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Candice Bergen on Murphy Brown and Strong Women on TV

Murphy Brown's Candice Bergen

This year marks the 27th anniversary of when the TV show Murphy Brown first aired. I remember watching the episodes that starred Candice Bergen in the lead role. She was a powerful force in the news world on the show, and there were laughs too in every episode. I liked how she and Frank used to banter back and forth. Good TV memories!

To celebrate Murphy Brown and Candice Bergen’s new autobiography A Fine Romance, Vogue recently released an excerpt from the book on its website. It’s a neat look into the behind-the-scenes stuff of the TV show. I hope you check it out in that link above! In the excerpt, she explains what drew her to play the character of Murphy. Here is a sample:

There was something in the writing of the Murphy character that hooked me, as she eventually hooked many women. Is it that she was, in many ways, who we wished we could be as women? Successful in a field dominated by men? Free of the need to please? Impolitic, impolite, yet in some weird way, irresistible?

Yes, that’s so true! I was only a youngin’ at the time when the show aired, but I wanted to grow up to be savvy in my career like Murphy, standing up for what she believed in. The TV show Murphy Brown ran from 1988 to 1998. When reading the Vogue piece, I enjoyed Candice Bergen’s description of when her agent first gave her the script for the show to read. She explains that the only show she knew of at the time that had strong leading female characters was Designing Women.

Candice Bergen and her TV cast on Murphy Brown
Murphy Brown Cast Featuring Candice Bergen. Photo via Wikipedia.

Interestingly, the Vogue excerpt also reveals that in the first scene of the premiere episode of the show, Murphy Brown is seen stepping out of an elevator after a month at Betty Ford. The network execs had asked questions such as why couldn’t she be coming from a spa holiday instead and couldn’t she be playing a 30-year-old rather than a 40-year-old?

Okay, here’s what I love about Candice Bergen! She stuck to the original script that had been written by Diane English.

She remained loyal to the idea of it being a woman of her 40s (not her 20s!) who’s at the height of her career and has had some tough issues to deal with. It’s real. It’s edgy. It’s more than the stereotype of women primping at the spa. Yes! (As you can tell I’m practically hopping off my seat right now, excited about this). She is a successful woman with goals – hello realistic character!

She also explains that she went over to the men’s wardrobe department sometimes to get jackets and hats for Murphy to wear. I totally remember her cool unisex outfits. It was ahead of its time as Avril Lavigne came later with the shirt and tie combo. Thanks, Murphy, for giving us a woman to admire on TV! Happy 27th anniversary to Murphy Brown.

Did you watch Murphy Brown on TV too? Who are other female characters on TV that you like to watch?

56 thoughts on “Candice Bergen on Murphy Brown and Strong Women on TV”

  1. Great post, Christie! I remember watching Murphy Brown when I was younger. I loved that she was a strong woman, but my all time fave was The Mary Tyler Moore show! :) All those characters were awesome!

  2. I’m surprised no one has mentioned Mary Tyler Moore. I think I must be older than everyone else. That came out in 1970. Even earlier, was Julia with Diahann Carroll, even more ground breaking in the fact that she was an African American. I believe she was the first to have her own show. Around the same time there was Marlo Thomas, in That Girl, and a spin-off of MaryTyler Moore , Rhoda. A later show with strong female leads was Cagney and Lacey. Also can’t forget Roseann.

    1. Oh I watched reruns of Mary Tyler Moore – when she threw up her hat into the air in the opening sequence, it was so iconic <3 And Roseanne, yes! Thanks for mentioning so many great women in your comment and for taking the time to look around the blog here. Your efforts mean a lot to me.

    2. No problem Christy, I enjoyed it. That post just made me look back on all the old shows I used to watch, and the women in them. I know I left out several others.

  3. It is a coincidence that I came across your blog entry the day after I posted this clip on my Facebook page as a birthday card to my son and his wife, whose December birthdays often get lost in the Christmas rush.. I watched and loved that series and continue to admire Candice Bergen.

  4. I enjoyed watching Murphy Brown. I enjoyed the relationship she had with her house painter Eldin.

  5. Tricia Drammeh, Author

    I loved Murphy Brown! I haven’t thought about that show in years. Thanks for this post, Christy.

    1. Christy Birmingham

      Tricia :) I was the same way when I was reading the book excerpt and got so excited I had to do a post about it! hehe :) Thanks for enjoying it with me!

  6. I lovedddddddddddddddddddd that show! Murph was awesome. She was assertive and spoke her mind and ruled! Thanks for the memories! The good old days of great sitcom. :)

    1. Christy Birmingham

      I’ve got a huge smile right now imagining you loving Murphy as much as me!! Deb, your comments here are amazing – thanks!!

    1. Christy Birmingham

      Hehe well Murphy Brown and I are now laughing :) It must be Friday! Not to worry, Mark – wait, it is Mark, right? Kidding! Happy Friday, my friend. Thank you for your support here and in general.

    2. Yeah, Kerbey was the last blogger that I had commented to, Christy, so talk about a senior moment. Oy. Happy Friday to you, too. I continue to admire your work here, and in general. :-)

    3. Christy Birmingham

      Aw shucks! :) I admire you for all of your blogging and enthusiasm. Great to know you!

    4. Christy Birmingham

      The flowers are blooming! I went for a walk the other day and saw some of them. Is it warming up at all for you over there, Mark?

    5. Blooming flowers for you! Wow. What a difference. It is about 40 F here today, Christy, a big warm up, and all the snow is dripping off the roof! That’s a great thing. They say over 40 Tuesday and Wednesday, too, so I hope more will melt. I went out there and chopped some ice from around our side porch steps, too. Yeeeeee-hah. But I’d take a walk with your flowers any day. Sweet.

    6. Christy Birmingham

      Oh wow I’m glad you are getting warmer weather lately there, Mark. And about time, by the sounds of it! Hehe I can just see you chopping ice. The closest thing I want to see to ice right now is ice cream :) Yes, you’d like the walk but you’d have to keep up with my pace!

    7. Christy Birmingham

      OH dear, I’ve had my full name mentioned, I’d better proceed with caution ;)

  7. Yes, I did watch Murphy Brown. Candice Bergen was great in the role, and as you point out a very, very strong character.
    She couldn’t carry a tune, but would sing her heart out at the top of her lungs no matter who was listening, even Aretha Franklin.
    That says a lot about self confidence, forging on though odds are against you, and you can’t take heart away from me. Strong, indeed!
    It is difficult to find someone since, if you want to go with the sense of womanhood in terms “person-hood”.
    Oddly only 2 women pop into my mind.
    1. Colleen Dewhurst – who played Murphy’s mom, and executed the same strengths Murphy did. Murphy was an apple that didn’t fall far from the tree!
    (When I was starting out, I got to sew some clothes for Colleen in a series “Avonlea”) What a fabulous actress!

    2. Audrey Meadows – A character from the 1950’s, “Honeymooners”, Alice was a stay at home wife. Her over bearing husband, Ralph, played by Jackie Gleason, was an assault to all wives, and all women at the time.
    She would tell him off in no uncertain terms, put him down if she had to, made him understand that although 2 different sexes, they were partners in life and love and if he didn’t like it ….. he could shove it. At that time I believe many saw her as mouthy, incorrigible and not great wife material.
    She was ballsy, and just what women needed to see at the time. She was a woman who stood up for herself in front of a man!

    1. Christy Birmingham

      Hi Resa, happy Friday! Firstly, love that you spotlighted two women here as that’s great to give them props too! I wish I had more time right now to highlight all of these women but hope to have more time to do so after the next book releases. Audrey Meadows, woot! Yes!! Really a great comment here that adds so much to the post. Thank you for the time here and for the great addition <3

    2. Woot back!!
      Dear Christy,
      You really opened up the flood gates with this blog. I loved it from the get go, and knew it would be a place where women….and men would want to come. <3

    3. Christy Birmingham

      Thanks sooooo much, truly! Your support right from the beginning has been wonderful for me, Resa. HUGS <3

  8. I am probably the only woman who has never seen even one episode of Murphy Brown. I was probably curled up somewhere with a book. :) :) :)
    Hugs to you, dear Christy.

    1. Christy Birmingham

      Ohhh :) Well I appreciate you commented here even though you’ve never seen the show. I am one of the few people who has never seen Breaking Bad so we all have our never-watched list hehe :)

  9. One of the sitcoms I enjoyed in the 80s – 90s. Like you stated, not stereotyped at all, real issues and great dialogue and acting…Thanks, Christy! :)

    1. Christy Birmingham

      Totally cool you watched it too! Aw, thanks for taking time to comment here – that is wonderful!! :)

    2. Christy Birmingham

      YOU are awesome! Yes, now it’s more reality shows rather than sitcoms. I used to watch more TV back then too, hehe :)

    3. Christy Birmingham

      So true! YES, laughs and smiles both. I like doing both :) Hope your weekend has both too!

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