1 9 8 8 – 1 9 9 8 (USA)
5 x 60 minute episodes
230 x 30 minute episodes
Fortysomething divorcee Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) worked on screen for news magazine TV show FYI based in Washington DC.
The original ensemble included Corky Sherwood (Faith Ford), a Louisiana girl and former Miss America who took a few journalism classes in college but was hired mainly for her looks; Frank Fontana (Joe Regalbuto), ace investigative reporter and irrepressible skirt chaser with a mortal fear of commitment; Jim Dial (Charles Kimbrough), the rigid, serious, eminently competent anchorman: Miles Silverberg (Grant Shaud), a new Harvard graduate (producing FYI was his first “real” job); Eldin Bernecky (Robert Pastorelli), a house painter who worked continually on Murphy’s townhouse until her son, Avery, was born, at which time he became Avery’s nanny; and Phil (Pat Corley), the all-knowing owner of Phil’s Bar, the favourite hangout for the FYI team.
As a running gag, Murphy also had a parade of secretaries, most of whom were inept and lasted only one episode. A few examples: a young African-American man who spoke only in hip-hop slang; a crash-test dummy; a bickering married couple; and a mental patient.
Naturally, whenever Murphy found a good secretary, he or she left by the end of the episode.
Murphy Brown hit the headlines in May 1992 when then-Vice President Dan Quayle took a pot-shot at the show as part of the G.O.P.’s 1992 “family values” campaign, making a speech taking Candice Bergen’s character to task for having a baby out of wedlock.
Bergen admitted she “practically collapsed of a coronary” when she picked up the New York Times and saw herself on the front page, together with photos of Quayle and George Bush (the elder) “That’s a little higher profile than I’m comfortable with,” she admitted.
On the other hand, when she picked up an Emmy that year (two of three that the show was awarded in 1992), Bergen thanked Quayle during her acceptance speech.
In 1993 the character of Peter Hunt was added to the cast. Appearing in occasional episodes, Hunt was played by Scott Bakula and became Murphy’s new love interest.
In the seventh season, two additional characters were added: Miller Redfield (Christopher Rich), an idiot anchorman on another network show, and McGovern (Paula Korologos), a former Music Television (MTV) personality hired to bring “youth appeal” to FYI.
Miller was stereotypically handsome and stupid and was often played against Peter Hunt’s “real” journalistic style.
In the 1994 season, veteran comedian Garry Marshall joined the cast as Stan Lansing, the head of the network. The following year Paul Reubens (aka Pee-Wee Herman) appeared as Lansing’s fawning (and scheming) nephew. Lily Tomlin became a regular on the series in the ninth season, playing FYI‘s new executive producer.
When Murphy was shown puffing on a joint to relieve nausea caused by the chemotherapy she underwent in her battle with breast cancer in 1997, Drug Enforcement Agency administrator Thomas Constantine complained that the show’s producers “were doing a great disservice” and “trivialising drug abuse.”
Executive producer Mark Flanigan countered that the intent of the show was merely to show what’s going on in the world, not to take a stand on the issue.
When Murphy Brown‘s run ended, Candice Bergen – who had become a widow when her husband, Louis Malle, died – decided to retire temporarily and concentrate on raising her daughter, Chloe.
Haly Joel Osment
Andrew J Lansing III