Question: Which future “Brat Packer” was written off of The Facts of Life in 1980?
Last Question: What sitcom opened in 1988 with its title character returning from a stint at the Betty Ford Clinic?
Answer: Murphy Brown
Murphy Brown premiered on November 14, 1988. Murphy Brown, played by Candice Bergen, was a recovering alcoholic, who, in the show’s first episode, was returning to FYI for the first time since a stay at the Betty Ford Clinic. FYI was the television news magazine that Brown for whom she was investigative journalist and news anchor. Her colleagues at FYI included stuffy anchor Jim Dial (Charles Kimbrough), who affectionately addressed Murphy as “Slugger”; reporter Frank Fontana (Joe Regalbuto, who hated the toupée he had to wear for the show); and the scatterbrained Corky Sherwood (Faith Ford), a former Miss America. Sherwood was first runner-up until the winner was forced to resign (Sherwood remarked in the first episode, “She told everyone she loved animals, but who knew to take her literally?”). New to the staff was producer Miles Silverberg (Grant Shaud), who, at 25 and fresh from work in public television, was perfect for utter torture from Murphy.
In the show’s 1991–1992 season, Murphy became pregnant. When her baby’s father expressed his unwillingness to give up his own lifestyle to be a parent, Murphy chose to have the child and raise it alone. Right after giving birth to her son, Avery, Murphy sang the song “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin. This story line made the show a subject of political controversy during the 1992 American presidential campaign. On May 19, 1992, then Vice President Dan Quayle spoke at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. During his speech, he criticized the Murphy Brown character for “ignoring the importance of fathers by birthing a child alone”.
Quayle’s remarks caused a public discussion on family values, culminating in the 1992–93 season premiere, “You Say Potatoe, I Say Potato”, where the television characters reacted to Quayle’s comments and produced a special episode of FYI showcasing and celebrating the diversity of the modern American family. Because Quayle’s actual speech made little reference to Murphy Brown’s fictional nature (other than the use of the word character), the show was able to use actual footage from his speech to make it appear that, within the fictional world of the show, Quayle was referring to Murphy Brown personally, rather than to the fictional character. At the end, Brown helps organize a special edition of FYI focusing on different kinds of families then arranges a retaliatory prank in which a truckload of potatoes is dumped in front of Quayle’s residence, while a disc jockey commenting on the incident notes the Vice President should be glad people were not making fun of him for misspelling “fertilizer”. (On June 15, 1992, at a spelling bee in Trenton, New Jersey, Quayle had erroneously corrected an elementary school student’s spelling of “potato” to “potatoe”.) When Candice Bergen won another Emmy that year, she thanked Dan Quayle.
The show ended its run on May 18, 1998, after a total of 247 episodes.