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Murder, She Wrote

Murder, She Wrote is a television mystery series starring Angela Lansbury as mystery writer and amateur detective Jessica Fletcher. The series aired for 12 seasons from 1984 to 1996. It was followed by four TV films, aired from 1997 to 2003, and a spin-off series, The Law & Harry McGraw.

History

Origin

Debuting September 30, 1984, Murder, She Wrote, TV's longest-running mystery series, might never have come about had producers Richard Levinson and William Link enjoyed success with their TV series Ellery Queen. The series folded after a single season, but Levinson and Link were still committed to the concept of a best-selling murder-mystery novelist who solved real murders when not at the typewriter. By changing the gender of their protagonist from male to female, and transforming the character from a good-looking, absentminded young pedant to a middle-aged, down-to-earth widow, the producers were able to parlay their "mystery writer/amateur detective" premise into a 12-year hit for CBS.

Premise

The show revolved around the day-to-day life of a retired English teacher who, after being widowed in her early fifties, becomes a very successful mystery writer. Despite fame and fortune, Jessica remains a resident of Cabot Cove, a cozy coastal town in Maine, and maintains her links with all of her old friends, never letting her success go to her head. Exterior shots of Cabot Cove were filmed in Mendocino, California.

Her one eccentricity is an insatiable curiosity, especially whenever murder rears its ugly head — which it does with great regularity. Critics found it ridiculous how murders seemed to follow Jessica wherever she went. The mystery term "Cabot Cove Syndrome" was eventually coined to describe the constant appearance of dead bodies in remote locations.

In most episodes, Jessica somehow becomes entangled in a murder investigation. The police are almost always willing to arrest the most likely suspect, but Jessica invariably feels that the so-called guilty party was innocent. Carefully and methodically piecing the clues together and asking astute questions, she always manages to trap the real murderer — who, given the series' "special guest star" policy, was often played by a famous film or TV personality.

Jessica's relationship with law enforcement officials varies from place to place. Both sheriffs of Cabot Cove resign themselves to having her meddle in their cases. However, most detectives and police officers do not want her anywhere near their crime scenes, until her accurate deductions convince them to listen to her. Some are fans of her books and are glad to assist her investigation. With time, she makes friends in many police departments across the U.S., as well as a British police officer attached to Scotland Yard.

In 1991, newly appointed executive producer David Moessinger and producer J. Michael Straczynski were brought aboard in an effort to shore up ratings. They moved Jessica to New York, and revitalized the show, bringing it back into the top ten from the mid-thirties where it had fallen. It was Straczynski who made her an instructor in writing and criminology, and is widely held to have most emphasized her role as a working writer, with all the deadlines and problems involved in that profession.

End

A Sunday-evening tradition for over a decade, CBS decided to move Murder, She Wrote from its winning slot to Thursdays during its twelfth and final season. This was due to a restructuring plan to attract a younger audience to Sunday night. The news was much to Lansbury’s dismay, as CBS was apparently willing to let the show flounder and die due to its age and high production costs. Murder, She Wrote was forced to compete with two of NBC's extremely popular sitcoms, Friends and Seinfeld. Ratings plummeted and in March of 1996 CBS announced that the twelfth season of Murder, She Wrote would definitely be its last. However, the final four episodes were allowed to reoccupy Sunday nights and, not surprisingly, ratings improved. The show ended its twelve-year run quietly with an episode titled Death by Demographics. Jessica’s farewell appears as a voiced-over letter at the very end of the episode. Perhaps ironically considering the motive for the aforementioned shift in time slots, the episode focused on the murder of an ageist radio executive determined to attract younger audiences. Death by Demographics ranked 16th in the ratings and was the most watched CBS program for that week. After the final episode aired, fans could take heart in the fact that Lansbury would sporadically reprise the character of Jessica Fletcher in a handful of feature-length Murder, She Wrote specials for the next seven years.

Cast

Regular cast

Recurring cast

  • Michael Horton as Grady Fletcher (1984–1995), Jessica's not-so-lucky favorite nephew, who (through no fault of his own) always seems to get in trouble with the law. After many romantic disasters, he gets married later in the series. In real life, Horton is married to actress Debbie Zipp, who played Grady's eventual wife, Donna Mayberry. The two had been married for many years before working together on Murder, She Wrote.
  • Jerry Orbach as Harry McGraw (1985–1991), an old-school private investigator who becomes friends with Jessica. Orbach was popular enough to garner his own, short-lived spinoff series in 1987, The Law & Harry McGraw.
  • Len Cariou as Michael Hagarty (1985–1992), a British MI6 agent of Irish origin, who would appear when Jessica least expected him to drag her into a dangerous case. Cariou had previously starred with Lansbury in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street as the titular character.
  • Keith Michell as Dennis Stanton (1988–1993), a former jewel thief turned insurance claims investigator, who always solves his cases using unusual methods, and sends a copy of the story to his friend Jessica afterwards.
  • Wayne Rogers as Charlie Garrett (1993–1995), a disreputable private investigator who usually gets into trouble and needs Jessica's help.

Guest stars

Many famous or soon-to-be-famous actors have had guest spots on Murder, She Wrote:

Guest Star Episode(s)
Rene Auberjonois "Mourning Among the Wisterias" (1988)
Adrienne Barbeau "Jessica Behind Bars" (1985), "The Bottom Line is Murder" (1987)
Robert Beltran "Double Jeopardy" (1993), "Time to Die" (1994)
Sonny Bono "Just Another Fish Story" (1988)
James Caviezel "Flim Flam" (1995)
George Clooney "No Laughing Murder" (1987)
Courteney Cox "Death Stalks the Big Top: Part 1" (1986), "Death Stalks the Big Top: Part 2" (1986)
Marcia Cross "Ever After" (1992)
John Hillerman "Magnum on Ice" (1986) (crossover with Magnum, P.I.), "Murder on Madison Avenue" (1992)
Linda Kelsey "Capitol Offense" (1985), "Jessica Behind Bars" (1985), "Track of a Soldier" (1996)
Rue McClanahan "Murder Takes the Bus" (1985)
Kate Mulgrew "The Corpse Flew First Class" (1987), "Ever After" (1992), "The Dying Game" (1994)
Leslie Nielsen "My Johnny Lies Over the Ocean" (1985), "Dead Man's Gold" (1986)
Cynthia Nixon "Threshold of Fear" (1993)
Joaquin Phoenix "We're Off to Kill the Wizard" (1984)
Lynn Redgrave "It's a Dog's Life" (1984)
Tom Selleck "Magnum on Ice" (1986) (crossover with Magnum, P.I.)
David Ogden Stiers "Corned Beef & Carnage" (1986), "An Egg To Die For" (1994), "Death By Demographics" (1996), "The Last Free Man" (2001)
Billy Zane "A Very Good Year for Murder" (1988)

Episodes

For several years, the show was the longest-running mystery show on television. In total, there were 264 weekly episodes including the 2hr feature-length pilot episode, The Murder of Sherlock Holmes(265 episodes, since the pilot is now aired as two separate episodes during reruns) . Lansbury is the only actress to appear in all of the episodes and TV films.

Many of the episodes took place in either Jessica's hometown of Cabot Cove or in New York, but her travels promoting books or visiting relatives and friends (of which she seemed to have an endless supply) led to cases throughout the world. A 1986 crossover episode with Magnum, P.I. took place in Hawaii, which began in the Magnum, P.I. episode "Novel Connection" and concluded in the Murder, She Wrote episode "Magnum On Ice".

Beginning in season six, Lansbury cut back her appearances. A handful of episodes purported to be stories "written" by Jessica, or submitted to her by friends. She would introduce each episode, but generally disappear until the end, when she would wrap up the story. Other sleuths, such as reformed jewel thief turned insurance investigator Dennis Stanton (Keith Michell), retired spy Michael Hagarty (Len Cariou), and down-at-heel private eye Harry McGraw (Jerry Orbach), took center stage. Viewers, however, didn't like Jessica's frequent absences, and the "replacement detective" policy was eventually dropped.

Season Episode # Season Premiere Season Finale Rating
Season One 22 September 30 1984 April 21 1985 #8
Season Two 22 September 29 1985 May 18 1986 #3
Season Three 22 September 28 1986 May 10 1987 #4
Season Four 22 September 20 1987 May 8 1988 #4
Season Five 22 October 23 1988 May 21 1989 #8
Season Six 22 September 24 1989 May 20 1990 #13
Season Seven 22 September 16 1990 May 12 1991 #12
Season Eight 22 September 15 1991 May 17 1992 #8
Season Nine 22 September 20 1992 May 16 1993 #5
Season Ten 21 September 12 1993 May 22 1994 #11
Season Eleven 21 September 25 1994 May 14 1995 #8
Season Twelve 24 September 21 1995 May 19 1996 #65

TV Movies

In February 2007 on the ABC daytime talk show The View, Lansbury announced that she hopes to make another Murder, She Wrote TV movie in the near future, if her son, Anthony Shaw, can find a suitable story.

Awards and nominations

Murder, She Wrote received numerous Emmy Award nominations. Angela Lansbury herself holds the record for the most Emmy nominations for outstanding lead actress in a drama series, with 12, one for each season. She never won, which is also a record. The show won only twice, for costume design in 1986 and music composition in 1985.

Lansbury was more successful with the Golden Globe Awards, winning four times.

Emmy Awards

Nominations

  • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Angela Lansbury) (1985-1996)

Golden Globes

Wins

  • Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series - Drama (Angela Lansbury) (1985, 1987, 1990, 1992)
  • Best TV Series - Drama (1985, 1986)

Nominations

  • Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series - Drama (Angela Lansbury) (1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995)
  • Best TV Series - Drama (1987-1990)

Screen Actors Guild Awards

Nominations

  • Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series - Drama (Angela Lansbury) (1995)

Murder, She Wrote Novels

Novels by Donald Bain

In keeping with the spirit of the TV show, the author credit for a series of official original novels, written by Coffee, Tea, or Me? writer Donald Bain, is shared with the fictitious "Jessica Fletcher".

  • Gin and Daggers (1st edition) (1989)
  • Manhattans and Murder (1994)
  • Rum and Razors (1995)
  • Brandy and Bullets (1995)
  • Martinis and Mayhem (1995)
  • A Deadly Judgment (1996)
  • A Palette for Murder (1996)
  • The Highland Fling Murders (1997)
  • Murder on the QE2 (1997)
  • Murder in Moscow (1998)
  • A Little Yuletide Murder (1998)
  • Murder at the Powderhorn Ranch (1999)
  • Knock 'em Dead (1999)
  • Gin and Daggers (2nd edition) (2000)
  • Trick or Treachery (2000)
  • Blood on the Vine (2001)

  • Murder in a Minor Key (2001)
  • Provence - to Die for (2002)
  • You Bet Your Life (2002)
  • Majoring in Murder (2003)
  • Destination Murder (2003)
  • Dying to Retire (2004)
  • A Vote for Murder (2004)
  • The Maine Mutiny (2005)
  • Margaritas and Murder (2005)
  • A Question of Murder (2006)
  • Three Strikes and You're Dead (2006)
  • Coffee, Tea, or Murder (2007)
  • Panning For Murder (2007)
  • Murder on Parade (2008)
  • A Slaying in Savannah (2008)
  • Madison Avenue Shoot (2009)

Novels by J. B. Fletcher

During the series many novels that J. B. Fletcher wrote were mentioned. Her first novel, The Corpse Danced at Midnight, was made into a film in one episode.

  • The Corpse Danced at Midnight
  • Dirge for a Dead Dachshund
  • A Faded Rose Beside Her
  • Murder on the Amazon
  • Lover's Revenge
  • The Umbrella Murders
  • Murder at the Inn
  • Murder at the Digs
  • Murder in a Minor Key
  • The Stain on the Stairs
  • The Mystery of the Mutilated Minion
  • The Belgrade Murders
  • Sanitarium of Death
  • Calvin Canterbury's Revenge
  • Murder at the Asylum
  • Murder Comes to Maine
  • Good-bye, Charlie
  • The Corpse That Wasn't There
  • Ashes, Ashes, Fall Down Dead
  • The Messengers of Midnight
  • Mrs. Parker's Revenge

  • The Poison in My Heart
  • All the Murderers
  • Murder at the Ridge Top
  • The Corpse at Vespers
  • The Triple Crown Murders
  • The Crypt of Death
  • A Killing at Hastings Rock
  • The Uncaught
  • Murder in White
  • The Dead Must Sing
  • The Killer Called Collect
  • Stone Cold Dead
  • Endangered
  • The Launch Pad Murders
  • Runway to Murder
  • The Venomous Valentine
  • A Case of a Half of Murder
  • Yours Truly, Damian Sinclair
  • The Dead Man Sang
  • The Corpse Swam by Moonlight
  • The Zero Aspect

DVD releases

Season releases

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has released the first eight seasons of Murder, She Wrote on DVD in Region 1. Universal Playback has released the first eight seasons in Region 2. The remaining seasons are expected to be released soon. Region 2 release dates are the United Kingdom release dates only.

Title Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
The Complete First Season March 29 2005 August 29 2005 May 2 2007
The Complete Second Season December 6 2005 May 1 2006 August 1 2007
The Complete Third Season March 14 2006 July 31 2006 September 5 2007
The Complete Fourth Season October 17 2006 March 24 2007 September 5 2007
The Complete Fifth Season January 30 2007 July 23 2007 November 21 2007
The Complete Sixth Season April 17 2007 September 10 2007 November 21 2007
The Complete Seventh Season October 9 2007 March 31 2008 April 30 2008
The Complete Eighth Season April 1 2008 June 16 2008 July 2 2008

Other releases

In the United Kingdom, Universal Playback has released several multi-season box sets.

Title Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Seasons 1–3 N/A November 20 2006 N/A
Seasons 1–5 N/A October 22 2007 N/A

International

Murder, She Wrote has been broadcast in many countries around the world, and is repeated regularly in many of them.
Country Channel(s) Title Translation Language
Australia Network Ten,
TV1
Murder, She Wrote English
Austria ORF Mord ist ihr Hobby Murder is Her Hobby German dubbed
Belgium VTM Murder, She Wrote English,
Dutch subtitles
Brazil Universal Channel Assassinato por Escrito Written Murder Portuguese dubbed
Bulgaria Fox Crime,
Diema
Убийство по сценарии Murder, She Wrote Bulgarian dubbed
Canada A&E, Vision TV Murder, She Wrote English
Canada: Quebec TQS Elle écrit au meurtre She writes on the (subject of) murder French dubbed
Chile Canal 13 Reportera del crimen Crime Reporter Spanish dubbed
Croatia HRT Ubojstvo, napisala je Murder, She Wrote English,
Croatian subtitles
Czech Republic TV Nova To je vražda, napsala Murder, She Wrote Czech dubbed
Denmark DR 2 Hun så et mord She Saw a Murder English,
Danish subtitles
Estonia TV3 Mõrv sai teoks Murder Became True English,
Estonian subtitles
Finland YLE TV1 Murhasta tuli totta Murder Became True English,
Finnish subtitles
France La Cinq,
TF1,
TV Breizh
Arabesque Arabesque French dubbed
Germany ARD,
RTL,
Super RTL
Immer, wenn sie Krimis schrieb,
Mord ist ihr Hobby
Each Time When She Wrote a Crime Novel,
Murder is Her Hobby
German dubbed
Greece Star Channel Η συγγραφέας ντετέκτιβ The Detective Writer English,
Greek subtitles
Hungary Viasat 3 Gyilkos sorok Murderous Lines Hungarian dubbed
Ireland RTÉ One Murder, She Wrote English
Italy Rai Uno,
Fox Crime
La signora in giallo The Mystery Lady Italian dubbed
Japan NHK,
Mystery Channel,
LaLa TV,
Chiba TV,
Gunma TV
Jessica obasan no jikenbo Aunt Jessica's Case Files Japanese dubbed
Mexico Universal Channel La reportera del crimen The Crime Reporter Spanish dubbed
Netherlands RTL 8 Murder, She Wrote English,
Dutch subtitles
Norway TV3 Jessica Fletcher Jessica Fletcher English,
Norwegian subtitles
Philippines GMA Network,
RJTV 29
Murder, She Wrote English
Portugal RTP 1 Crime, Disse Ela Crime, She Said English,
Portuguese subtitles
Romania Pro Cinema,
TVR 2
Verdict: Crima Verdict: Murder English,
Romanian subtitles
Russia НТВ,
Домашний
Она написала убийство Murder, She Wrote Russian dubbed
Slovakia Markíza To je vražda, napísala Murder, She Wrote Slovak dubbed
Slovenia Kanal A Umor je napisala Murder, She Wrote English,
Slovene subtitles
Spain TVE,
Calle 13,
Antena 3
Se ha escrito un crimen A Crime has Been Written Spanish dubbed
Spain: Catalonia TV3 S'ha escrit un crim A Crime has Been Written Catalan dubbed
Spain: Galicia TVG Escribiuse un crime A Crime has Been Written Galician dubbed
Sweden TV3 Mord och inga visor Murder and not Melodies English,
Swedish subtitles
Turkey TRT 1,
Star TV,
Kanal D
Cinayet Dosyası Murder File Turkish dubbed
United Kingdom ITV,
BBC One,
BBC Two,
UKTV Gold,
UKTV Drama
Murder, She Wrote English
United States A&E,
Biography Channel,
Hallmark Channel
Murder, She Wrote English
Uruguay Monte Carlo Televisión Reportera del crimen Crime Reporter Spanish dubbed

References

External links


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