FYI: 12 Facts About Murphy Brown
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.
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.
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.
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.