Series / Murphy Brown

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Work Com on CBS (1988-1998), about a recovering-alcoholic Washington-based news reporter in her 40s, played by Candice Bergen. Murphy is the political correspondent for a news show called "FYI", whose other staff include stuffy senior anchor Jim Dial, daredevil investigative reporter Frank Fontana, former Miss America Corky Sherwood, wet-behind-the-ears producer Miles Silverberg and a different personal secretary to the title character every week.

The show was hugely popular in its day due to its topical, often controversial storylines. What really put it on the map, though, was when Murphy became a single mother (unique for a sitcom at the time) and the show portrayed this in a positive way (unique for any TV show at the time.) Conservatives balked, especially then-vice president Dan Quayle, who attacked the show as being against "family values." The show responded by directly mocking Quayle, and this little feud propelled it to the top of the ratings. Various other politically-charged storylines kept the show afloat for a ten-year run, and the show won Candice Bergen five Emmy awards for Best Actress in a Comedy Series.

This series provides examples of:

  • Angrish: Murphy, often.
    • From Mama Miller, after everyone complains about her semi-raw scrambled eggs:
    Murphy: Oh, gee, I-I'm really, sorry, I guess you were under the impression that I was RUNNING A RESTAURANT!
  • Back for the Finale: Phil returns for the series finale despite the fact that he had died of a heart attack: his death was retconned into having been faked by the CIA due to Phil "knowing too much about Whitewater".
    • Murphy also returns home at the end of the episode to find that Eldin is back, repainting her home, just as he had first appeared in the series.
  • Blah Blah Blah: In Montezuma's Retreat, Miller says to Frank that he will often imagine 's voice as a foghorn.
  • Bland-Name Product: they zig-zagged at various points whether or not FYI was a CBS News show. As a general rule there wasn't an eye anywhere but CBS' real news anchors were namechecked as colleagues.
  • Book Ends: At the end of the first episode, Eldin comes out of the kitchen and interrupts Murphy's singing, telling her that "she was getting better towards the end." Cue to the last episode... same thing happens.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: One of the plots of "Montezuma's Retreat" revolves around Frank, Jim and Miller getting drunk off of one drink on their retreat in Mexico.
    • Probably doesn't count since the drink in question was likely a Gargle Blaster (the bartender crossed himself when asked for the drink).
  • Character Development: Everybody experienced this to one degree or another, but the most pronounced was Corky's transformation from The Ditz to a Deadpan Snarker (mostly resulting from the breakup of her idyllic marriage).
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Kay fits it to a T, as does Corky, especially in early seasons.
  • The Comically Serious: Jim. Prime examples include his reaction to finding out his recently purchased English-style pub has become a gay bar and his attempt to purchase marijuana from a shady dealer in a park for the cancer-stricken Murphy.
  • Continuity Nod: In "The Strike", a blur that was meant to cover someone's face failed (due to the regular crew being on strike forcing them to use incompetent replacements) and the person was exposed. In a later episode, someone who wished to remain anonymous was instead hidden behind a screen.
  • Cool Toy: In one Christmas Episode, having done all her Christmas shopping, Murphy then learns that all her son Avery wants for Christmas is that year's cool toy. She spends the last few days before Christmas desperately hunting for one, only to discover that it is sold out everywhere. Ultimately Eldon ends up sending Avery one from Europe, where the fad is already over.
  • Corpsing: This was the in-universe plot point for one episode. Jim, presumed to be the most stoic & professional newscaster on "FYI," laughs on-camera. The first time, it got out of control when his corpsing advanced to LOL. Later on, Jim is laughing during a broadcast again, & Corky's photo of a hospitalized pet didn't help. Finally, Jim has undone the problem when everybody except him is laughing out loud during the newscast.
  • Crossover: Al Floss, Alex Rocco's character on the short-lived sitcom The Famous Teddy Z, appears in one episode as Corky's agent.
    • Murphy appears in an episode of another short-lived sitcom, Ink, where it's revealed she and Ted Danson's character on that show meet for an annual tryst.
    • A Love & War episode has that show's regulars watching F.Y.I on TV in a bar, where Murphy and co. are commenting on a murder case that figured in the Murphy Brown episode from earlier that same night. (Both series were created and produced by Diane English.)
  • Crossover Punchline: One episode has Murphy finally getting a secretary she likes. Turns out it's Carol, Bob Hartley's receptionist from The Bob Newhart Show. Hartley (Newhart) turns up at the end to beg her to come back to work for him.
    • Conversely, a Seinfeld episode ended with Kramer getting an acting gig as yet another secretary for Murphy, and being very good.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Murphy's dartboard on the back of her office door was adorned with something new every week, and oftentimes that something was someone's face.
  • Fist Pump: Murphy does it while expressing enthusiasm for getting a scoop interview.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Avery Brown is the name of both Murphy's mother and her son.
  • Getting the Baby to Sleep: Murphy's son only stops fussing when listening to Barry Manlilow.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Corky was staying over at Murphy's and acted like it was a slumber party. Corky said "we could braid each others hair!" and braided Murphy's into pigtails; when Eldin came over and saw Murphy, he said she looked "like an old Heidi."
  • Glamorous Single Mother: the entire Dan Quayle fiasco was over his criticism of the show's use of this trope. Ironically, Candice Bergen herself thought Quayle had a point.
    • When seeing Quayle's Real Life speech on TV, Murphy's sporting massively Messy Hair and still in her pajamas. She can't believe Dan Quayle would find her glamorous.
    • Murphy was also a highly-paid television personality with more than enough money to support a child and hire a nanny. She often complained about the difficulties of the parenting she did do.
  • Hand Signals: Miles used all the live broadcast ones described on the trope page under "real life" and there was one episode with an over-the-top amount of stretching.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: Murphy's long, long list of secretaries-of-the-week included supporting characters from other CBS shows.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Murphy herself is a prime example.
    • When Eldin was offered the opportunity to paint with a famous Spanish painter eight years after he wrote to him. Although he blatantly refused to leave, enjoying too much the position of being a Avery's nanny and Murphy's house painter, Murphy fired him without a second thought, even though she knew that it would be virtually impossible for her to find someone else who would please her.
  • Last Minute Baby Naming: Murphy goes through multiple names for her unborn child during her pregnancy and keeps going even after he's born. Eventually she names him "Avery" after her recently deceased mother.
  • Last Unsmoked Cigarette: In the first episode (and through the first season) Murphy carried around one last cigarette.
  • Lie Detector: The episode Specific Overtures deals with Murphy on a polygraph after she allegedly sexually harasses a coworker.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: A rather infamous "Night of Elizabeth Taylor," created as an elaborate ad for her fragrance Black Pearls, threaded Murphy Brown together with The Nanny, Can't Hurry Love, and High Society.
  • May-December Romance: Murphy briefly dates a 20-something grad student after meeting him at a science museum. Her friends are shown to be unsettled by the age gap, but get over it because Murphy seemed to be pretty happy with him. However, they decide to amicably separate after he's been called to serve out his Israeli military duty.
  • Mistaken for Exhibit: Eldin gets a show at an art gallery. At the opening people come in to find a completely empty room. They discuss whether they themselves are the art or what, but then Eldin points out that he painted a mural on the ceiling.
  • No Theme Tune: Motown songs would frequently play in place of a theme song. Ironically, this has caused the DVD releases to stall after the first season; the music clearance costs are through the roof.
    • Whenever the show must have a theme, such as an awards show, "Rescue Me" is the song represents the show.
    • Though, funnily enough, the show did have a theme tune for the closing credits. The song, which was written by Stephen Dorff, was included on the CBS 50th anniversary CD.
    • Once Faith Ford was on the Tonight Show and started out expressing perplexity over the tune the band had played for her walk-on music, until she realized it was the show's "Ooo-wah-ooo" closing credits theme.
  • Noodle Incident: Murphy did something at the 1980 Republican convention. What is never elaborated on, but they're still talking about it in The '90s.
  • Not Rare Over There: In a Christmas Episode, Murphy spends the entire episode desperately searching for that year's Cool Toy for her son, only to find that it is sold out everywhere. At the end of the episode, Eldon sends her one from Europe where the fad has apparently passed and the toys are common and cheap.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping
    • Whether this is what was intended by including the trope or not, this was used in-universe. Corky had an affected Midwestern accent; her natural Southern accent would come out when she was angry.
  • Pity the Kidnapper: A group of nerdy environmentalists kidnap Murphy until a major news show will cover the development of a swamp in Oregon. It doesn't go well.
  • Platonic Life Partners: Creator Diane English repeatedly and explicitly stated that Murphy and Frank really are just friends.
  • Put on a Bus: In the two part Season 8 Finale, after successfully ensuring Corky and Frank would keep their jobs in the network cutbacks and that FYI would not be the subject of any more Executive Meddling (ensuring that Jim would return to the show), Miles was offered and took a promotion to head the News Division for the network... in New York. Made worse by the fact that he had recently married Corky and she would remain on FYI in Washington.
  • Running Gag:
    • Murphy has been virtually uninsurable since the late 70's owing to her extreme driving habits.
    • Murphy can't or keep get a good secreatary. One states that before she starts Murphy will have to understand that she might be in late or skip days for no reason and steal things from the office as well as other things that would normally result in firing. Murphy's response is that she's had worse.
  • Sherlock Scan: When the main cast gets pitted in a team building exercise that they become determined to beat by cheating, they guess the retreat owner's computer password by analyzing the contents of his office. But they get caught before they can get the next day's exercise plan and make their escape.
  • Take That: Several;
    • After Dan Quayle criticized the show for "glorifying single motherhood" in Real Life, Murphy had a truckload of potatoes dumped at the gates of the Naval Observatory in-series.
    • During a thinly disguised version of the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase, Miles remarks, "ABC...wouldn't pre-empt Home Improvement for the Second Coming!"
  • The Snark Knight: Pretty much the entire point of Murphy's character.
  • Tsundere: Murphy could easily be considered one.
  • Unfortunate Names: Corky Sherwood-Forrest, anyone?
    • Averted when Jim asked Murphy if she would name her son after him. While it was a nice honor, she clearly rejected the notion of naming her child James Brown.

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