For 10 years, Murphy Brown was one of the most trusted names in news. The fact that she wasn’t real didn’t seem to matter.
The “Murphy Brown” gang was beloved by fans. “Good Morning America” anchors Lara Spencer and Josh Elliott caught up with the show’s cast recently at the TV Land awards, where they were presented the Impact Award.
Candice Bergen, who played Brown; Charles Kimbrough, who played Jim Dial; Joe Regalbuto, who played Frank Fontana; Faith Ford, who played Corky Sherwood; Grant Shaud, who played Miles Silverberg; and series creator Diane English all reminisced about their time on the hit CBS sitcom that revolved around the lives of those involved in FYI, a fictional news magazine show.
Brown was a single, 40-something recovering alcoholic with a take-no-prisoners approach to interviews, and Bergen said she found the news anchor character brilliant, informed and smart.
The network has actually wanted actress Heather Locklear to play the Brown, but English fought for Bergen.
Asked who inspired her character, Bergen replied: “Mike Wallace in a dress.”
The show’s storyline collided with reality in 1992 when then-vice president Dan Quayle singled out the Murphy Brown character for violating family values by having given birth out of wedlock.
In a speech at the Commonwealth Club, Quayle said: “Bearing babies irresponsibly is simply wrong. Failing to support children one has fathered is wrong and we must be unequivocal about this. It doesn’t help matters when primetime TV has Murphy Brown, a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid professional woman, mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice.”
The debate Quayle’s comments unleashed put the show in the spotlight for six months, Bergen said.
The episode after the speech aired to high expectations from viewers, Regalbuto said. Brown responded to Quayle’s remarks with this line: “Perhaps it’s time for the V.P. to expand his definition and realize that families come in all shapes and sizes.”
The controversy never got in the way of behind-the-scenes antics, during which Bergen emerged as the clown of the group that has remained friends over the years.
“She never stopped pranking us,” Ford said. “I’d always be sitting there in the show around the little table in front of the coffee and I would feel water trickling down my face and I would look up, ‘where is it coming from?’, and she was a master at doing this, she would get the water in her mouth, she would stand over you and just drizzle it out.”
To which Bergen replied: “I have no memory of that.”
Ford remembered her first meeting with Bergen.
“I bought I a silk suit and a rain storm came into Burbank like none other and I walked into the audition completely drenched … I was like, ‘great this is how I have to meet Candice Bergen, she’s going to hate me now,’” she recalled.
“You looked beautiful, Faithie,” Bergen told her.