Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Making its first appearance on November 14, 1988, the long-running, Emmy-winning CBS sitcom Murphy Brown starred Candice Bergen as the title character, the driving, driven, often overbearing but essentially likable star reporter of the Washington, D.C.-based TV magazine "FYI." A thorough professional, Murphy never gave less than her best before the cameras -- but behind the cameras, it was a different story. Constitutionally incapable of doing anything by halves, Murphy told her colleagues exactly what she thought of them at all times, seldom made a comment that wasn't laced with sarcasm, and was addicted to tobacco and, for a while, booze (this last shortcoming required her to do some time at the Betty Ford Clinic). Though the rest of the "FYI" staffers were accustomed to Murphy's mood swings and idiosyncrasies, outsiders tended to be scared off by our heroine: indeed, one of the series' most famous running gags was the fact that Murphy had a different secretary in practically every episode! Also in the cast were Charles Kimbrough as "FYI"'s uptight, humorless anchorman Jim Dial; Joe Regalbuto as the show's gonzo (and obviously toupeed) investigative reporter Frank Fontana, Faith Ford as "FYI"'s voluptuous, somewhat vacuous cub reporter and ex-Miss America Corky Sherwood, who considered Murphy to be her role model (often to Murphy's dismay) and who eventually married staff writer Will Forest (Scott Bryce), thereby becoming -- are you ready? -- Mrs. Corky Sherwood Forest; and Grant Shaud as "FYI"'s nebbishy executive producer Miles Silverberg, not exactly what one would call a born leader of men (or of Murphy!). When not on the set of her show, Murphy could be found in her townhouse apartment, often conversing with quirky, philosophy-spouting house painter Eldin Bernecky (Robert Pastorelli), who spent day and night trying to finish redecorating Murphy's living room -- a job he still hadn't entirely completed when he left the series in season seven. Murphy also hung out with her co-workers at a neighborhood bar owned by another erstwhile philosopher named Phil (Pat Corley), at least until he reportedly died, whereupon Murphy and company purchased the bar themselves (as it turned out, reports of Phil's death were slightly exaggerated -- by Phil!). Additionally, Jay Thomas appeared intermittently as Geraldo-like journalist Jerry Gold, with whom Murphy frequently clashed -- when they weren't romancing one another, that is. As the series progressed, the basic throughline, and the characters, underwent a few changes. After her divorce from Will Forest, Corky eloped with Miles Silverberg, though she stayed in Washington when he left to run a CNN-style news service in New York. Murphy's brief fling with her ex-husband, Jake (Robin Thomas), produced a baby named Avery (who apparently grew up rather quickly, since he was played during the final season by Haley Joel Osment) -- and also stirred up a controversy when no less than Vice President Dan Quayle chastised Murphy Brown for eroding "family values" in America by bearing a child out of wedlock. Later on, dashing international reporter Peter Hunt (Scott Bakula) joined the "FYI" staff, sweeping Murphy off her feet and ultimately asking her to marry him (she didn't). Other additions to the cast included Garry Marshall as new network president Stan Lansing, who waged an ongoing war with Murphy over her non-PC attitude; Paul Reubens (aka Pee-Wee Herman) as Stan's whiny nephew Andrew, who was forced upon Murphy as her secretary -- and actually kept the job for more than a single episode; Christopher Rich as "FYI" co-anchor Miller Redfield, just the sort of gorgeous-looking, empty-headed TV personality whom Murphy despised with every fibre of her being; and Lily Tomlin as Kay Carter-Shepley, "FYI"'s imperious, and not altogether competent, new executive producer. In addition to the main and supporting cast, the series featured a number of real-life news personalities as "themselves," among them Walter Cronkite, Connie Chung, Larry King, Katie Couric, and Paula Zahn. The series' tenth and final season found Murphy undergoing treatment for breast cancer, an outwardly grim situation that, amazingly enough, never intruded upon the laughter. Murphy Brown ended its network run on August 10, 1998.
anchorperson, journalism, television-show, television-star, TV-show-host, TV-station