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‘Murph’ Valuable Ally Against Breast Cancer

Tue., Sept. 30, 1997

Just a bundle of chuckles, breast cancer. It’s got millions of women laughing all over the world.

Of course not. Breast cancer is a scary beast. For a woman, it is one of the scariest beasts going. Which is why we should join in the laughter on Wednesday’s 8:30 p.m. sharp season premiere of the CBS comedy “Murphy Brown,” in which a mammogram finds a lump in Murph’s (Candice Bergen) breast.

First, “Murph” is a good way to honor October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Besides, it can’t hurt to follow Norman Cousins’ advice about laughter being the best medicine.

And if a little sharp humor prompts more women to watch for warning signs of breast cancer, to press for more research into causes, treatments and cures, let’s all start laughing now.

Of course “Murph’s” continuing cancer story line, building to Murph’s decision to have a lumpectomy in “Ectomy, Schmectomy” on Oct. 15, is also a smart way to build buzz for the long-lived series. “Murph” is going into its 10th season, which will definitely be Bergen’s last, she confirmed last week.

But back to breast cancer. On Wednesday, Murph’s battle begins in the same way it does for so many women - in very ordinary fashion. At the end of last season Murph left her high-profile anchor position on fictional public affairs show “FYI” to become a White House media adviser. Of course, she’s so opinionated she gets fired. Returning to “FYI,” she discovers that Corky (Faith Ford), her ditzy news reporter-colleague, actually has been doing some solid reporting on breast cancer and mammograms, and Murph hasn’t had a mammogram in two years.

So she has one. Scared, hoping for the best, she finds something worse: a 2-centimeter lump and a doctor who prescribes an immediate biopsy.

Tough stuff, this. But, perhaps because sharp series creator Diane English has returned to “Murph” as executive consultant, perhaps because writer Marc Flanagan has penned an astute script, this episode, tackles its terrifying topic subtly, if sometimes preachily.

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