Murphy Brown is an American sitcom created by Diane English were they aired on CBS from November 14, 1988 to May 18, 1998, for a total of ten seasons and returned to the same network on September 27 to December 20, 2018 for a single season. The program starred Candice Bergen as the eponymous Murphy Brown, a famous investigative journalist and news anchor for FYI, a fictional CBS television news magazine and later for Murphy in the Morning, a cable morning news show.

In January 2018, CBS announced that it had given a 13-episode, series production commitment to a revival of Murphy Brown which was premiere on September 27, 2018. On May 10, 2019, it was cancelled by CBS after s single season.

The first two seasons of the show received favorable reviews from critics. The second season received universal acclaim with a Metacritic rating of 100 out of 100 based on 5 reviews. It is the only series to receive a score of 100 on the website.

Summary[edit | edit source]

The early season[edit | edit source]

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).

Murphy as a single mother[edit | edit source]

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."

More recently, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer approached Bergen and her daughter at an event, telling her daughter that "your mom is the reason I'm here."

Later seasons[edit | edit source]

The fifth season continued after the departure of series-creator and show-runner 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.

Cast[edit | edit source]

Main[edit | edit source]

Cast Character Years Seasons Episodes
Regular Recurring Guest
Candice Bergen Murphy Brown 1988–1998, 2018 1–11 248
Faith Ford Corky Sherwood (also Forrest, Silverberg) 1988–1998, 2018 1–11 248
Grant Shaud Miles Silverberg 1988–1996, 2018 1–8, 11 202
Joe Regalbuto Frank Fontana 1988–1998, 2018 1–11 248
Charles Kimbrough Jim Dial 1988–1998 1–10 11 247
Robert Pastorelli Eldin Bernecky 1988–1995, 1998 1–7 10 138
Pat Corley Phil 1988–1996, 1998 1–7 8 10 167
Lily Tomlin Kay Carter-Shepley 1996–1998 9–10 46
Jake McDorman Avery Brown 2018 11 13
Nik Dodani Pat Patel 2018 11 13
Tyne Daly Phyllis 2018 11 13
Adan Rocha Miguel 2018 11 13

Recurring[edit | edit source]

Episodes[edit | edit source]

Main article: List of Murphy Brown episodes
Season Episodes Originally aired (U.S. dates)
Season premiere Season finale
1 22 November 14, 1988 May 22, 1989
2 27 September 18, 1990 May 21, 1990
3 26 September 17, 1990 May 20, 1991
4 26 September 16, 1991 May 18, 1992
5 25 September 21, 1992 May 17, 1993
6 25 September 20, 1993 May 16, 1994
7 26 September 19, 1994 May 22, 1995
8 24 September 18, 1995 May 20, 1996
9 24 September 24, 1996 May 18, 1997
10 22 October 1, 1997 May 18, 1998
11 13 September 27, 2018 December 20, 2018

Production[edit | edit source]

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, afterwards known as the "Murphy Brown 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.

Revival[edit | edit source]

Development[edit | edit source]

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, fake news and a very different political and cultural climate," according to CBS. Bergen will reprise her role, plus executive produce alongside series creator Diane English. On February 27, 2018, it was announced that Pamela 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.

Casting[edit | edit source]

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. On September 13, 2018, it was reported that Adan Rocha had been cast in a series regular role. it was announced that Merle Dandridge had joined the cast in a recurring capacity and that Bette Medler, Brooke Shields, John Larroquette, Katie Couric and Peter Gallagher would appear in guest starring roles.

Revival cancellation[edit | edit source]

On May 10, 2019, it was announced that CBS officially cancelled Murphy Brown for a single season, along with Fam, Happy Together and Life in Pieces. A combination of factors, including declining ratings, CBS's desire to have an ownership stake, and the network needing to clear space on four new sitcoms in the fall 2019 schedule, led to the show's demise.

Fictional personal[edit | edit source]

FYI[edit | edit source]

FYI (For Your Information) is a fictional news broadcast anchored by Jim Dial and Murphy Brown. Regular segments include political interviews conducted by Brown, commentaries offered by Dial, celebrity or "fluff" news stories delivered by Corky Sherwood, and field investigations undertaken by Frank Fontana. The show was originally anchored by Dial, Brown, Fontana, and Stuart Best. Best offered a segment called "All's I Know", though he departed after six episodes. During Brown's temporary absence in 1986 she was replaced by Sherwood, who was later retained full-time. Temporary anchors throughout the series include Miller Redfield, who replaced Jim Dial during his temporary departure in 1995, Jerry Gold, and Peter Hunt.

Front & Center[edit | edit source]

Front & Center with Murphy Brown and Miller Redfield is a fictional panel show featuring critical commentary offered by FYI co-anchor Murphy Brown and former FYI correspondent Miller Redfield. Brown was initially contracted to work alongside Walter Cronkite, who dropped out pre-production. The series ran from 1995-1996.

Reception[edit | edit source]

Syndication[edit | edit source]

From 2005 to 2007, Nick at Nite aired the series daily nationwide including sister channel TV Land from 2006 to 2009. Syndicated shows are sold in multiyear cycles, with the first cycle the most expensive. The series was unsuccessful in off-network syndication, in part because of music rights fees and in part because the topical references in the show quickly became dated. It also aired from Antenna TV on January 2, 2018, before the revival.

DVD Release[edit | edit source]

On February 8, 2005, Warner Home Video released the complete first season of Murphy Brown on DVD in Region 1. WBTV has released a statement in which it said that the reason as to why the second season has yet to be released as of 2016 is because of music that is copyrighted. It is unknown if the remaining nine seasons will ever be released. For the same reason, it is unlikely ever to stream on online services.

DVD Name Ep# Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
The Complete First Season 22 February 8, 2005 N/A N/A

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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