Murphy Brown: Wikis


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Murphy Brown
Murphybrown 1.jpg
The cast of Murphy Brown
Format Sitcom
Created by Diane English
Starring Candice Bergen
Faith Ford
Pat Corley
Grant Shaud
Joe Regalbuto
Robert Pastorelli
Charles Kimbrough
Lily Tomlin
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 10
No. of episodes 247
Running time 30 Minutes
Original channel CBS
Original run November 14, 1988 – May 18, 1998

Murphy Brown is an American situation comedy which 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, an investigative journalist and news anchor for FYI, a fictional CBS television newsmagazine.

The show achieved a level of political notoriety in the 1992 presidential election when Dan Quayle mentioned the show in a campaign speech, known as the "Murphy Brown speech".

The show began in the Monday 9/8PM timeslot and remained there until its final season when it was moved to Wednesday at 8:30/7:30PM. The series finale aired in its original Monday timeslot.



Brown (born May 9, 1948, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) was a recovering alcoholic, who, in the show's first episode, was returning to FYI for the first time since a stay at the Betty Ford Clinic. Her colleagues at FYI included stuffy anchor Jim Dial (Charles Kimbrough), who affectionately addressed Murphy as "Slugger"; reporter Frank Fontana (Joe Regalbuto, who hated the toupée he had to wear for the show); and the scatterbrained Corky Sherwood (Faith Ford), a former Miss America. Sherwood was first runner-up until the winner was forced to resign (Sherwood remarked in the first episode, "She told everyone she loved animals, but who knew to take her literally?"). New to the staff was producer Miles Silverberg (Grant Shaud), who, at 25 and fresh from work in public television, was perfect for utter torture from Murphy.

The FYI team also frequently socialized at Phil's, a bar across the street from their studio in Washington, D.C.. Phil, the bar owner, was played by Pat Corley.

Brown was unmarried, but had a home life as well: she hired a philosophy-dispensing house painter named Eldin Bernecky (Robert Pastorelli) to repaint her house, but he had so many grand ideas that he was with the show for six seasons.

Murphy becomes a single mother

In the show's 1991–1992 season, Murphy became pregnant. When her baby's father expressed his unwillingness to give up his own lifestyle to be a parent, Murphy chose to have the child and raise it alone. This story line made the show a subject of political controversy during the 1992 American presidential campaign. On May 19, 1992, then Vice President Dan Quayle spoke at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. During his speech, he criticized the Murphy Brown character for ignoring the importance of fathers and birthing a child alone.[1]

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".) 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."[2]

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."[3]

Quayle would eventually display 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 would later use the clip of Quayle's response to promote its showing of Murphy Brown re-runs in syndication.

Later years

Shaud left the series in 1996, and was replaced by Lily Tomlin as producer Kay Carter-Shepley for the show's final seasons. Kay proved that she had just as little experience as Miles Silverberg when he started with the show; the only experience Kay had in television was producing a daytime game show.

In the show's final season, a year-long story arc aired in which Murphy battled breast cancer. The show's handling of the subject was credited with a 30 percent increase in the number of women getting mammograms. 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, 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 to offer to repaint her house.

Running gags

  • The show did not have an opening theme song, but instead many episodes began with a Motown song whose lyrics were somehow relevant to the plot of the episode. The show did have a theme song, but played it at the end of an episode.
  • Many characters often commented that Murphy was especially difficult or grouchy due to premenstrual syndrome around the 18th of every month. (Corky Sherwood said in one episode: "Circle the 18th. We all do!")
  • Murphy's annual visits to the White House, always ending with her being kicked out.
  • The annual fictional Humboldt awards.
  • For a few seasons, Corky Sherwood was known as "Corky Sherwood Forrest" after marrying a lawyer named Will Forrest (Scott Bryce) in the show's 1989–1990 season. Corky and Will later divorced. Faith Ford's real-life husband at this time was named Robert Nottingham.
  • While the other news anchors produced many serious news stories, Corky's running gag was that her stories were frivolous. Examples included a retrospective on Bert Parks, where to take one's cat while one goes on vacation, and "a dinner with the Van Patten family."
  • The network regularly sent Murphy incompetent secretaries, with a different secretary in almost every episode. On one occasion, it was Carol (Marcia Wallace) from The Bob Newhart Show, who proved really good at the job but quit when Bob Hartley (Bob Newhart) showed up and begged her to come back to his office in Chicago. Other secretaries included a crash test dummy, a prostitute who operated a phone sex line from her desk, and a rapper who related all Murphy's phone messages to her in verse. In the show's final season, the secretaries were played by celebrities, including Bette Midler, Don Rickles, Rosie O'Donnell, Sally Field, Laura Kightlinger, Cecily Adams, Paul Reubens, John F. Kennedy Jr. and Julie Brown. Over the course of the series, 93 different secretaries appeared in all. In the ninth season, Murphy learns of her former secretaries' support group, which included a Hitler look-alike, a woman who spoke with a long pause after every word and a mentally unstable man. In addition to the above list of secretaries appearing on the actual show, "The Keys" episode of Seinfeld featured Kramer appearing as one of Murphy's secretaries.
  • When Murphy became a mother in season four, she went through nannies the same way she went through secretaries, and Eldin Bernecky, the house painter, ended up looking after Avery most of the time.
  • Several noted TV journalists, including Connie Chung, Morley Safer, Paula Zahn, Katie Couric, Walter Cronkite, Larry King, Charles Kuralt, Ed Bradley, Lesley Stahl, John McLaughlin, Mike Wallace, Irving R. Levine, Linda Ellerbee, and Tom Snyder, appeared on Murphy Brown during the course of the series. All of them played themselves and interacted with Murphy and the other FYI personnel as real peers and colleagues.

Recurring characters

A number of recurring characters also appeared during the show's run:

  • John Hostetter played John, the stage manager in 62 episodes.
  • Janet Carroll appeared frequently as Doris Dial, anchorman Jim Dial's wife, in several episodes. In one episode she performed and sang expressing her singing talents. 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 mother, Avery Brown. Dewhurst won several 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 father, Bill Brown. He 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. Her appearances ended when she joined the cast of Frasier as Martin Crane's physiotherapist and Niles' love-interest, Daphne.
  • Robin Thomas appeared as Jake, Murphy's ex-husband. Murphy and Jake had another brief relationship, and Jake was the father of her child.
  • Christopher Rich played Miller Redfield, a reporter with the 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.
  • Alan Oppenheimer appeared as network president Gene Kinsela.
  • Garry Marshall appeared as network president Stan Lansing.
  • Jean Stapleton appeared a few times, playing Miles' grandmother, Nana Silverberg.
  • Rose Marie appeared as Frank Fontana's mother.
  • Paul Reubens, better known as Pee-Wee Herman, appeared as Lansing's nephew Andrew J. Lansing, III, in several episodes. He is introduced as one of Murphy's 93 secretaries du jour and, with Carol Kester (Marcia Wallace), is 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.
  • Julia Roberts appeared in one episode, having a crush on Frank.
  • Marian Seldes appeared as Murphy's aunt Brooke.
  • In the show's final seasons, when the younger Avery was of school age, he was played by Haley Joel Osment. He replaced child actor Dylan Christopher.
  • Julius Carry appeared as the cast's new boss.


Murphy Brown was a top-30 hit for 7 seasons[4]:

  • 1988–1989:
  • 1989–1990: #27
  • 1990–1991: #6
  • 1991–1992: #3
  • 1992–1993: #4
  • 1993–1994: #9
  • 1994–1995: #16
  • 1995–1996: #18 (tie)
  • 1996–1997: #34 [5]
  • 1997–1998: #69 (tie) [6]

DVD releases

Warner Home Video released the first season of Murphy Brown on DVD in Region 1 on February 8, 2005. Due to low sales, no future releases are planned.[7] Should a surge in sales arise, however, the studio would "happily consider" releasing additional season sets. [8] A listing for Murphy Brown Season 2 exists on, but neither details nor a release date is given.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
The Complete First Season 22 February 8, 2005

Awards and nominations

Bergen won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Comedy Series five times over the course of the series, a record for a television actress in a continuing role. After her fifth Emmy, Bergen voluntarily withdrew her name from the Emmy nominations.

Awards won

Emmy Awards:

  • Outstanding Comedy Series (1990, 1992)
  • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series – Candice Bergen (1989–1990, 1992, 1994–1995)
  • Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series – Diane English (1989)
  • Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series – Colleen Dewhurst (1989, 1991)
  • Outstanding Editing for a Series – Multi-Camera Production – Tucker Wiard (1989)
  • Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series – Jay Thomas (1990, 1991)
  • Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series – Gary Dontzig & Steven Peterman (1990)
  • Outstanding Costume Design for a Series – Bill Hargate (1991)
  • Outstanding Editing for a Series – Multi- Camera Production – Tucker Wiard
  • Outstanding Individual Achievement in Directing in a Comedy Series – Barnet Kellman (1991)
  • Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series – Martin Sheen (1992)

Golden Globe Awards:

  • Best TV Series-Comedy/Musical (1992) 1 win
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series-Comedy Candice Bergen (1989, 1992) 2 wins

Awards nominated

Emmy Awards:

  • Outstanding Comedy Series (1989, 1991, 1993) 3 nominations
  • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (1991, 1993) 2 nominations
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Faith Ford (1989–1992, 1994) 5 nominations
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Jay Thomas (1992)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Charles Kimbrough (1990)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Joe Regalbuto (1989)

Golden Globe Awards:

  • Best TV Series-Comedy/Musical (1989, 1991–1993) 4 nominations
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series-Comedy Candice Bergen (1990–1991, 1993–1996) 6 nominations
  • Best Supporting Actress on TV Faith Ford (1991–1992) 2 nominations

Screen Actors Guild:

  • Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble Cast in a Comedy Series (1995)
  • Outstanding Female Actor in a Comedy Series Candice Bergen (1995–1996)


  1. ^ Excerpts from Dan Quayle's speech, at
  2. ^ "Reasons the '90s Ruled 101 – 81",
  3. ^ Associated Press. "Bergen: Quayle Was Right About Murphy", July 11, 2002
  4. ^ Brooks, Tim and Marsh, Earle, "The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable Shows 1946–present", 7th edition
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Final Ratings for '97–'98 TV Season". San Francisco Chronicle. 1998-05-29. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ [2]

External links

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