Could we pause for a moment in the middle of the Seinfeld Sign-off Week that has turned into mass mourning for nothingness?
There is another show about something and someone that deserves more than a cursory farewell.On Monday, after 10 years, 18 Emmys, 245 episodes and one controversy, the indomitable Murphy Brown is leaving "FYI," CBS and the national stage. And she's leaving us without a woman close to her style or substance.
In 1988, Murphy Brown stepped out of an elevator, fresh from the Betty Ford Clinic, and into the feminist handbook. She was the woman who bulldozed her way through the glass ceiling and the television set.
Murphy Brown was hard news, tough as nails and funny. She was ambitious and cranky, self-centered and work-obsessed, a control freak who made you forget she was beautiful. And she got away with it all.
Over the years Murphy Brown was called "Mike Wallace with a skirt" or "Mary Tyler Moore on steroids." A nervous Esquire cover once asked, "Who is Man Enough for This Woman?"
But women of a certain generation saw Murphy as one of them, a success who made it the only way possible then, by kicking in the door, being one of and better than the boys. As her creator and producer Diane English says, "She was able to function in a man's world, as a man, giving as good as she got."
Of course, we saw the female price of success for a star who went home to sing off-key songs alone. But we also reveled in her freedom. This was one woman who didn't raise her hand before speaking or apologize for being right.
When Murphy unexpectedly became pregnant, the sitcom became national news. A vice president who'd never seen the show blamed her for undermining the nation's morals. At the 1992 Republican convention, buttons read "Dan's Right, Murphy's a Tramp."
But the controversy about single motherhood blocked the deeper question on many women's minds: Could you still be Murphy and a mom? As Murphy told her newsroom pals, "Everyone's afraid I'm going to go into the delivery room Murphy Brown and come out Harriet Nelson."
When FYI's star got breast cancer last fall, a friend wryly suggested that the anchorwoman was finally punished for uppityness. But the show and the image had run its course.
But it must also be said that television these days is playing safe, and strong women are still risky. "Murphy always nailed people," says Candice Bergen, who played her with the precision of a fine-tuned comedic instrument.
Ten years and 245 episodes, one pregnancy and one chemotherapy later, it is Bergen who gets to sum up her alter ego: "She made me braver. Her strength has been great company for me."
Thanks for the company.
The Boston Globe Newspaper Co.