Murphy Brown

Murphy Brown Information

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, a famous investigative journalist and news anchor for FYI, a fictional CBS television newsmagazine.


The program was well known for "torn-from-the-headlines" stories and blatant political satire. It achieved a high level of political notoriety in the 1992 presidential election when Dan Quayle mentioned the show in a campaign speech, afterwards 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.


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 any and all "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.

In the pilot, there were two "new" 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 personality"?and utter lack of sophistication when it comes to world affairs. Due to overwhelming audience reaction, management decides to retain her services after Murphy's return.

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).

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.

In 2010, Murphy Brown was ranked #25 on the TV Guide Network special, 25 Greatest TV Characters of All Time.

Recurring characters

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

  • John Hostetter played John, the unflappable stage manager in 62 episodes.
  • Janet Carroll appeared as Doris Dial, anchorman Jim Dial's equally stoic 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, and Jake was 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.
  • Jean Stapleton appeared a few times, playing Miles' grandmother, Nana Silverberg.
  • 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 Dylan 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.

The early seasons

The first season saw Murphy relearning her job without the use of two crutches"?alcohol and cigarettes. In an early 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 would be sent by Personnel to act as her secretary.

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 becomes a single mother

In the show's 1991"1992 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" by Aretha Franklin. This storyline 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 by birthing 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".) 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."

However, political commentator and cultural critic Mark Steyn observed that the producers didn't seem to have a clue what to do with her son Avery commenting, "In the five years since little Avery's birth ushered in the Clinton era, Murphy Brown has been on CBS every week, Dan Quayle has been back in Indiana (and Arizona). But Avery? As soon as he was born, Muphy made another 'lifestyle choice': she stuck him at the back of the closet under the Emmy Awards and the commendations from single-parent outreach groups and mouldering editorials hailing the show for its courage, and the poor kid hasn't been seen since."

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 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

The fifth season would continue on after the departure of series-creator and showrunner Diane English. Murphy's struggles with parenthood would be highlighted, as would the revolving-door of nanny characters mirroring her office tribulations. Corky's marriage would unravel and end 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 would see Corky become less the Pollyanna as she began to model herself after role-model Murphy.

The show would go on, and FYI would see several changes in on- and off-camera staff: Peter Hunt, McGovern and Miller Redfield would temporarily join the regulars at the anchor desk. The network would move FYI to a new studio with a trendy exterior "Window on America". A significant story-arc would see the network squelch an FYI expose on the tobacco industry, leading to the resignation of first Dial, then the remainder of the cast. They would all go to work reorganizing the poorly-performing news division of a fledging network. In the end, Miles would face down the network; the "suits" relented, the staffers returned and the story aired. For his courage in standing up to the network brass, Miles would be promoted to the news division's headquarters in New York"?to the detriment of his new marriage to Corky.

Shaud left the series in 1996, and was replaced by Lily Tomlin as executive producer Kay Carter-Shepley for the show's final two seasons. 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.

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, offering to "touch-up" her house.


Main article: List of Murphy Brown episodes

Main crew

Main directors

  • Peter Bonerz (93 episodes, 1991"1998)
  • Barnet Kellman (76 episodes, 1988"1998)
  • Lee Shallat Chemel (26 episodes, 1992"1994)
  • Joe Regalbuto (20 episodes, 1993"1998)
  • Alan Rafkin (11 episodes, 1994"1995)
  • Steve Zuckerman (11 episodes, 1997"1998)
  • Peter Baldwin (6 episodes, 1991"1992)
  • Eric Schotz (2 episodes, 1995)


  • Diane English (Head Writer/showrunner) (110 episodes, 1988"1998)
  • Gary Dontzig (24 episodes, 1989"1994)
  • Steven Peterman (24 episodes, 1989"1994)
  • Tom Palmer (16 episodes, 1990"1997)
  • Bill Diamond (16 episodes, 1993"1997)
  • Korby Siamis (15 episodes, 1988"1994)
  • Norm Gunzenhauser (15 episodes, 1989"1998)
  • Rob Bragin (15 episodes, 1993"1997)
  • Tom Seeley (14 episodes, 1989"1998)
  • Michael Saltzman (13 episodes, 1993"1996)
  • Sy Dukane (12 episodes, 1989"1991)
  • Denise Moss (12 episodes, 1989"1991)
  • Peter Tolan (11 episodes, 1991"1993)
  • Michael Patrick King (10 episodes, 1991"1993)
  • Joshua Sternin (10 episodes, 1995"1997)
  • Jeffrey Ventimilia (10 episodes, 1995"1997)
  • Russ Woody (9 episodes, 1988"1998)
  • Eileen Heisler (8 episodes, 1993"1995)
  • DeAnn Heline (8 episodes, 1993"1995)
  • Adam Belanoff

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 and high music costs, no future releases are planned. Should a surge in sales arise, however, the studio would "happily consider" releasing additional season sets.

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 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 Candice Bergen (1991, 1993) 2 nominations
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Faith Ford (1989, 1990, 1991, 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, 1994, 1995, 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)

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