Candice Bergen on Murphy Brown and Strong Women on TV

Murphy Brown's Candice Bergen
Candice Bergen was great on TV's Murphy Brown. Photo via Wkimedia Commons
Murphy Brown's Candice Bergen
Candice Bergen was great on TV’s Murphy Brown. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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 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 premier 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 tomboyish 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? Are there strong female characters on TV that you like to watch?
©2015 Christy Birmingham


  1. 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! 🙂

  2. 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.

    • 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 🙂

  3. 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!

  4. 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. 🙂

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

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