I have a confession to make: I can't stand the Mary Tyler Moore show. I realize that it is a important show in that it had the first single, independent career woman as it's star, but I never found the Mary Richards character to be a great role model. She was just too weak and dull.
Now, Murphy Brown is more than just a role model. She's a kick-ass role model. And she changed the face of American television. There are still some aspects of her character, mostly her razor-sharp wit, that hasn't been seen on television since.
Murphy Brown aired for 247 episodes from 1988 to 1998. It's first episode began with Murphy, a forty year old, single, award-winning and famous investigative journalist and a co-anchor on a live newsmagazine show called FYI. Murphy returns to work to find that the show's producer has been replaced by a young Yale grad called Miles Silverberg, who is a naive, over-achieving yuppie and knows almost nothing about producing a news show. The Network as also added a new member to FYI, the Pollyanna-like Corky Sherwood, a former Miss America, who is perpetually perky and knows nothing about world affairs. She does those light stories about puppies and decor they show at the end of the hard-hitting FYI episodes.
The pilot takes place on Murphy's first day back at work after she has been in rehab for alcohol and cigarettes.
This had never been done before. Normally it's the male characters on a show that have a drinking problem and have just turned forty and have no intention of getting married. But here, it was a woman and a famous woman at that, at the top of her profession and played by a famous actress (Candice Bergen).
Rounding out the cast of characters are Frank, the show's undercover reporter and Murphy's best friend, Jim Dial, the stoic veteran anchor, Phil the owner of the bar next to the studio in Washington D.C. who knew everything about every political figure for the past fifty years, especially stuff that the public didn't know and Eldin, the philosophical artist that Murphy hired to paint her house in the pilot and spent the next six years painting murals all over her house. He's my favourite character in the show.
But over the course of the series, Murphy Brown as a character is about more than just a recovering alcoholic. She is intelligent, works very hard at her job, takes her duty as a journalist very seriously, loves pulling pranks, slops around the house in pyjamas, becomes a single mother, stands up to the Network suits on several occasions, deals with breast cancer in the final season and loves Motown with a passion.
The reason why I think that Murphy Brown is a better role model than any other character on television today is that she stood behind her principals, even if it would cost her her job. Murphy Brown was made just before the news and the world of the journalist changed dramatically with the popularity of 24 hour news networks and everyone getting a summary of the news from the internet as it happens. For Murphy, being a journalist was about getting a story or an interview on the air, without compromising her ethics. Even if it meant landing in jail for not revealing her sources.
Murphy is also tough as nails. She got to the top of her profession on her own merits and isn't going to let anyone treat her as a little lady.
All this being said, Murphy Brown is also a hilarious sitcom that has really aged well. A lot of sitcoms get old and unfunny really fast, but not this one. Even it's topical political satire is still funny. It also deals with some issues that aren't present in today's shows and it also assumes that the audience is actually paying attention to what's going on.
Murphy Brown is still shown on reruns on a few channels, but it's largely forgotten today, and I really don't understand why. The first season was released on Region 1 DVD, but they wont release the remaining nine seasons on DVD because the the "high cost" of obtaining the music rights to songs, since the show had no theme song and played Motown songs throughout every episode. Which is a damned shame, since the show is cleverer than most modern shows on now, ridiculous 80's fashions aside. Actually, I quite like some of Murphy's clothes, since they suit her character.
The torrent for the first season is on most public sites, whereas the torrents for the remaining seasons are available on the private site TV Vault.
This is a clip from a show about why the 90's ruled.
This is the rather short piece about Murphy Brown from the PBS show America in Primetime.
I found it hard to get clips from the show, so here is a promo for it's Australian syndication
The longest and funniest running gag on the show was the crazy secretaries that Personal kept sending to Murphy's desk. Above is a clip of the secretary of the day from the first season and below are two clip shows of the secretaries that Murphy had to deal with in the first season.