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Encore Channel celebrates Mother’s Day with Murphy Brown marathon

After the lovely celebrations of Mother’s Day are in the books, and the lunch dishes have been put away, or you’ve all left the restaurant, on May 11, 2014, the Encore Classic TV channel invites you to treat yourself to an afternoon and evening of one of the best comedy ensemble shows in the past three decades. Episodes of “Murphy Brown” will start at 4 p.m. CST, together with interviews with the surviving cast members for the first half hour of programming. It’s not confirmed but it’s likely that the series creator, Diane English, will also be on hand. It’s hard to believe that the 10th season of “Murphy Brown” left the air in 1998. Time flies.

The 'Murphy Brown': a 25th anniversary event at Museum of Modern Art on December 11, 2013 in New York City. Diane English (L, puppetmaster), Candice Bergen (R, puppet).
The 'Murphy Brown': a 25th anniversary event at Museum of Modern Art on December 11, 2013 in New York City. Diane English (L, puppetmaster), Candice Bergen (R, puppet).
Theo Wargo/Getty Images, used with permission
The cast of  'Murphy Brown': a 25th anniversary event at Museum of Modern Art on December 11, 2013 in New York City.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images, used with permission

Of course, the Encore Classic channel has been running two or three episodes of the popular situation comedy each weekday afternoon for several months, and it’s again finding an audience of faithful regulars. The premise of the special marathon is that the audience will enjoy the shows chosen as favorites by the cast members themselves.

The group recently gathered in December 2013 (see slide show) to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the sitcom, which starred Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown, a premiere news journalist who could secure contact with any world leader by phone with no waiting. Brown was also notorious for not being able to keep a secretary, given her exceptionally acerbic tongue and demanding nature.

One of the series’ best gags was to list the actor in each week’s credits as “Secretary #34,” “Secretary #35,” etc. Murphy could not keep a secretary more than a week, but it was always fun to watch who personnel sent up, next, to try and keep up with her. Murphy’s love of music, especially R&B, found its way into 247 weekly episodes, along with some very special guest stars.

From the preview promotional spots running this week, it appears that the full cast will be on hand to talk between episodes and reminisce. Sadly, actor Robert Pastorelli, who played house painter and one of Murphy’s best friends, Eldin Bernecky, died in 2004. His “Eldin” was a truly unique television character and one of Diane English’s best inventions.

Diane English was ahead of her time in television sitcoms in the 1980s. Whatever English was thinking is what Bergen was saying each week. Her wit was sharp, her dialogue was snappy, and there’s just a general feel-good memory about “Murphy Brown” that makes Sunday afternoon’s “Murphathon” something to look forward to.

Additional cast members in the “FYI” weekly news magazine newsroom were Grant Shaud as Miles Silverberg, “FYI” producer; respected news anchor Jim Dial, played by Charles Kimbrough; Murphy’s best friend on the show, Frank Fontana, played by Joe Regalbuto; and former Miss America feature producer Corky Sherwood, played by Faith Ford. Another of the show’s gags was when Corky married, she decided to hyphenate her new last name, which was, you guessed it—Corky Sherwood-Forest. The show was produced for years by English and coproduced by her husband, Joel Shukovsky.

As you'd expect, English supervised every script as the program's creator and showrunner, but in reality, there were at least 68 writers credited with at least one script. Of course, some shows were cowritten. The most prolific writers include Gary Dontzig and Steven Peterman, who have 24 episodes to their credit. English would go on to create several projects including "My Sister Sam" starring Pam Dawber, David Naughton, and Rebecca Schaeffer, and "Foley Square" with Margaret Colin, both of which were solid concepts, but they just didn't enjoy the same level of success as "Murphy."

For trivia fans, Michael Patrick King wrote 10 episodes from 1991-1993 before going on to create the “Sex and the City” television and movie franchise, so this was one of his starting points in the business. More recently King created “2 Broke Girls,” but then again everyone has a bad day at the office. Speaking of which, the ensemble cast were the anchors of “For Your Information,” each week, a not-very-veiled send-up of “60 Minutes.” Dialogue was always fresh, the plots were straightforward and you couldn’t wait to tune in each week to find out what was up next.

Off-newsroom meetings found everyone converging into Phil’s Bar and Restaurant, a Washington, DC, tradition, or they met at Murphy’s home. Another sweet element–Murphy’s overarching mother, Avery Brown, was played by Colleen Dewhurst—perfectly. Eventually Murphy would give birth, a little boy, whom she ultimately named (after many episodes in limbo) “Avery.” At the time in 1992, U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle chose to call out the character “Murphy Brown” for having a child out of wedlock, as he addressed a San Francisco group about the topic of family values. English could not have had more fun with that, for several episodes.

To check out which episodes will be shown, visit this link. No matter how busy you are, you’ll want to at least set your DVR to catch some of your favorite Baby Boomer memories, courtesy of “Murphy Brown.” To get you started, here are the episodes you can expect to see, accompanied by plenty of fun cast reminiscences (times are approximate and all in CST)

4:30 p.m. Episode 1 “Respect” (series pilot)
5:00 p.m. Episode 67 “On Another Plane – Part 1”
5:25 p.m. Episode 68 “On Another Plane – Part 2”
6:20 p.m. Episode 35 “Here’s to You, Mrs. Kinsella”
6:50 p.m. Episode 148 “The Tip of the Silverberg”
7:10 p.m. Episode 231 “Waiting to Inhale”
7:35 p.m. Episode 101 “Birth 101”
8:30 p.m. Episode 86 “Mission Control”
9:00 p.m. Episode 102 “You Say Potatoe, I Say Potato–Part 1”
9:30 p.m. Episode 103 “You Say Potatoe, I Say Potato–Part 2”

Each of these episodes runs about 23 minutes, so look for commentary by the cast before and after the shows.
Think of it as just inviting the entire cast of “FYI” into your home for the afternoon and inviting them to stay just a little while longer. Click the video to hear the catchy theme song. FYI–Would you believe there was even an official show album (remember those?)— “The Sounds of Murphy Brown.” Tune in and enjoy some time with a favorite classic TV show on Mother’s Day.