
- Julius Carry appeared as Mitchell Baldwin, the new boss who replaced Gene Kinsela. Baldwin, an African American, used the team's liberal-Caucasian guilt to railroad through changes in FYI's format and content.
- Wallace Shawn appeared as Stuart Best, a former FYI reporter who annoyed Murphy, Jim, and Frank to the point that the three colluded to have him fired – twice. After the second firing, Stuart returned as a hopelessly inept party-line politician who invariably broke down under even the most sympathetic questions by Murphy while on-air.
- Jean Stapleton appeared as Miles' grandmother, Nana Silverberg.
|Season||Episodes||Originally aired||Nielsen ratings|
|First aired||Last aired||Rank||Rating||Tied with|
|1||22||November 14, 1988||May 22, 1989||34||14.6||N/A|
|2||27||September 18, 1989||May 21, 1990||26||14.7||N/A|
|3||26||September 17, 1990||May 20, 1991||6||17.6||N/A|
|4||26||September 16, 1991||May 18, 1992||3||19.5||N/A|
|5||25||September 21, 1992||May 17, 1993||4||17.9||N/A|
|6||25||September 20, 1993||May 16, 1994||9||16.5||N/A|
|7||26||September 19, 1994||May 22, 1995||16||14.1||N/A|
|8||24||September 18, 1995||May 20, 1996||18||12.3||Walker, Texas Ranger
|9||24||September 24, 1996||May 18, 1997||34||10.4||N/A|
|10||22||October 1, 1997||May 18, 1998||69||7.8||Damon
Grace Under Fire
The Naked Truth
Original series runEdit
The first season saw Murphy relearning her job without the use of two crutches—alcohol and cigarettes. In the pilot episode, she complained the only vice she had left herself was chewing yellow number-two pencils. It also set up the series-long running gag of Murphy's battles with the off-beat and sometimes downright bizarre characters that were sent by Personnel to act as her secretary, none of whom ever last for more than an episode, save two; one played by Paul Reubens.
Action was divided between the FYI suite of offices and Murphy's Georgetown townhouse. Reality often blended with fiction with the many cameos of then-current media and political personalities. The most prominent was when Murphy Brown was asked to guest star as herself in the pilot of a sitcom entitled Kelly Green, about a female investigative journalist. Life imitated art when, after a less-than stellar performance, Murphy was berated by television journalist Connie Chung (herself in a Murphy Brown cameo appearance) for crossing the line and compromising her credibility.
Subsequent seasons saw the emergence of story arcs involving network politics with Gene Kinsella, Frank and Murphy's rivalry and Eldin's ongoing infatuation with Corky. A standout event was Miss Sherwood's marriage to Louisiana lawyer Will Forrest. During the brief engagement, a horrified Corky comes to the realization that she will now be "Corky Sherwood-Forrest". In the wedding episode, maid-of-honor Murphy, dressed as an antebellum belle in a hoop-skirted nightmare of a bridemaid's dress, rages her way through the entire affair while thwarting the press's attempts to photograph the nuptials (mirroring the Sean Penn/Madonna wedding a few years earlier).
The fifth season continued after the departure of series creator and showrunner Diane English. Murphy's struggles with parenthood were highlighted, as were the revolving-door of nanny characters mirroring her office tribulations. Corky's marriage unraveled and ended in divorce as she and Will grew apart. (Right before the wedding, Forrest had decided to abandon the practice of law and follow his true calling—creative writing.) This tragedy saw Corky become less the Pollyanna as she began to model herself after role-model Murphy.
The show went on, and FYI featured several changes in on- and off-camera staff: Peter Hunt, McGovern and Miller Redfield temporarily joined the regulars at the anchor desk. The network moved FYI to a new studio with a trendy exterior "Window on America". A significant story-arc saw the network squelch an FYI expose on the tobacco industry, leading to the resignation of first Dial, then the remainder of the cast. They all went to work reorganizing the poorly-performing news division of a fledging network. In the end, Miles faced down the network; the "suits" relented, the staffers returned and the story aired. For his courage in standing up to the network brass, Miles was promoted to the news division's headquarters in New York—to the detriment of his new marriage to Corky.
As well, after years of working as her housepainter, and later nanny, Eldin (who was seen increasingly infrequently after season 5) left Murphy's employ during season 7 to study painting in Spain. (Actor Robert Pastrorelli left Murphy Brown for his own starring vehicle, the sitcom Double Rush, which lasted one season in 1995.)
By the start of the 1996–97 season, viewership was beginning to decline. Shaud left the series and comedian Lily Tomlin was brought in to replace him in the role of executive producer Kay Carter-Shepley to help bolster the sitcom's ratings. Kay proved that she had just as little journalistic experience as Miles Silverberg when he started with the show; the only experience Kay had in television—in spite of her venerable connections—was producing daytime game shows. Where Murphy had terrorized the younger Miles, the Machiavellian Kay often emerged victorious in her dealings with Murphy. Tomlin remained with the series for its last two years but ratings continued to drop, especially after a move off of Monday nights in favor of a slot on Wednesday nights. CBS did renew Murphy Brown for a tenth season, which was to be its last.
In the fall of 1997, the final season premiered and the entire season served as a story arc in which Murphy battled breast cancer. The storyline was not without controversy; an episode in which she used medical marijuana to relieve side effects of chemotherapy was attacked by conservative groups, and a women's health group protested an episode in which Murphy, while shopping for prosthetic breasts, uttered the line "Should I go with Demi Moore or Elsie the Cow?"
However, the show's handling of the subject was credited with a 30 percent increase in the number of women getting mammograms that year, and Bergen was presented an award from the American Cancer Society in honor of her role in educating women on the importance of breast cancer prevention and screening.
In the show's final episode, Murphy met and interviewed God (played by Alan King) and Edward R. Murrow in a dream while undergoing surgery. Computer editing was used to insert footage of the real Murrow, who died in 1965, into the show. Diane English, who created the show, made a cameo appearance as a nurse who delivered the results to Murphy after her surgery. At the end of the episode, Murphy walks through her house seemingly alone, only to have Eldin appear at the end, offering to "touch up" her house.
With rival networks returning popular classic shows to the airwaves (Will & Grace on NBC, Roseanne on ABC, and The X-Files for Fox), CBS announced it ordered a 13-episode revival of Murphy Brown for the 2018–2019 season. The series will be set in "a world of cable news, social media, fake news and a very different political and cultural climate," according to CBS. Candace Bergen and series creator Diane English are set to return as executive producers. On February 27, 2018, it was announced that Pam Fryman would direct the revival's pilot episode.
It was later announced during the CBS upfronts on May 16, 2018, that the revival will now have Murphy anchoring a cable morning show, Murphy In the Morning, with her old team, lifestyle reporter Corky Sherwood, investigative journalist Frank Fontana, and producer Miles Silverberg, while Murphy’s son Avery works as a conservative anchor host for a rival cable morning show that airs opposite his mother’s program.
Alongside the initial announcement of the revival, it was confirmed that Candice Bergen would reprise her role as Murphy Brown. On February 26, 2018, it was announced that Faith Ford, Joe Regalbuto, and Grant Shaud were joining the main cast and reprising their roles from the series' original run. It was also reported Charles Kimbrough might make a guest appearance in the revival. On March 16, 2018, it was announced that Jake McDorman and Nik Dodani had also joined the main cast. McDorman is set to assume the role of Murphy Brown's now adult son Avery. On April 19, 2018, it was announced that Tyne Daly had joined the main cast in the role of Phyllis, the sister of the deceased bar owner Phil from the series' original run.
Murphy as a single motherEdit
In the show's 1991–92 season, Murphy became pregnant. When her baby's father (ex-husband and current underground radical Jake Lowenstein) expressed his unwillingness to give up his own lifestyle to be a parent, Murphy chose to have the child and raise it alone. Another major fiction-reality blending came at Murphy's baby shower: the invited guests were journalists Katie Couric, Joan Lunden, Paula Zahn, Mary Alice Williams and Faith Daniels, who treated the fictional Murphy and Corky as friends and peers.
At the point where she was about to give birth, she had stated that "several people do not want me to have the baby. Pat Robertson; Phyllis Schlafly; half of Utah!" Right after giving birth to her son, Avery, Murphy sang the song "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman". This storyline made the show a subject of political controversy during the 1992 American presidential campaign. On May 19, 1992, Vice President Dan Quayle spoke at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. During his speech, he criticized the Murphy Brown character for "mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone".
Quayle's remarks caused a public discussion on family values, culminating in the 1992–93 season premiere, "You Say Potatoe, I Say Potato", where the television characters reacted to Quayle's comments and produced a special episode of FYI showcasing and celebrating the diversity of the modern American family. Because Quayle's actual speech made little reference to Murphy Brown's fictional nature (other than the use of the word character), the show was able to use actual footage from his speech to make it appear that, within the fictional world of the show, Quayle was referring to Murphy Brown personally, rather than to the fictional character. At the end, Brown helps organize a special edition of FYI focusing on different kinds of families then arranges a retaliatory prank in which a truckload of potatoes is dumped in front of Quayle's residence, while a disc jockey commenting on the incident notes the Vice President should be glad people were not making fun of him for misspelling "fertilizer", (On June 15, 1992, at a spelling bee in Trenton, New Jersey, Quayle had erroneously corrected an elementary school student's spelling of "potato" to "potatoe". The cue card used by the teacher read "potatoe".) When Candice Bergen won another Emmy that year, she thanked Dan Quayle. The feud was cited by E! as #81 on its list of "101 Reasons the '90s Ruled".
In 2002, Bergen said in an interview that she personally agreed with much of Quayle's speech, calling it "a perfectly intelligent speech about fathers not being dispensable" and adding that "nobody agreed with that more than I did."
Quayle eventually displayed a sense of humor about the incident—after the controversy died down, he appeared for an interview on an independent Los Angeles TV station and for his final question was asked what his favorite TV show was. He responded with "Murphy Brown—Not!" The station later used the clip of Quayle's response to promote its showing of Murphy Brown re-runs in syndication.
Quayle's complaint notwithstanding, prime-time TV in 1992 was "boosting family values more aggressively than it has in decades", wrote Time magazine critic Richard Zoglin, citing everything from Home Improvement to Roseanne. Murphy Brown was worth highlighting in a vice-presidential speech "not because it represented the state of television and the culture in general" but because Murphy's choice of single motherhood departed from it. The show has been seen as blazing a trail for single-mother characters in Ally McBeal, Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives, and The Good Wife – and "benefited from Bergen's character going through a political maelstrom so none of them had to."
Murphy Brown was unsuccessful when it was introduced in off-network syndication in the 1990s, in part because of music rights fees and in part because the topical references in the show quickly became dated. It was reintroduced to cable and digital multicast networks in the 2010s, beginning with a run on Encore Classic in 2013, with the series airing on Antenna TV as of 2018.
|DVD name||Eps||Release dates||Notes|
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|The Complete First Season||22||February 8, 2005||N/A||N/A||
Awards and nominationsEdit
- "Top Emmys to 'Exposure' and 'Murphy Brown'". New York Times. August 31, 1992. Retrieved 2010-08-10.
- Andreeva, Nellie (January 24, 2018). "'Murphy Brown' Revival Set At CBS With Star Candice Bergen & Creator Diane English". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 24, 2018.
- Celizic, Mike (February 27, 2008). "This just in: 'Murphy Brown' cast assembles". MSNBC. Retrieved 2010-08-15.
- WCBS-TV "On the Couch" Jan. 13, 2013
- "25 Greatest TV Characters of All Time". September 19, 2010. TV Guide Network. Missing or empty
- Barnes, Mike (2016-09-07). "John Hostetter, Actor on 'Murphy Brown,' Dies at 69". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
- Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present (Ninth Edition). Ballantine Books. p. 1692-1694. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
- Clawson, J. "The TV Ratings Guide: 1988-89 Ratings History -- The WGA Writer's Strike Changes The TV Landscape, NBC still rules". Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- Clawson, J. "The TV Ratings Guide: 1989-90 Ratings History -- ABC Claws Closer to 1st Place NBC as FOX Finds Its Next Hit". Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- Clawson, J. "The TV Ratings Guide: 1990-91 Ratings History -- ABC Reclaims 1st Place After 11 Years, Sitcoms Still Dominate". Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- Clawson, J. "The TV Ratings Guide: 1991-92 Ratings History -- Political Controversy Catapults CBS Back to 1st After 7-Year Absence, NBC Fortunes Plummet to 3rd". Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- Clawson, J. "The TV Ratings Guide: 1993-94 Ratings History -- ABC Sitcoms Go For Gold, NBC Still Down". Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- Clawson, J. "The TV Ratings Guide: 1994-95 Ratings History -- ABC Again in 1st, NBC's Creative Renaissance Lands Them in 2nd, UPN and WB Debut in the Cellar". Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- Clawson, J. "The TV Ratings Guide: 1996-97 Ratings History -- No Changes In Ranks With NBC Leading, CBS Struggles". Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- Clawson, J. "The TV Ratings Guide: 1997-98 Sitcom Scorecard -- NBC Rules Again, CBS Sitcoms Fall Below FOX's Few Entries". Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- Celizic, Mike. "This just in: 'Murphy Brown' cast assembles". Today. NBCUniversal Media, LLC. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
- Gitlin, Martin (2013). The Greatest Sitcoms of All Time. Scarecrow Press. p. 87. ISBN 9780810887251. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
- James, Caryn (October 1, 1997). "TELEVISION REVIEW; Breast Cancer Brings 'Murphy Brown' Close To Real-Life Tragedy". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-10.
- Lynch, Jason (January 24, 2018). "CBS Is Reviving Murphy Brown Next Season". Adweek. Retrieved 2018-01-24.
- Andreeva, Nellie (February 28, 2018). "'Murphy Brown': Pam Fryman To Direct Pilot Episode For CBS Revival Series". Deadline. Retrieved April 19, 2018.
- ‘Murphy Brown’ Revival To Take On Cable Morning Show Wars: More Details from Deadline (May 16, 2018)
- Andreeva, Nellie (February 26, 2018). "'Murphy Brown': Faith Ford, Joe Regalbuto & Grant Shaud To Reprise Roles On CBS Revival; Charles Kimbrough May Appear". Deadline. Retrieved April 19, 2018.
- Andreeva, Nellie (March 16, 2018). "'Murphy Brown': Jake McDorman To Play Son Avery In CBS Revival; Nik Dodani Cast". Deadline. Retrieved April 19, 2018.
- Petski, Denise (April 19, 2018). "'Murphy Brown': Tyne Daly Joins Cast Of CBS Revival". Deadline. Retrieved April 19, 2018.
- "Hoover Institution Commonwealth Club Database". Hoohila.stanford.edu. Archived from the original on June 13, 2011. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
- Excerpts from Dan Quayle's speech, at Forerunner.com
- Rosenthal, Andrew (September 4, 1992). "THE 1992 CAMPAIGN: Murphy Brown; Get Ready, America: Murphy Responds". New York Times. Retrieved August 10, 2010.
- Carter, Bill (July 20, 1992). "Back Talk From 'Murphy Brown' to Dan Quayle". New York Times. Retrieved August 10, 2010.
- "Dan Quayle vs. Murphy Brown". New York Times. June 1, 1992. Retrieved August 15, 2010.
- "Reasons the '90s Ruled 101 – 81", TV.com
- Associated Press. "Bergen: Quayle Was Right About Murphy", July 11, 2002
- Zoglin, Richard (May 11, 1992). "Labor And Other Pains". Time.
- http://www.cbc.ca/radio/q/candice-bergen-1.3012799. Missing or empty
- Pergament, Alan (January 25, 2018). "English is back with 'Murphy Brown' revival that fits political climate". The Buffalo News. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
The attention to current events – which became old – is one of the reasons that "Murphy Brown" was never as big in syndication as expected.
- R. Thomas Umstead (November 11, 2013). "Starz Re-Brands Encore Channels". Multichannel News. NewBay Media.
- "Boy Meets World DVD news: Trade Mag Explains Why No More Seasons for Boy Meets World, Who's The Boss, Night Court, Airwolf & More!". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Archived from the original on 2007-03-06. Retrieved 2011-01-16.
- "Site News DVD news: HTF/WB Chat for TV-on-DVD". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Archived from the original on 2011-09-14. Retrieved 2011-01-16.