Murphy Brown

The cast of Murphy Brown

November 14, 2023
Online Originals

Murphy Brown at 35: By the Numbers

For its 35th anniversary, we revisit key milestones from CBS' Emmy-winning sitcom.

Murphy Brown premiered without much fanfare on November 14, 1988. The CBS sitcom, starring Candice Bergen, revolved around the titular forty-something, recovering alcoholic TV news anchor and her fellow broadcasters of a fictional network. The half-hour show — featuring an ace ensemble that included Faith Ford, Grant Shaud, Joe Regalbuto and Charles Kimbrough — quickly built a loyal following, which led to a ten-season run from 1988 to 1998. (A reboot aired on CBS in 2018 and lasted one season.) With her rough-edged personality and penchant for Motown staples and new secretaries, Murphy hilariously proved each week that she was a flawed and charming heroine worth rooting for. (Series creator Diane English famously described her as "Mike Wallace in a dress.")

At the height of its popularity in 1992, Murphy Brown even sparked a national debate about single motherhood thanks to then-Vice President Dan Quayle, who was critical of the show's take on the topic. And though its cultural references and the shoulder-padded blazers are now dated, the sitcom's legacy and impact can be found in characters ranging from Veep's Selina Meyer to 30 Rock's Liz Lemon.

In honor of the show's anniversary, here's a look at Murphy Brown by the numbers.

Number of seasons in the original run: 10.

Number of episodes: 247.

Number of episodes in the 2018 revival: 13.

Number of Emmy nominations: 62.

Number of Emmy wins: 18, including Outstanding Comedy Series in 1992.

Number of times Bergen won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series: 5.

Number of time slots: 2 (Nine seasons aired Mondays at 9 PM; one season aired Wednesdays at 9 PM).

Premiere season rank: No. 34 — sandwiched between CBS' Designing Women and NBC's 227 — with an average of 14.5 million viewers.

Most watched episode: "You Say Potatoe, I Say Potato" (9/21/92) with 70 million viewers, per Nielsen research.

Percentage of the total TV viewership that watched the episode, which addressed the Quayle controversy: 41 percent.

Highest Nielsen ranking during its run: 3 (1991-1992, behind 60 Minutes and Roseanne).

Appearances by Motown artists: 1 (The Temptations).

Appearances by Murphy's favorite singer, Aretha Franklin: 1 (1991).

Cost of a 30-second ad in its penultimate 1996-97 season: $300,000.

Notable politician guest stars: 4 (Bob Dole, Orrin Hatch, Alan Simpson and Newt Gingrich).

Real-life female TV news anchors who attended Murphy's baby shower in 1992: 5 (Katie Couric, Faith Daniels, Joan Lunden, Mary Alice Williams and Paula Zahn).

Number of Murphy's secretaries: 93

Guest stars in the final episode, which aired May 18, 1998: 5 (Julia Roberts, Bette Midler, George Clooney, Alan King and Mike Wallace)

Viewers for its final episode: 17.4 million, its biggest audience in 20 months.

Streaming services currently offering Murphy Brown: 0.

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