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Murphy Brown: Making Washington Funny

Updated on October 21, 2014

The first episode of Murphy Brown had Murphy just getting out of rehab at the Betty Ford Clinic. This was the start of a program that seamlessly melded fiction with fact, using current events woven with fictional character and real people, to create a program that, while definitely falling into the sitcom category, educated us in many ways.

Murphy and her co-workers, Frank Fontana, Jim Dial, Corky Sherwood (whose first husband was Will Forest, making her Corky Sherwood Forest, for the Robin Hood fans out there) along with producer Miles Silverberg, covered the real and fictional power corridors of Washington, DC.

The episodes centered around the program "FYI: For your information". Jim Dial was the anchor, Frank Fontana mostly did on-scene stories, Corky Sherwood mostly covered the "fluff" pieces (though, as the program progressed, Corky got more "hard news" pieces). Murphy Brown, the central character of the program, played with elan by Candice Bergen, usually interviewed a Washington power player. She usually was very hard-hitting, so hard-hitting that I often wondered why people would allow themselves to be interviewed by her.

In her personal life, we met her mother Avery, who was played by the late Colleen Dewhurst, and her painter Eldon, played to perfection by the late Robert Pastorelli, who came to paint and stayed forever, eventually becoming her "nanny", taking care of her son Avery.

Murphy Brown loved Motown music and every episode began with a Motown tune. (This tune playing at the beginning has proven to be the biggest obstacle to getting reruns of Murphy Brown on the air because each song needs to be approved for permission to play)

My favorite exchange in Murphy Brown happens when Murphy is in bed with Peter Hunt (played by Scott Bakula) and she's having some issues. He asks what the problem is and she says she's thinking of Harry Truman and he asks if she wants him to be Harry Truman and she said, no she was just thinking that Harry Truman was president when she was born and she thought that this was not true of him (if I'm not mistaken, the character of Peter Hunt was supposed to have been born when Eisenhower was president) and he confirmed that, indeed, Truman was NOT president when he was born. This bothered Murphy, because she was older than Peter, but Peter assured her that he was not bothered by the age difference.

Murphy Brown appealed to me as a baby boomer, since she and most of the characters were baby boomers. I enjoyed the program and the characters and the chemistry between them. I look forward to seeing these programs again when they are available on cable.

Murphy Brown gave single parents someone to emulate

In 1992, the fictional character of Murphy Brown became pregnant by her ex-husband and decided to have the baby and raise him herself. During the summer, then Vice President Dan Quayle said she was being irresponsible by raising her son without a father. But, with the number of parents who are intentionally or unintentionally raising children alone, Murphy Brown was a role model.

Where do you stand on this issue? Should Murphy have had an abortion, put the child up for adoption or remarried her ex-husband? Or was she right to raise her son alone? Should single parents who have a choice choose another alternative? What do you think?


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