Murphy Brown was a true television gem. For ten whole seasons, hard-nosed reporter Murphy Brown entertained us with her tough-love attitude and bold opinions. Her wacky team was made of a classic cast of sitcom characters, and the show’s witty script never failed to make viewers laugh.
The show was a breath of fresh air and featured a new kind of feminist character: one who wasn’t afraid of letting her wits and talent shine. The show was also a new concept, tackling burning social issues (while still making it funny). But not everyone approved of the show’s content.
It Upset the Vice President
In the fourth season’s finale, Murphy Brown becomes a single mom after giving birth to Avery. The sensational birth drew some criticism from the then VP, Dan Quayle, who complained about the decline of “proper” family values.
The show’s response? Sixty minutes of bashing the VP in the show’s fifth season premiere. The producers felt that his critique was uncalled for and that he had to be put in his place for his arrogant and foolish comment.
Heather Locklear Could Have Been Murphy
While it might be difficult to picture anyone else as Murphy Brown, CBS initially had someone else in mind for the character. They believed that Heather Locklear would be a better choice to play the rough and tough news anchor.
But ultimately, the show’s creator, Diane English, ensured that Candice Bergen got the part. While she appreciated Locklear as an actor (and knew that her good looks would surely attract viewers), she felt that Candice would be a better fit.
The Big Bang Conspiracy
In the show’s second season, Big Bang Theory actor Mayim Bialik guest-starred as Natalie Moore, a forcefully assigned mentee to Murphy. At one point, Mayim’s character comments on a boy named Sheldon.
Funny coincidence, Bialik’s character in The Big Bang Theory, Amy Farrah Fowler, dates a know-it-all, brainy nerd called Sheldon! Hmmm… coincidence? It looks like Mayim Bialik was destined to have a relationship with Sheldon.
Avery Saw Dead People
When Murphy Brown’s kid finally matured to the point where he had lines to say, the show’s producers knew it was time to find a new actor. They brought in Haley Joel Osment to take over the role.
Yup, way before he started seeing dead people everywhere, the little boy from The Sixth Sense was Brown’s kid on this iconic show. Only years later did he land the lead part in the horror film that changed his career and life forever.
The Show Almost Ended Differently
In the show’s last season (Season 10), viewers watched Murphy go through something scary and upsetting: breast cancer. The show’s executives were super hesitant to jump on the idea because they knew the storyline would be somewhat of a downer.
Instead, they suggested that Murphy goes through menopause. It was a difficult process as well, but at least it was one that many viewers could relate to, and not one that had an air of impending death. But producer Diane English insisted they stick to the script. Thanks to her stubbornness, the number of mammograms scheduled by women in America increased by 30 percent.
It Crossed Over With Seinfeld
If you’re a devoted Seinfeld fan, there’s no way you won’t remember this great episode! Although the shows were aired on different networks, Murphy Brown was a central part of the Season Three finale of Seinfeld.
In the episode, Elaine was working on a script for the show, and Kramer, who was off in California trying to make it big as an actor, ended up finding a job as one of Murphy Brown’s loyal secretaries.
How Many Secretaries Did Murphy Fire?
During the show’s 247 episode run, Murphy Brown axed a host of secretaries. It became an inseparable part of her persona. So, how many were fired during the show’s run? In total, 93 poor, struggling secretaries weren’t good enough for the tough news anchor.
One or two eventually worked out, but most of them ended up in a support group for professionals who suffered from Brown’s harsh management. The constant firings ended when Murphy Brown decided to keep Bette Midler as her full-time employee. How Midler put up with Brown’s nonsense, we’ll never know.
The Show Won Plenty of Awards
While ratings made it clear that Murphy Brown was a hit with the viewers at home, the string of awards it drew in showed how well it did with television critics. It looks like everyone enjoyed the great laughs on the show.
Throughout its 10-season run, Murphy Brown was nominated for 62 Emmys, including two awards for Best Comedy Series. Ultimately, the show garnered 18 Emmys in total, as well as a few other awards too.
Candice Bergen Grew Tired of Winning All the Time
People REALLY loved Candice Bergen’s character, Murphy Brown. They loved her so much that she ended up earning five Emmys for her role. After the fifth Emmy, the beloved actress said she would be declining any future nominations for the character.
Candice Bergen still holds the impressive record for the most Emmy wins by a female playing one character. Whether you agree with her awards or not, the character of Murphy Brown was absolutely iconic, and Bergen did a fantastic job playing her.
DVD Sales Were Horrible
In case you’re wondering why it’s hard to find the show on different streaming sites, the reason goes back to Murphy Brown’s DVD sales. When the first season was released for people to watch at home, the sales were painfully poor.
The sales did so bad that the people on the show freaked out and scrapped any plans of releasing the entire series on DVD. This traumatic business move squashed any future streaming plans. Who knew that a show that did so well during its run would end up being a nostalgic flop?
Memorable Faces Appeared in the Finale
Murphy Brown’s season finale aired in 1998, and it showcased several guest stars who appeared on the show to bid farewell. These stars weren’t just any actors. They were or went on to become Hollywood A-listers.
These huge names include the likes of George Clooney, Bette Midler, and Julia Roberts, who agreed to show up for a final laugh before the show closed its curtains for good. Not that the show needed big names to make it any better, but it was nice seeing new stars pop up here and there.
Murphy Brown’s Legacy Lives On
Although the show has remained pretty elusive in terms of its post-run airings, Murphy Brown is still an incredibly popular series. For example, in one episode of the hit show 30 Rock, the main character spent a whole episode referencing Murphy Brown.
The reported episode is called “Murphy Brown Lied to Us,” and it shows the main character lamenting the false confidence she got after watching Murphy Brown on repeat. Apparently, the show made her feel that starring in showbiz and being a single mom was easy.
Humble Beginnings for Memorable Writers
The show’s staff writer, Peter Tolan, has earned Emmys for his scriptwriting on several series, including The Larry Sanders Show and Rescue Me, which he co-created with Denis Leary. His spectacular writing was what made the show exciting and funny.
Other writers who worked on the show were the creators of the hit comedy 2 Broke Girls and The Middle. Many talented minds worked on Murphy Brown’s witty script. No wonder it did so well!
Wonder Woman’s Home
The outside of Murphy Brown’s home might look familiar to some of you television fans. If you grew up watching Wonder Woman, the hit series from the ‘70s, you probably already caught on to why Murphy’s house looks so familiar.
The show used the same building as the one used for the home of Diana Prince (aka Wonder Woman). Many fans were delighted to see the same old place. It brought back good memories of a crime-fighting heroine.
Murphy Brown Really Met God
In one of the episodes, Murphy Brown undergoes surgery. While unconscious, she meets God. Being the journalist she is, she asked for an interview. In her hazy dream, God was played by actor Alan King.
Some thought the role was played by Edward R. Murrow, who passed away in 1965, meaning the show managed to create a visual mirage of him.
The Show’s Creator Made an Appearance in the Last Episode
It’s pretty common now for television or movie makers to appear in their projects. Just look at Stan Lee, who stars in every Marvel film. Back in the 1990s, however, it wasn’t as frequent. Most creators preferred taking the back seat.
They preferred to let the actors do what they did best, without on-screen interference on their end. But during the show’s season finale, Murphy Brown’s creator decided to jump into it and appear herself. In the scene where Brown is being operated on, Diane English starred as a nurse who gave Brown her post-procedure results.
The Dan Quayle Comments
Murphy Brown played a huge part in bringing the modern lifestyle of many Americans to the small screen. The ‘90s were a period when Hollywood started taking a more liberal stance when it came to the contents discussed on TV shows.
They let more and more family-friendly shows deal with social topics formerly considered questionable or even taboo, like Brown’s journey into motherhood as a single parent. Thankfully, Dan Quayle’s sorry comments didn’t scare the show’s producers.
The Breast Cancer Controversy
Because of its daring script and intriguing plot twists, Murphy Brown weathered a lot of controversies. Its main goal was to highlight the cultural divide taking place in America. But although it was mostly considered a progressive show, the last season drew some surprising criticism from the left.
Some insensitive remarks were said regarding Murphy’s breast cancer. One of the episodes shows Brown picking out a prosthetic breast after discovering that she had breast cancer. She then makes a snooty remark – “Should I go with Demi Moore or Elsie, the Cow?” The scriptwriters should have thought twice about that line…
The Failed Reboot
CBS was proud to announce that Murphy Brown was coming back for a revival show. Devoted fans were also delighted to hear of the news, especially because Candice Bergen would be, yet again, the star of the show as Murphy.
At the start of 2018, CBS said they had allowed Murphy Brown’s production crew to come up with thirteen episodes. The reboot depended heavily on those first couple of episodes. Today’s cultural climate is extremely different from how it was in the ‘90s, and the crew knew they had a tough task at hand.
It Was Supposed to Be Great
The show’s revival had Murphy anchoring a cable morning show called Murphy in the Morning. The revival featured her old team – lifestyle journalist Corky Sherwood, investigative reporter Frank Fontana, and Miles Silverberg as the producer.
Murphy’s only son, Avery, would host his own cable show too! It would be a rival morning show that aired at the same time as his mother’s. Hopes were high for the revival show. But unfortunately, it failed to take off as expected.
Murphy Brown Won’t Be Coming Back
Murphy Brown Revival holds an approval rating of 40% on the site Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 5.9 out of 10, based on 35 reviews. One critic wrote: “This just in: while the nostalgia and wit are welcome, Murphy Brown’s dated messaging tactics feel heavy-handed and smug….”
The site continued: “…leaving this formerly formidably timely series feeling like a reboot reaching for the headlines.” Another site, Metacritic, gave the season a score of 53 out of 100 based on 27 critics. In conclusion, reviews of the reboot were either average or negative.
Candice Bergen Then
Let’s dive into some now & then, shall we?
Let’s start with the show’s protagonist – Candice Bergen. Her character, Murphy Brown, was way ahead of her time. A strong, independent, and successful woman, Brown gave viewers something to strive for. She gave female audiences a feeling they hadn’t received from previous shows.
Murphy Brown held her own and spoke her mind in one of the most cutthroat news studios in television. And while people at home knew it was just a show, it still served as an inspiration for other women to change their ways and work to become stronger too.
Candice Bergen Now
Candice Bergen has starred in a host of other shows since being on Murphy Brown, including Sex and the City and Boston Legal. Interestingly, after her role as a journalist on Murphy Brown, she was offered an actual job as a reporter for CBS, covering stories for the show 60 Minutes.
Candice politely declined, saying that she didn’t want to blur the lines between journalism and acting. Instead, Bergen went on to become a well-known and appreciated star in the business industry.
Joe Regalbuto as Frank Fontana
The only man in the office who had nothing but respect for Murphy Brown was her closest friend, Frank Fontana, played by actor Joe Regalbuto. Although Frank’s toupée was a running joke throughout the show, there was a lot more to him than what met the eye.
The investigative reporter was constantly in and out of psychotherapy due to his social anxiety and insecurities about fame (and other rocky personal life issues). In 1989, Regalbuto won a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for the role.
Joe Regalbuto Now
Don’t be mistaken; Joe Regalbuto has remained relatively busy since Murphy Brown came to an end in 1998. The talented actor has since played in shows including Ally McBeal, Criminal Minds, and NCIS, to name just a few.
In addition, several critics recommended Regalbuto for an Emmy award for his outstanding acting in the widely acclaimed show Southland. Fans were super delighted to hear that Regalbuto was coming back as Frank Fontana in the revival series.
Faith Ford as Corky Sherwood
Originally placed in the show as a replacement for Murphy Brown when she was on her “sabbatical,” it was immediately clear that Faith Ford’s Corky Sherwood was somewhat in over her head in the tough world of journalism.
The character came from a fictional town called Neebo, Louisiana, and was Miss America at a certain point in her life. However, Corky’s constantly hyper personality rubbed her co-workers the wrong way. Nevertheless, she became a mega-hit and remained on the news show even after Murphy came back.
Faith Ford Now
Incredibly, Faith Ford ended up getting her very own sitcom called Hope & Faith. It ran from 2003 to 2006. Ford is another member of the original Murphy Brown cast who came back in the revival series. She was excited as ever to play Corky again.
She posted a photo of the show’s cast reading the revival’s script and wrote on her Instagram account: “What a wonderful first day! Thank you, @entertainmentweekly, for being there to capture the read-through in photos.”
Charles Kimbrough as Jim Dial
One of the office’s veterans, anchor Jim Dial, was usually completely condescending towards Murphy Brown or in complete awe of her bold and refreshing personality. He would endearingly refer to her as “Slugger.”
Jim often wished that broadcast journalism went back to the roots of pioneers such as Cronkite and Murrow. Before landing the role of Jim, Charles Kimbrough had previously starred on shows such as Kojak and Great Performances.
Charles Kimbrough Now
After starring in all ten seasons of Murphy Brown, Charles Kimbrough continued working as a voice actor, having previously done the voice of the gargoyle Victor in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Charles also did voice work for other animated children’s series, including Recess, The Angry Beavers, and Batman Beyond.
In 2001, Charles appeared on the silver screen in the rom-com starring Jennifer Lopez, The Wedding Planner. He also played a character named Charlie Fish in the legal comedy-drama Ally McBeal in 2002.
Lily Tomlin as Kay Carter-Shepley
When Grant Shaud left the series at the end of Season Eight, the crew needed a replacement for Miles Silverberg. Season Nine followed up, and it was Lily Tomlin who fit the job. She had recently received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for her role in Homicide: Life on the Street.
Before landing a position at FYI, Lily’s character, Kay Carter-Shepley, had been working as a TV producer on a host of game shows. So, while she didn’t have any background in journalism, she was still used to being on TV. She remained on the team until the very last episode.
Lily Tomlin Now
Before joining Murphy Brown’s team, Tomlin was known for her role as the witty and funny Violet in the cult comedy Nine to Five. In the animated children’s show The Magic School Bus, she also voiced the quirky and kooky schoolteacher, Ms. Frizzle.
Post-Murphy Brown, Lily joined The West Wing as President Bartlett’s assistant, and she also joined the cast of the comedy Grace and Frankie, starring alongside Jane Fonda. In 2014, she was the recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor, and in 2017, she won the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award.
Grant Shaud as Miles Silverberg
While Murphy Brown was recovering at Betty Ford Clinic, Miles Silverberg filled in for her as an executive producer. The character was played by Grant Shaud, who was still coming up in the world of TV at the time.
Even though Miles Silverberg was a talented guy, it was clear from the get-go that he was no match for Murphy Brown’s expertise and years of experience in the field. He was pretty naïve, and Murphy often made fun of him (all in good humor).
Grant Shaud Now
Since parting from the show in 1996, Grant Shaud has enjoyed a steady acting career, appearing in a number of TV hits such as Law & Order, Louie, and The Good Wife. Grant also had a taste of Hollywood success, working as a voice actor for the role of the Foreman in the animated blockbuster Antz.
Grant Shaud also got cast as the lead in Oliver Beene’s comedy (unfortunately, the show was short-lived). He’s also appeared in several episodes of the TV Land romance-comedy series Younger, starring Hilary Duff.
Jane Leeves as Audrey Cohen
A talented sitcom star, Jane Leeves had a relatively minor role in Murphy Brown as the girlfriend of Miles Silverberg, Audrey Cohen. She had already appeared on shows like Throb and Murder, She Wrote, and Leeves.
Jane was ready to try out another show. But she only lasted nine episodes on Murphy Brown. Shortly after, Jane jumped ship to another sitcom called Frasier. This would end up being the defining role of her career!
Jane Leeves Now
Even though Frasier ended in 2004, Jane Leeves has stayed busy, active, and well appreciated in the world of television. In the last decade alone, Jane has acted in many noteworthy shows, including Desperate Housewives and Misconceptions.
Leeves has also had guest appearances on animated shows like The Simpsons, Phineas and Ferb, and Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures. As for her personal life, Jane has been married to producer and actor Marshall Coben since 1996, with whom she has two kids.
Haley Joel Osment as Avery Brown
Osment tasted a bit of the limelight at a young age when he starred in the Academy Award-winning Forrest Gump, and everyone felt that he was destined for great things. He joined the series as Avery Brown, the son of single mom Murphy.
Before Haley joined the show, other child stars like Dylan Christopher and Jackson Buckley played Avery. Avery Brown spent most of his time clutched to his mom’s side or sitting in a pushchair, but he was still a huge part of Murphy’s life.
Haley Joel Osment Now
When it comes to child stars, there aren’t many quite as prolific and diverse as Haley Joel Osment. After he starred as Avery Brown in the final season of Murphy Brown, the young actor truly broke through with an incredible performance in the supernatural masterpiece The Sixth Sense.
Hopes were high for Osment, but unfortunately, after a couple more parts in movies such as A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Pay It Forward, his career fell by the wayside. He has recently appeared in an episode of The X-Files.
Scott Bakula as Peter Hunt
Scott Bakula is best known for his part as Sam Beckett in the sci-fi series Quantum Leap, for which he garnered several award nominations. A few years later, however, the talented star landed the role of Peter Hunt, a man to whom Murphy Brown was romantically linked.
Even though he only appeared on the sitcom for 13 episodes, it’s clear that Peter was one of Murphy’s most interesting love interests. But while we loved their relationship at the time, nothing serious came of their casual get-togethers.
Scott Bakula Now
As the years went by, personal interests became more and more important for Scott Bakula as opposed to professional advancements. Balancing family life with his professional endeavors proved to be a bit more challenging with every job he took.
When he landed the role of Captain Jonathan Archer on the sci-fi series Star Trek: Enterprise, Scott verified that his contract let him finish filming every day at 6 p.m., so he could be home in time for dinner. Bakula asked for the same conditions in his contract for NCIS: New Orleans.
Paul Reubens Then
Paul Reubens was one of the most high-profile guest appearances on Murphy Brown. The actor is best known for his memorable role as Pee-wee Herman. He played the sociopath Andrew J. Lansing the 3rd, who impressed Murphy so much that she offered to hire him as her secretary.
Lansing, however, turns down the job offer and works as a network executive instead. Even though the character returns only a couple of times afterward, fans of the show loved Paul Reubens’ lively contribution.
Paul Reubens Now
After several legal entanglements and having to take care of his terminally ill father for two years, Paul Reubens returned to acting in 2006. He has guest-starred in a number of shows, including 30 Rock, Pushing Daisies, Dirt, and The Blacklist.
In 2016, Reubens reprised the role of Pee-wee Herman on the Netflix original, Pee-wee’s Big Holiday.
While he’s been through some ups and downs, Paul Reubens is still loved by many. Whether as Pee-wee or as Andrew J. Lansing, the crowd seems to adore Reubens.
Paula Cale as McGovern
Paula Cale’s theater performances are what caught the eye of Candice Bergen. After seeing her perform on Steve Martin’s Picasso production at the Lapin Agile, Bergen offered Cale a role on her sitcom. The young star was cast as the show’s conservative reporter.
Her character was very similar to real-life journalist Kenedy who worked for MTV at the time. FYI was interested in expanding their audience, getting to younger crowds as well. They believed that having McGovern on the team would solve the issue.
Paula Cale Now
After her time on Murphy Brown wrapped up, Paula Cale quickly moved onto another series called Providence. The show ran for five seasons, and Paula Cale was one of its main characters for the entirety of its run.
Just a short year later, the actress opened up in an interview with People magazine about her long and tiring battle with clinical depression. Recently, she’s been focusing on her personal life. She’s become a regular volunteer at her local church.
Robert Pastorelli as Eldin Bernecky
Murphy Brown’s professional life wasn’t the only focus of the show. Brown ended up hiring a house painter named Eldin Bernecky, played by actor Robert Pastorelli. Bernecky was a new-age thinker who tended to be a little too laid back for Brown’s liking.
Surprisingly, Pastorelli’s character somehow managed to stick around for six whole seasons! Although his personal interests got in the way at times, Murphy really appreciated him (despite all the socially conscious murals he left around the house).
Robert Pastorelli Now
One cast member from Murphy Brown who didn’t have the chance of coming back for the revival is Robert Pastorelli. During his final years alive, the talented star went through some unfortunate experiences (he lost his girlfriend, and it was suspected that she committed suicide).
Robert was acquitted of responsibility for her death, and he went on to star in a couple of films afterward. But it looks like he couldn’t really turn his life around after her passing, and he was found dead in his Hollywood home a few years later following an overdose.
Robin Thomas as Jake Lowenstein
His role might not have been the most prominent in the show, but Robin Thomas’s presence as Jake Lowenstein was no denying. Every person at FYI brought their own flavor and style to the office, and Jake Lowenstein was no different.
He was a militant leftist who had been married to Murphy. Clearly, things weren’t quite finished between the two. In the show’s third season, the two ended up rekindling their romance, and their brief fling resulted in the birth of their child, Avery.
Robin Thomas Now
Robin Thomas is one of the most successful actors to have come out of the show. Recently, he has appeared in films, including Guillermo Del Toro’s sci-fi blockbuster Pacific Rim. Thomas has also remained a steady figure on the small screen.
He’s appeared in several episodes of NCIS: Los Angeles and the reboot of 90210. Other projects include appearances in Misfits of Science, Midnight Caller, Party of Five, Full House, Manhattan, Castle, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Judyann Elder as Dr. Barton
When Judyann Elder walked onto the set of Murphy Brown, everyone in the crew knew that an extremely talented force had joined the ranks. Elder starred as Dr. Barton, who happened to be Murphy’s obstetrician.
Initially, things were a bit awkward between the two. But after three humorous episodes, Elder played a huge part in the epic season finale. She helped deliver Brown’s baby, which was a truly emotional moment that connected Elder to Brown like never before.
Judyann Elder Now
It looks like Judyann Elder’s minor, yet noteworthy, role on Murphy Brown helped kickstart a long and prolific career for the talented star. Only a few years after Murphy Brown’s wild finale, Elder was cast in Family Matters, gracing the screen for ten episodes.
Since then, Judyann has appeared in a host of notable shows, including. That’s So Raven, NCIS, E.R., Desperate Housewives, and Grey’s Anatomy. She’s also starred alongside Hollywood icon Will Smith in the 2008 drama Seven Pounds.
Pat Corley as Phil
What is a sitcom without a local bar to let off some steam after a hard day’s work? Phil was Murphy Brown’s lovable bartender who worked at FYI’s local bar named – Phil’s. The actor who played him was Pat Corley, and he did a great job at making the whole crew smile.
He seemed to know nearly everything there was to know about Washington, D.C. Just like how people at Cheers used to yell out “Norm,” the people at Phil’s would always shout “close the door” whenever someone forgot to close it.
Pat Corley Now
Phil was another classic character from the show who didn’t join the revival. Post-Murphy, he continued to work on several other shows, including some voice-overs for animated shows like Hey Arnold! But Pat’s life took an unfortunate turn after a few years.
He lost his wife in 2005 and died a year later after suffering from congestive heart failure. There’s no denying that the revival was a flop, in part, because Phil wasn’t there pouring beers and chatting with our beloved characters.