Murphy Brown,” the winner of this year’s Impact Award, centered its show around a female 40-something, hard-hitting news anchor, or as creator Diane English put it, “Mike Wallace in a skirt.” Acerbic, still likable, and often controversial, she certainly didn’t resemble other sitcom characters at the time. In the pilot, Murphy (played by Candice Bergen, who won five Emmys in the role), a recovering alcoholic, returns to journalism after a stint at the Betty Ford Clinic. With the help of her co-workers on the news show “FYI” — stoic Jim Dial (Charles Kimbrough), perky Corky Sherwood (Faith Ford), neurotic Frank Fontana (Joe Regalbuto) and green-behind-the-ears producer Miles Silverberg (Grant Shaud), Murphy weathers the ups and downs of the news cycle, network politics and her personal life. As a role model, the character made an indelible impression on pop culture, the headlines of the day and journalism itself … even if she wasn’t actually real.
Relive the show with us as we look at 10 storylines from “Murphy Brown,” then see the cast reunite at the TV Land Awards, which TV Land will broadcast nationwide on April 29 at 9PM/8C.
“Murphy Kills a Judge
While questioning a corrupt — and suddenly silent — judge on “FYI,” Murphy continues to grill him mercilessly even though, as it turns out, he’s suffered a heart attack and died. (Season 1, Episode 18 - “The Unshrinkable Murphy Brown”)
A running gag throughout the series was Murphy’s inability to retain a decent secretary. For some reason, every secretary sent to her by HR turns out to be skittish, impertinent, not fluent in English or just plain incompetent. And then there was the one who talked to Satan.
The “FYI” cast is thrilled the network creates a sitcom based on Murphy’s life, and a famous actress (played by Morgan Fairchild) is signed to play Murphy’s character, “Kelly Green.” But Murphy isn’t so thrilled, especially when she’s asked to make a cameo appearance on the show. CBS anchor Connie Chung appears briefly as herself. (Season 2, Episode 4 - “TV or Not TV”)
When Murphy hires Eldin Bernecky (Robert Pastorelli) to repaint her house, she never imagines that he’ll stick around for years. But the painter with grand ambitions is there as Murphy’s constant muse, philosopher, friend and confidant, developing a crush on Corky and getting sidetracked with his penchant for elaborate murals. Pastorelli, who died of an overdose in 2004, was a regular for only six of the show’s ten seasons, but returned to make an appearance in the series finale.
Corky Gets Married
Corky reunites with former high school classmate Will Forrest — once a geek, now a lawyer — and, after a whirlwind courtship agrees to marry him, even after she realizes that her new name will be “Corky Sherwood-Forrest.” A highlight of the wedding: Murphy as a bridesmaid, wearing a frilly Southern belle dress with hoops. Corky later divorces Will and elopes with Miles. (Season 2, Episodes 26 and 27 - “Going to the Chapel”)
When Murphy gets pregnant, the father of the baby, her ex-husband Jake Lowenstein (Robin Thomas), tells her he can’t give up his lifestyle as a political radical to become a parent. Murphy decides to have the baby on her own, and she goes into labor while on the air, giving birth to a son and singing softly to him, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” (Season 4, Episode 26 - “Birth 101”)
Dan Quayle Feud
In 1992, then Vice President Dan Quayle was criticized (and praised) for giving a speech on family values in which he charged that it “doesn’t help matters when primetime TV has Murphy Brown … mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another ‘lifestyle choice.’” In response, “Murphy Brown” aired an episode with a special “FYI” segment celebrating the diversity of different types of families — and ended with a prank in which they dumped a truckload of potatoes on the vice president’s lawn, alluding to a gaffe in which Quayle, at an elementary school spelling bee, had corrected a student’s spelling of “potato” to “potatoe.” (Season 5, Episodes 1 and 2 - “You Say Potatoe, I Say Potato”)
The Staff Resigns
When the network pulls Jim’s expose on the tobacco industry, the anchor resigns in protest — and the rest of the staff ends up quitting to support him, until Miles stands up to the network and gets the story aired. (Season 8, Episode 17 - “Aftermath”)
Murphy develops breast cancer and spends the final season of the show getting treatment, which includes smoking medical marijuana — supplied by Jim — to relieve the effects of chemotherapy (an episode that drew conservative protests) and shopping for prosthetic breasts. Bergen was given an award by the American Cancer Society for her part in increasing breast cancer awareness. (Season 10)
While undergoing an operation for a tumor that might be malignant, Murphy has an anesthesia-induced hallucination in which she interviews God (Alan King) — contentiously, of course. Upon learning she is cancer-free, Murphy follows God’s advice not to retire and returns to her house to find Eldin, who has returned from Spain do some some more “touch-up” on her townhouse. Murphy’s last secretary was played by the divine Bette Midler. (Season 10, Episode 22 - “Never Can Say Goodbye, Part 2”)
Thecast and show creator behind the cutting-edge and witty CBS series, “Murphy Brown” – Candice Bergen, Faith Ford, Joe Regalbuto, Charles Kimbrough, Grant Shaud and Diane English – will be honored with the Impact Award at the TV Land Awards 10th Anniversary celebration, taping Saturday, April 14 at the Lexington Avenue Armory at Gramercy Park in New York City. Previously announced honorees include “In Living Color” (which now includes former Fly Girl Carrie Ann Inaba), “Laverne & Shirley,” “One Day At A Time,” “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” and Aretha Franklin. The “TV Land Awards” 10th Anniversary will air on Sunday, April 29 at 9PM/8C!
Additionally, TV Land announced presenters for the show, including esteemed journalist and news anchor Katie Couric and actress Fran Drescher, who will be on hand to pay homage to some of television and music’s biggest stars. More presenters will be announced in the coming days. In addition, three-time GRAMMY® Award-nominated music group The B-52s will set the mood for the evening, rocking out as the house band for the 10th anniversary show.
“Murphy Brown,” the recipient of this year’s Impact Award, infused hot topic current events and shined a light on real-life career and personal issues. The revolutionary show starred Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning actress Candice Bergen as title character Murphy Brown, a reporter for successful primetime news show “FYI.” With the help of her friends and co-workers – Frank Fontana (Joe Regalbuto), Corky Sherwood (Faith Ford), Jim Dial (Charles Kimbrough) and Miles Silverberg (Grant Shaud) – Murphy was a star journalist who truly had it all, even becoming a single mother later in the series. The show created some of the most memorable episodes with help from guest stars and fellow “TV Land Awards” honorees and presenters Aretha Franklin and Katie Couric. “Murphy Brown” aired on CBS from 1988 to 1998.
The TV Land Awards pays tribute to classic and contemporary luminaries of television, music and movies. The 90-minute telecast hosted by Kelly Ripa will feature exhilarating musical performances and will reunite some of the most iconic celebrity TV casts.