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Murder, She Wrote

By Bret Fetzer

There are two audiences for this DVD compilation of the first season of the enormously popular TV series Murder, She Wrote. The first enjoys the classic pleasures of the pre-forensics "whodunit," stories in which murder was not so much a crime as a logic puzzle; the joy here lay in how skillfully a writer could misdirect you.

Murder, She Wrote--in which mystery writer Jessica Fletcher constantly stumbles across dead bodies in every setting imaginable, from a San Francisco drag show to a football field--doesn't have the elegance of an Agatha Christie or Rex Stout mystery, but the show was efficient at laying out its clues and cunningly used the audience's familiarity with television itself (the relative star power of the guests, the need for a dramatic high point before every commercial break, etc.) to mislead and manipulate. And of course Angela Lansbury, as Fletcher, was an ideal television presence: Warm and friendly, but with just a hint of the fierce, steely will she revealed in The Manchurian Candidate. Lansbury drove the show through an impressive twelve seasons (for which she received twelve Emmy nominations), plus multiple TV movies after its cancellation.

The other audience for Murder, She Wrote: The Complete First Season consists of viewers for whom names like Bert Convy, Dack Rambo, and Barbara Babcock send waves of guilty pleasure down their spines. The promotional materials for this boxed set make much ado about brief appearances by stars-to-be like Andy Garcia (who appears briefly as "1st White Tough" in the pilot TV movie) and Joaquin Phoenix (who's around 10 years old and still going by the name Leaf), but every single episode is a festival of B-, C-, and Z-grade celebrities from the 1970s and '80s: Claude Akins, Tom Bosley, Jeff Conaway, David Doyle, Samantha Eggar, Lynda Day George, Morgan Brittany, Belinda Montgomery, Gabe Kaplan, and Lyle Waggoner, just to name a handful. Some of these names may be forgotten, but their faces (and scenery-chewing performances) will spark a Proustian rush of television memories.

Murder, She Wrote on DVD!
Murder, She Wrote is now available on DVD! Get it at Amazon.com!
Season One

 

Share Your Memories!

Do you have a favorite episode of Murder, She Wrote? What do you remember about the series? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"My favorite show was when the doctor ate the poison apple. Then when Jessica saves the doctor and gets help for him. Plus I liked it because it was a 2 parter. Then have all of the other apples checked out for poison as well. Jessica is so smart to figure out how poison got in the person. I always watch Murder, She Wrote for 2 hours. I always find that the show helps me think."

--Anonymous

"There were so many good shows in this series. I enjoyed all the ones where Jessica relives her life with Frank, Thursday's Child and The Last Flight of the Dixie Damsel with Martin Milner and Dale Robertson. My very favorite was on location in New Mexico. It was called Murder Digs Deep about a dig for artifacts. The artifacts were stolen and planted at the dig by Raymond Two Crows DeMarco (Randolph Mantooth). Jessica and Dr. Hazlitt were able to solve the murder, a drowning death of a man pretending to be an Indian in the middle of the New Mexico desert."

--Anonymous

"Mmmmm.
I enjoyed the show but even as a kid I couldn't stand Angela Lansbury. It was all too nice and easy. You could see the plot from miles away, even being 10 yo.
How come I enjoyed it then? Good question,...beats me.
Everyone is entitled to one flaw in character! Not?"

--Rutger

"Murder, She Wrote is one of my favourite shows ever. I love watching Jessica solve the crimes, and even most of the time it's quite obvious who the killer is, it's still a lot of fun to watch. She makes the show feel like you just want to pack and move to Cabot Cove. My husband, along with all of my friends laugh at me for watching this show, but I just tell them that Murder, She Wrote is much more entertaining than a lot of the shows you see on television lately. When A&E has their "Murder, She Wrote Marathons", I watch as many shows as I can, and tape the rest. If DVD's of this show were available, I would definitely try and buy as many as I could afford. Also, the Jessica Fletcher paperbacks have been great!!!

I LOVE THIS SHOW!!!"

--L.W. from Winnipeg

"Writing under the pen name J. B. Fletcher, Jessica writes murder mystery novels after retiring from a teaching job. Oddly, she has many experiences involving murders, whether it occurs in her hometown of Calbot Cove or while visiting an old friend or relative somewhere else. Her character is much like a modern Jessie Marple.

While it is Jessica's tenure in writing murder mysteries that enables her to solve mysteries, she is credited as a detective and slueth. Her observations at times are valued by the investigating authorities or discounted as being nuisance in nature.

One such authority that values Jessica's observations is Calbot Coves own Police Chief (played by Tom Bosley). He seems to be unable to solve a mystery without Jessica's help. In later episodes Jessica is aided by her sometimes naive nephew Grady as well as a few other reoccuring characters.

Murder, She Wrote always ends with the murderer being the last person you suspect. In every episode Jessica is stumped until she remembers something that seems to have little significance. But in the end she is able to tie the loose ends together and set the culprit up to reveal themselves, sometimes putting herself in very precarious and dangerous situation.

This type of writing coupled with Jessica's loveable character helped make this show popular and commanded a pretty loyal audience."

--gattis

"What is there to say about this MAGNIFICENT show? For 12 seasons it produced fine acting and imaginative plots. If you ever think you can get away with murder whilst Jessica Fletcher is around then THINK AGAIN!

The first film (2hr pilot show), Who Killed Sherlock Holmes, was the production team's way of introducing us to this fine actress. Jessica Beatrice Macgill Fletcher was a bit like marmite. Everyone in her town (CAbot Cove) liked her and all the police and detectives didn't. The inquisitive mind of Jessica Fletcher will remain as a wonderful memory and a personal turning point in my life. For the two years where I lived on my own, Jessica Fletcher got me through that period.

After the 12 season run of the TV show, 4 follow up films were made including The CEltic Riddle which was only made in 2003. Ask anyone who Angela Lansbury is and they will always point you to Murder, She Wrote. There is only one problem however, I feel that there were not enough made!"

--Ciaran Phillips

 

TV TIDBITS

Aired: September 30, 1984 - August 4, 1996

Cast: Angela Lansbury, Tom Bosley, Michael Horton

Network: CBS

Genre: Detective Drama

Theme song

Image courtesy of CBS


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