Guest Author - Edie Dykeman
One of the most popular American sitcoms of the 1990 was Murphy Brown starring Candace Bergen. Brown was an investigative journalist and the news anchor for the fictional CBS newsmagazine FYI in Washington, D.C.
The first episode of the series showed Brown, a recovering alcoholic, returning to the show after a stay at the Betty Ford Clinic. Surrounded by the usual assortment of characters, the newsroom included Jim Dial (Charles Kimbrough) the stuffy anchor who usually called Murphy “Slugger,” field reporter Frank Fontana (Joe Regalbuto), and former Miss America Corky Sherwood (Faith Ford). Later joining the staff was FYI producer Miles Silverberg (Grant Shaud) who endured much abuse from Brown.
The ensemble worked well together creating a show that was both humorous and timely. One of the running gags was the constantly changing secretary in most episodes. One such secretary was Marcia Wallace of The Bob Newhart Show who was very good at her job but left when Bob appeared and asked her to return to his practice. One secretary was a crash test dummy and another was a prostitute operating a phone sex line from her desk.
The many guest stars such as Bette Midler, Don Rickles, Sally Field, Paul Reubens, John F. Kennedy, Jr., and Rosie O’Donnell kept the front office hoping as they took their turn as the secretary during the final season of the show.
A couple of serious issues were addressed during the run of the show including breast cancer and the use of medical marijuana to relieve the symptoms of chemotherapy. The topic was discussed throughout the last season of the show and raised the awareness for the need for breast cancer prevention and screening to such an extent that Candace Bergen was honored by the American Cancer Society.
Single parenthood played an important role after the fictional birth of a son for Murphy. During Vice President Dan Quayle’s political campaign, he commented on the topic causing a heated discussion about family values.
A large number of real life TV journalists including Connie Chung, Morley Safer, Walter Cronkite, Mike Wallace, and Tom Snyder to name a few appeared on the show and interacted with Murphy as colleagues. Their interaction as her peers helped cement how serious viewers were taking the series, and the large number of prominent people who were fans.
During its 10-year run from 1988-1998, Murphy Brown won numerous awards including seven Emmys and three Golden Globes. Candace Bergen won five Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actress-Comedy Series before removing herself from the Emmy nominations to give others a chance to win.
With 247 episodes, Murphy Brown was one of the most popular and well-respected sitcoms to grace the television landscape and the show lives on in reruns and on DVD.