Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Murphy Brown was an American situation comedy which aired on CBS from November 14, 1988 to May 18, 1998. It starred Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown, an investigative journalist and news anchor for FYI, a fictional newsmagazine.
Brown 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), 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 actually first runner-up until the winner was forced to resign (Sherwood remarked in one 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. Phil, the bar owner, was played by Pat Corley .
Brown was unmarried, but had a home life as well: she had hired Eldin Bernecky (Robert Pastorelli) to repaint her house, but he had so many grand ideas that he was with the show for six seasons.
In the show's 1991–1992 season, Murphy became pregnant and had a child, making 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, California. During his speech, he criticized the Murphy Brown character for ignoring the importance of fathers and 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. 
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 per cent 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 honour of her role in educating women on the importance of breast cancer prevention and screening.
In the show's final episode, Murphy met God (played by Alan King) and Edward R. Murrow while undergoing surgery. Computer editing was used to insert footage of the real Murrow, who died in 1965, into the show.
- The show did not have a theme song, but instead many episodes began with a Motown song whose lyrics were somehow relevant to the plot of the episode.
- For a few seasons, Corky Sherwood was known as "Corky Sherwood Forrest" after marrying a writer named Will Forrest in the show's 1989-1990 season. They eventually divorced. Corky later married Miles Silverberg.
- 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, her secretary was a crash test dummy. On another 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 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 and Julie Brown. Over the course of the series, 93 different secretaries appeared in all.
A number of recurring characters also appeared during the show's run:
- 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 passed away in 1991, the writers chose to have her character die as well, and Murphy, who was pregnant the following season, named her son Avery in her mother's memory.
- Darren McGavin appeared in several episodes as Murphy's father and 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.
- Robin Thomas appeared as Jake, Murphy's ex-husband. Murphy and Jake had another brief relationship, and Jake was the father of her child.
- Garry Marshall appeared as network president Stan Lansing.
- Paul Reubens, better known as Pee-Wee Herman, appeared as Lansing's nephew Andrew, who was, probably not so surprisingly, one of Murphy's 93 secretaries.
- In the show's final seasons, when the younger Avery was of school age, he was played by Haley Joel Osment.
Several noted TV journalists, including Connie Chung, Morley Safer, Paula Zahn, Walter Cronkite, Larry King, Charles Kuralt, Ed Bradley, Lesley Stahl , John McLaughlin, Mike Wallace, Irving R. Levine and Linda Ellerbee, 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.
On one episode of Seinfeld, Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) went to Hollywood and got work playing one of Murphy's secretaries. His character never actually appeared on a real episode of Murphy Brown, although Jerry, Elaine and George turned on a TV to watch a short Murphy Brown scene, including Bergen and Richards, in the Seinfeld episode.
The show also did crossovers with several other sitcoms besides Seinfeld, including High Society , The Nanny and The Famous Teddy Z .
Bergen won five Emmys over the course of the series, a record for a television actress in a continuing role. She won for five of the show's first six seasons, losing only to Kirstie Alley in 1990. After her fifth Emmy, Bergen withdrew her name from the Emmy nominations.
The series debuted in the Top 20 in the Nielsen ratings in its first season, remaining there until the 1995–1996 season. It was in the Top 10 in the 1990–1991, 1991–1992, 1992–1993 and 1993–1994 seasons.
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