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.

Tropes used in Murphy Brown include:
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Kay fits it to a T, as does Corky, especially in early seasons.
  • Comedy Series
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Directed by Cast Member: Joe Regalbuto, who played Frank, directed 20 episodes over the course of the series.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Brown's pranks, usually.
    • And in the last two season's, Kay's, which are much like Murphy's but Up to Eleven.
  • Dumb Blonde: Corky, somewhat, although she became less so as the series progressed.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name
  • Freudian Excuse
  • 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.
  • The Gump: Phil, who knows everything in Washington, including who Deep Throat was.
  • Her Codename Was Mary Sue
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: There was one episode where Bruce Wayne bought FYI.
  • Horny Scientist
  • Inexplicably Awesome: Eldin
  • I Want You to Meet An Old Friend of Mine
  • Instant Birth, Just Add Water
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: Murphy's long, long list of secretaries-of-the-week included supporting characters from other CBS shows.
  • Is This Thing Still On?
  • 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.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: Oh, seasons 2 through 10, will you ever see the light of day on DVD?
  • Lamaze Class
  • 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.
  • Local Hangout: Phil's bar.
  • Locked in a Room
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Frank. Often.
  • My Beloved Smother: Avery Brown, oh so much.
  • Nervous Wreck: Miles.
    • Also Frank, who has been in therapy for 12 or so years.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Much maligned Jerry Gold bears striking resemblance to Morton Downey, Jr. or Howard Stern. He even has a four-person late night panel show like BillMaher.
    • Hidden Depths: Murphy falls for Gold when it turns out the abrasive personality was just a public persona for a genuinely concerned man.
  • No Periods, Period
  • 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.
  • Noodle Incident: Murphy did something at the 1980 Republican convention. What is never elaborated on, but they're still talking about it in The Nineties.
  • Obsolete Mentor
  • 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.
  • Rapid-Fire Typing
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: When Murphy Brown became a single mother, Dan Quayle used her as a condemnation of single parents. An entire episode addressed Quayles attack (including the actual New York Daily News "QUAYLE TO MURPHY BROWN: YOU TRAMP!" headline. Followed by a Take That of Murphy Brown dumping potatos on the White House lawn.
    • When the Colleen Dewhurst, the actor who played Murphy's mother, died in early Season 4, her character also died on the show in the episode "Full Circle", which was dedicated to her.
    • Murphy has five Emmys, and Candice Bergen won five Emmys for playing Murphy
  • Ripped from the Headlines
  • Running Gag:
    • Murphy has been virtually uninsurable since the late 70's owing to her extreme driving habits.
  • Screaming Birth
  • Screwed by the Network: The BBC, not CBS. The series wasn't bought for showing on British terrestrial television until after the Dan Quayle affair, several years after it had started. BBC 2 then dumped it in the same early evening slot that played host to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Degrassi Junior High, and pulled it after the first eight episodes had been shown. (Reviewers making unflattering comparisons to Drop the Dead Donkey didn't help... interestingly, that series flopped when it was shown in America. Some things just don't travel, I guess.) To this day this troper feels it would have done better had the show started in the UK in 1989.
  • Service Sector Stereotypes
  • Show Within a Show: FYI
  • Stealth Hi Bye
  • 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!"
  • Take That, Critics!
  • Title-Only Opening
  • Too Much Information
  • The Bob Newhart Show: Folded the show into the Tommy Westphall universe.
  • The Character Died With Her: When Colleen Dewhurst died, Avery Brown (Murphy's Mother, whom she played) died in series.
  • The Fun in Funeral
  • 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?
  • Unintentional Period Piece: If any sitcom can be said to be an intentional period piece, it's the unabashedly topical Murphy Brown. An early Family Guy episode poked fun at the show's tendencies by having its characters engage in a conversation where the only intelligible words are references to then-current events, all of which were hilariously dated in 2000, less than ten years after the show's heyday.
  • Unusual Euphemism
  • Wedding Day
  • Witty Banter
  • Work Com
  • Zany Scheme Chicken