In the early to mid-’90s, Candice Bergen was the reigning queen of television sitcoms. Her smash hit series Murphy Brown ran from 1989 to 1997. And during its run, it made a fairly significant cultural impact by touching on issues and themes that previously unexplored in television shows.
Candice Bergen starred as the eponymous Murphy Brown. A famed investigative journalist and news anchor for a fictional newsmagazine program called FYI. Later in the series, Brown fronted the ‘Murphy in the Morning’ cable morning news program.
The show was groundbreaking in more ways than one. For one thing, it had a markedly feminist tone. Making it one of the first shows on TV at the time that was willing to speak out on issues involving single mothers and the cultural impact of women entering the workplace.
While this seen as a significant victory for the women’s rights crowd, not everyone thrilled about it’s trailblazing ‘wokeness’. On one notable occasion, Murphy Brown even drew the criticism of then-Vice President Dan Quayle. Who offended by the show’s perceived glorification and promotion of single motherdom.
But instead of feeling deterred by the hostile rhetoric that was coming out of the White House. Murphy Brown took this unexpected press coverage in stride. Leaning into the controversy, the series saw a significant boost in the ratings. So, while Quayle’s ire might have seen as a bad thing by some. In reality, the conservative political heavyweight basically serving as a very public, albeit unwitting, advertising agent of sorts.
After airing for 247 episodes over ten seasons, Murphy Brown came to an end. It later rebooted by CBS in 2018, but canceled after just one 13-episode season.
Join Facts Verse and keep watching to find out the real reasons why Murphy Brown cancelled not once but twice.
Murphy Brown’s History Of Controversy
Throughout it’s time on the air, Murphy Brown was able to respond and play off of real-world situations that were happening around the globe. But sometimes what the series chose to touch on caused news on it’s own.
Perhaps the most famous example of this happened in 1992 when the show caught up in the controversy caused by Vice President Dan Quayle when he chose to make the show his target.
At the time in the series, Brown, a hardworking journalist and recovering alcoholic, had made the conscious decision to raise a child on her own. While this might not sound very controversial by today’s standards. At the time, it was a very provocative decision on the writer’s end of things.
Quayle began blaming the character and her life choices on the ‘breakdown of family values’. He made this opinion a key part of a speech that he made in May of 1992.
Quayle stated that bearing babies irresponsibly and not supporting a child that one fathered was wrong. He went on to say that when prime-time TV depicts characters such as Murphy Brown as ‘mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone ‘. And simply calling it just another ‘lifestyle choice’. This contributed to the breakdown of the traditional family and in some more esoteric way American values as a whole.
Quayle received substantial backlash for his comments and was the butt of numerous jokes at that year’s Emmy Awards.
Later that year, Quayle and President George H. W. Bush lost their reelection bid. Some saw this loss as having at least somewhat correlated to the controversy caused by the Vice President’s Murphy Brown rhetoric and the ensuing fuss it caused.
On the show, Murphy Brown addressed Quayle’s comments directly by saying that his limited definition of what an ‘acceptable family’ looked like, was shockingly out of touch with what millions of children growing up in nontraditional families throughout the country have experienced.
Murphy Brown has since been pointed to by critics as having paved the way for numerous shows that have followed in it’s path. Single mothers have since depicted on television without issue in shows like Gilmore Girls, Sex and the City, Girls, and SMILF.
Real quick – if you’re enjoying this video so far, take a moment to show us a little support by giving this video a like and subscribing to the Facts Verse channel. And keep watching to find out why Murphy Brown cancelled both in 1998 and 2018.
The Original Series Finale
Murphy Brown started out fairly strong in the ratings department. The show averaged 14.9 million viewers during it’s debut season and peaked at 18.6 million average viewers during season four.
Series creator and showrunner Diane English departed after the end of the fourth season, but the show continued to enjoy relatively high ratings. For the next several seasons, numerous changes made to the on and off camera staff. For a while, the show’s cast was basically a revolving door of temporary stars that would back up Candice.
By the start of the 1996-1997 season, viewership was beginning to decline. After the ninth season wrapped up and CBS saw the writing on the wall so-to-speak. They chose not to renew the series past it’s 10th season.
Murphy Brown’s final season premiered in the fall of 1997. That season included a story arc in which Brown battled breast cancer. The storyline was not without controversy, however, as in one episode, Brown used medical marijuana to help relieve the crippling side effects of chemotherapy. The show came under fire from conservative anti-drug groups for this decision. But it was notable for being one of the first on-screen portrayals of medical cannabis.
Later that season, the show criticized by women’s health groups that took offense to an episode where Brown seen shopping for prosthetic breasts. At one point, she uttered the line ‘Should I go with the Demi Moore or the Elsie the Cow?’
Despite the controversy, the show’s handling of the topic of breast cancer credited with a 30% increase in the number of female-bodied people getting mammograms that year. Because of this Candice Bergen presented with an award by the American Cancer Society to celebrate her role in educating women on the importance of breast cancer screening and prevention.
Murphy Brown’s two-part series finale ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ saw Brown undergoing surgery after a second cancer scare. While on the operating table, she woke up in heaven and got to conduct an interview with God, portrayed by actor Alan King.
During this interview, God managed to convince Murphy to stick with her job with FYI, which she was contemplating leaving. After she woke up, Brown found out that she was cancer-free.
The series wrapped up with Murphy telling her colleagues that she was planning on returning to work. At the end of the episode, Brown went home and sang the song ‘Natural woman’ one last time.
Why The Reboot Failed
CBS, riding the revival fever-train that all of the network’s seemed to be on at the time, decided to reboot Murphy Brown in 2018. 20 years after the original run of the Emmy Award-Winning Diane English-created series ended.
Initially conceived as a one-off 13-episode series, the Murphy Brown reboot dealt with issues like fake news and the polarizing politics of Donald Trump. The revival premiered in September, but right off the bat, it’s ratings were rather disappointing.
It was hoped that if the season was well-received, it could lead to a full-fledged multi-season treatment. But after only averaging 9.1 million viewers, the Murphy Brown reboot’s future was uncertain.
Due to its filming location in New York, the Murphy Brown reboot was costlier than the average sitcom, coupled with the lackluster ratings. CBS had little incentive to keep the show alive for another season and subsequently officially announced its cancellation in May of 2019.
During it’s original run, Murphy Brown won a staggering 18 Emmy’s – including two for Outstanding Comedy Series and one for Best Lead Actress. It additionally took home three Golden Globes, two DGA Awards, and another two WGA Awards.
The revival series earned Candice Bergen a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Television Series Musical or Comedy.
So, while it might not have lasted as long as it’s creators and cast might have hoped. The Murphy Brown reboot at least garnered critical acclaim. But as we all know, it hardly matters what the critics think about a show when no one actually tunes in to watch it.
Candice Hasn’t Slowed Down
Candice Bergen quickly recovered after the Murphy Brown reboot was given the ax. In 2021, she appeared in three episodes of the ABC Roseanne revival The Connors as the character Barb.
She’s also been fairly active in the film world as well. In 2018, she appeared in the Bill Holderman-directed romantic comedy film Book Club. She followed that up by playing Roberta in the 2020 comedy-drama film Let Them All Talk.
Most recently, she made an appearance in the 2022 Mayim Bialik-produced and directed drama film As They made Us.
In 2023, Candice will be reprising her role as Sharon Myers in Book Club 2 – The Next Chapter.
Diane English likewise is still very active in Hollywood. At the moment she is working on developing a feature film titled Timbuktu. She’s already written the script for the film and is slated to be it’s director as well. But as of right now, it’s unclear when it will actually make it to theaters.
We’re just about out of time for this video, but we’d love to hear from you.
Did you know that Murphy Brown came under fire from former US Vice President for supposedly contributing to the breakdown of the family and that actress Candice Bergen is currently expected to appear in the sequel to her hit 2018 film Book Club in 2023?
Feel free to share your answers to these questions and all of your thoughts on Murphy Brown in the comments section down below.
Before you go, remember to tap that like button and subscribe to the Facts Verse channel. While you’re at it, smash the bell to turn on notifications. That way, you can keep up with all of our latest and upcoming videos as soon as they drop.
As always, thanks for watching. We’ll see you soon with more content covering some of your favorite Hollywood films, television shows, and stars.