FYI: 12 Facts About Murphy Brown

Guest star John F. Kennedy Jr. and Candice Bergen on Murphy Brown (1995).
Guest star John F. Kennedy Jr. and Candice Bergen on Murphy Brown (1995).
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Nearly 20 years after Murphy Brown signed off for the last time, the Emmy-winning series is staging a comeback. Following in the footsteps of Roseanne, The X-Files, and the many other beloved series of the past that have gotten recent reboots, CBS just announced that it has ordered 13 new episodes of the hit 1990s series to run either this year or next. While details beyond that are minimal, we do know that Candice Bergen will return to the title role (how could it work without her?).

Even if you can rattle off Murphy's plethora of secretaries by heart, you're sure to discover something new about the FYI gang with these 12 facts about the series that started it all.

1. HEATHER LOCKLEAR WAS CONSIDERED FOR THE TITLE ROLE.

When series creator Diane English first pitched the show to the network, they were intrigued. But they wanted the title character to be younger—Heather Locklear, in fact—and returning from a week at the spa instead of a month at the Betty Ford Center. “Diane English ... went in and slapped the head of the network around and said she would prefer to go with someone more mature, so I got it,” Bergen said on Today. “But I had to really fight for it.” Even after her audition, the network president wasn’t convinced, telling English he didn’t think Bergen could do it. He later took her out to dinner to apologize.

2. DAN QUAYLE SENT MURPHY’S BABY A STUFFED ELEPHANT.

Murphy became a single mother during season four, something then-Vice President Dan Quayle infamously took umbrage with. After making a speech in which he said Brown was “mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice,” Quayle was roundly mocked. He later sent “Baby Brown” a stuffed elephant, “in the spirit of lightheartedness and joining in the fun.”

3. CANDICE BERGEN LATER SAID SHE AGREED WITH DAN QUAYLE—SORT OF.

 Candice Bergen attends the 'Murphy Brown': a 25th anniversary event at Museum of Modern Art on December 11, 2013 in New York City
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Although much was made of the Murphy Brown/Dan Quayle feud, the woman at the center of it wasn’t as bothered as everyone else was. “His speech was a perfectly intelligent speech about fathers not being dispensable and nobody agreed with that more than I did,” Bergen said.

But on June 19, 1998, Bergen responded to an op-ed written by Quayle's former speechwriter, Lisa Schiffren, who had suggested that she thought Quayle was a visionary the whole time.

"[Schiffren] quotes me as saying that family values 'was the right theme to hammer home,' that I 'agreed with all of it except his references to the show,' and that 'the body of the speech was completely sound.' Since that quote serves as the crux of her argument, let me print what she left out: 'it was an arrogant and uninformed posture, but the body of the speech was completely sound.'"

4. HALEY JOEL OSMENT PLAYED AVERY, MURPHY’S SON.

Murphy’s son had grown up by the final season of the show and needed to be played by a young actor who could hold his own in scenes with Bergen. Enter Haley Joel Osment, who, at the age of nine, had already been a series regular on two sitcoms: Thunder Alley and The Jeff Foxworthy Show. Bergen described him as “strikingly professional and prepared.”

5. AFTER HER FIFTH EMMY, CANDICE BERGEN DECLINED ADDITIONAL NOMINATIONS.

Bergen took home trophies in 1989, 1990, 1992, 1994, and 1995. Feeling that she had been lauded enough, the actress refused to put herself up for any more Emmy nominations. She still held the record for best actress Emmy wins for playing a single role until 2016, when Julia Louis-Dreyfus tied her for Veep. In 2017, Louis-Dreyfus broke the record when she won her sixth Emmy for playing Selina Meyer.

6. MURPHY HAD A TOTAL OF 93 SECRETARIES.

Murphy’s revolving door of secretaries ended at number 93, who happened to be played by Bette Midler. Other celebrities that stepped in to assist Murph included Sally Field, Paul Reubens, Craig Bierko, and Michael Richards in a Seinfeld crossover.

7. DIANE ENGLISH RETURNED FOR THE FINAL SEASON.

Though she left the series after season four, Diane English came back for season 10 to make sure the show got a proper send-off. “I wasn’t really very pleased with how the series was evolving,” English told Entertainment Weekly in 2014. “I wanted to sort of get back to our roots and tackle a serious subject.” They definitely went serious—Murphy’s arc in season 10 was about battling breast cancer. English had a cameo in the final episode, playing a nurse who delivered the good news that the cancer was gone.

8. THE FINAL SEASON COULD HAVE BEEN ABOUT MENOPAUSE INSTEAD OF BREAST CANCER.

According to Bergen, executives weren’t thrilled with the breast cancer storyline. "They thought Murphy should just struggle through menopause,'' Bergen explained. ''Diane and I had to tell them menopause is not jeopardizing.'' Years later, however, English remembered it a little differently: “There wasn’t a lot of resistance. Really, Les Moonves was a champion of this. It was more the press, actually. When we announced this was where we were going at the Upfronts, there was kind of an outrage, like, ‘Wait a minute. This is a serious subject. People die from this. Why is this funny?’”

9. THE SHOW HAD AN IMPACT ON THE NUMBER OF WOMEN WHO GOT MAMMOGRAMS.

Candice Bergen stars in 'Murphy Brown'
CBS

The breast cancer plot resulted in something bigger than just good ratings: The number of American women who got mammograms increased by 30 percent.

10. THE SHOW SPAWNED AN ALBUM.

Unlike Bergen, The Sounds of Murphy Brown didn’t clean up at any awards shows. But fans who enjoyed the Motown tunes that popped up across the series surely enjoyed this compilation of songs, including hits by Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Marvin Gaye, and the Temptations. Bergen has a couple of tracks on there too.

11. DON’T BOTHER LOOKING FOR THE SERIES ON DVD.

The first season was released, but sales were allegedly so awful that plans to roll out the other nine seasons were immediately withdrawn. That Motown soundtrack may also have played a role in that decision, reported Vulture; with poor sales, it just wasn’t worth it to secure the rights to all of those hit songs. (Though with its reboot coming, don't be surprised to see it streaming somewhere soon.)

12. ENGLISH PREDICTED ITS COMEBACK.

 Actor Candice Bergen and 'Murphy Brown' creator/executive producer Diane English speak onstage at the 10th Annual TV Land Awards
Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images

A few years ago, English practically predicted the show's comeback. “If Sarah Palin runs for president, I’m going to ask CBS to put us back on the air,” English told the San Francisco Chronicle during an interview. “Six episodes, that’s all I need.” Looks like she got her wish—and then some.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Good Gnews: Remembering The Great Space Coaster

Tubby Baxter and Gary Gnu in The Great Space Coaster.
Tubby Baxter and Gary Gnu in The Great Space Coaster.
YouTube

Tubby Baxter. Gary Gnu. Goriddle Gorilla. Speed Reader. For people of a certain age, these names probably tug on distant memories of a television series that blended live-action, puppetry, and animation. It was The Great Space Coaster, and it aired daily in syndication from 1981 to 1986. Earning both a Daytime Emmy and a Peabody Award for excellence in children’s programming, The Great Space Coaster fell somewhere in between Sesame Street and The Muppet Show—a series for kids who wanted a little more edge to their puppet performances.

Unlike most classic kid’s shows, fans have had a hard time locating footage of The Great Space Coaster. Even after five seasons and 250 episodes, no collections are available on home video. So what happened?

Get On Board

The Great Space Coaster was created by Kermit Love, who worked closely with Jim Henson on Sesame Street and created Big Bird, and Jim Martin, a master puppeteer who also collaborated with Henson. Produced by Sunbow Productions and sponsored by the Kellogg Company and toy manufacturer Hasbro, The Great Space Coaster took the same approach as Sesame Street of being educational entertainment. In fact, many of the puppeteers and writers were veterans of Sesame Street or The Muppet Show. Producers met with educators to determine subjects and content that could result in a positive cognitive or personal development goal for the audience, which was intended to be children from ages 6 to 11. There would be music, comedy, and cartoons, but all of it would be working toward a lesson on everything from claustrophobia to the hazards of being a litterbug.

The premise involved three teens—Danny (Chris Gifford), Roy (Ray Stephens), and Francine (Emily Bindiger)—who hitch a ride on a space vehicle piloted by a clown named Tubby Baxter. The crew would head for an asteroid populated by a variety of characters like Goriddle Gorilla (Kevin Clash). Roy carried a monitor that played La Linea, an animated segment from Italian creator Osvaldo Cavandoli that featured a figure at odds with his animator. The kids—all of whom looked a fair bit older than their purported teens—also sang in segments with original or cover songs.

The most memorable segment might have been the newscast with Gary Gnu, a stuffy puppet broadcaster who delivered the day’s top stories with his catchphrase: “No gnews is good gnews!” Aside from Gnu, there was Speed Reader (Ken Myles), a super-fast sprinter and reader who reviewed the books he breezed through. Often, the show would also have guest stars, including Mark Hamill, boxer “Sugar” Ray Leonard, and Henry Winkler.

All of it had a slightly irreverent tone, with humor that was more biting than most other kid’s programming of the era. The circus that Tubby Baxter ran away from was run by a character named M.T. Promises. Gnu had subversive takes on his news stories. Other characters weren’t always as well-intentioned as the residents of Sesame Street.

Off We Go

The Great Space Coaster was popular among viewers and critics. In 1982, it won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children’s Programming—Graphic Design and a Peabody Award in 1983. But after the show ceased production in 1986, it failed to have a second life in reruns or on video. Only one VHS tape, The Great Space Coaster Supershow, was ever released in the 1980s. And while fan sites like TheGreatSpaceCoaster.TV surfaced, it was difficult to compile a complete library of the series.

In 2012, Tanslin Media, which had acquired the rights to the show, explained why. Owing to the musical interludes, re-licensing songs would be prohibitively expensive—potentially far more than the company would make selling the program. Worse, the original episodes, which were recorded on 1-inch or 2-inch reel tapes, were in the process of degrading.

That same year, Jim Martin mounted an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to try and raise funds to begin salvaging episodes and digitizing them for preservation. That work has continued over the years, with Tanslin releasing episodes and clips online that don’t require expensive licensing agreements and fans uploading episodes from their original VHS recordings to YouTube.

There’s been no further word on digitizing efforts for the complete series, though Tanslin has reported that a future home video release isn’t out of the question. If that materializes, it’s likely Gary Gnu will be first to deliver the news.