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Murder, She Wrote

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Intro
Murder, She Wrote
Original Network: CBS
No. of Seasons: 12
No. of Episodes: 264
No. of TV Movies: 4
Originally Aired: September 30, 1984 – May 19, 1996
Production Credits
Created By: Peter S. Fischer, Richard Levinson & William Link
Executive Producer: Peter S. Fischer, David Moessinger
& Angela Lansbury
Theme By: John Addison
Chronology
Related Shows: The Law & Harry McGraw

Murder, She Wrote is an American television mystery series starring Angela Lansbury as mystery writer and amateur detective Jessica Fletcher. The series aired for twelve seasons from 1984 to 1996 on the CBS network. It was followed by four TV films and a spin-off series, The Law & Harry McGraw. It is one of the most successful and longest-running television shows ever for CBS, pulling in close to 23 million viewers in its prime, during its Sunday night slot. It is also hugely successful across the world.

Angela Lansbury has been nominated for a total of ten Golden Globes and twelve Emmies. She holds the record for the most Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress in a television drama series and the most Emmy nominations ever for outstanding lead actress in a drama series for Murder She wrote. It is now considered to be a TV cult classic around the world.

HistoryEdit

OriginsEdit

In early 1984 CBS network executive Harvey Shepard approaches Richard Levinson and William Link about creating a mystery series centered around a female protagonist. They, in turn, contact Peter S. Fischer, and the three of them wrote a pilot episode. Jean Stapleton is envisioned as the female lead, but for a variety of reasons she rejects the part. Angela Lansbury, who has been quietly expressing interest in starring in a television series, is suggested as the next choice, an idea Shepard supports. The trio contact Angela Lansbury for a meeting. Angela meets with Shepard, Levinson, Link, and Fischer on a Friday. She takes the weekend to weight their offer versus another prospective role in an upcoming Norman Lear sitcom. Intrigued by the character and potential of Jessica and by the fact that the show is considered a “long shot,” she accepts Levinson and Link’s offer on the following Monday. In April 1984 filming began and Murder, She Wrote was born

PremiseEdit

Jessica

Jessica in the Season 3 episode "The Cemetery Vote"

The show revolved around the day-to-day life of a retired English teacher who, after being widowed in her early fifties, became a very successful mystery writer. Despite fame and fortune, Jessica remained a resident of Cabot Cove, a cozy coastal town in Maine, and maintained 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.

In most episodes, Jessica would somehow become entangled in a murder investigation. The police were almost always willing to arrest the most likely suspect, but Jessica invariably felt that the so-called guilty party wasn't responsible. Carefully and methodically piecing the clues together and asking questions that no one else had thought of, she always managed to trap the guilty party — 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 varied from place to place. Both the sheriffs of Cabot Cove had resigned themselves to having her meddle in their cases. However, most detectives and police officers didn't want her anywhere near their crime scenes, until her accurate deductions convinced them to listen to her. Some were fans of her books and were glad to assist her investigation. With time, she made friends in many police departments across the USA, 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.

Spin OffEdit

TL&HMTitle

The Title Card from The Law & Harry McGraw

During the Heights of its success Murder, She Wrote spawned a Spin off series: The Law & Harry McGraw. The series centred around the highly popular character of Harry McGraw and the cases he was assigned as a private investigator. The Character of Harry McGraw was created by Peter S. Fischer, he was first seen in "Tough Guys Don't Die" an episode from the first season of Murder, She Wrote. Harry was a down on his luck Private Investigator. He struck a friendship with Mystery Novelist Jessica Fletcher while investigating the murder of his partner. The Character appeared twice more in an episode in the second season and again in the third season. Harry was so popular that CBS commissioned a spin-off series featuring this character. The series was to follow the numerous cases that Harry would investigate. Peter S Fischer created the series and took on a role of Executive Producer. The series premiered on the CBS network on September 27, 1987 with a Two-Hour Pilot Movie. However, despite a small fan following the shows ratings were not what CBS were expecting, and as such cancelled the series in early 1988. The Character of Harry McGraw would however go on to re-appear on Murder, She Wrote three more times.

EndEdit

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 were 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 NBC's extremely popular Friends. Ratings plummeted accordingly, and in March of 1996, CBS announced that the twelfth season of Murder, She Wrote would 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. Death by Demographics ranked 16th in the ratings for the week and was also the highest rated CBS program that week. After the final episode aired, fans could take solace in the fact that Lansbury would sporadically reprise the character of Jessica Fletcher in a handful of feature-length Murder, She Wrote specials.

StarringEdit

Regular CastEdit

Cast1

Doctor Seth Hazlitt, Jessica Fletcher and Sheriff Mort Metzger

While Angela Lansbury was the only one Billed as a regular cast member. The Murder She Wrote Wiki consider the others listed here as regulars given the frequency of their appearances on the show.
  • Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher, The series main protagonist whom would solve different murders week to week. Jessca is a Mystery Novelist and a renowned amateur detective.
  • Tom Bosley as Sheriff Amos Tupper (Seasons 1 - 4), Cabot Cove's sheriff at the start of the series. Tupper later retires and goes to live with his sister.
  • William Windom as Dr. Seth Hazlitt (Season 2 Onwards), the local doctor of Cabot Cove and one of Jessica's best friend. He would often provide Jessica with autopsy reports and other facts pertinent to the case
  • Ron Masak as Sherriff Mort Metzger (Season 5 Onwards), a former NYPD officer who takes Tupper's place as sheriff in the mistaken belief that he would be living in a more peaceful place.

Recurring CastEdit

Jess&Michael

Jessica and MI6 Agent Michael Hagarty

  • Michael Horton as Grady Fletcher (Seasons 1 - 11), 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 to Donna Mayberry.
  • Claude Akins as Ethan Cragg (Season 1), Jessica Close friend a Fisherman and member of the Cabbot Cove volunteer Coast Guard.
  • Jerry Orbach as Harry McGraw (Seasons 1 - 7), an old-school private investigator who becomes friends with Jessica.
  • Len Cariou as Michael Hagarty (Seasons 2 - 9), a British MI6 agent of Irish origin, who would appear when Jessica least expected him to drag her into a dangerous case.
  • Keith Michell as Dennis Stanton (Seasons 5 - 9), 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 (Seasons 9 - 12), a disreputable private investigator who usually gets into trouble and needs Jessica's help.

Guest starsEdit

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

CaptStone

Rene Auberjonois as Captain Thorn

Magnum

Thomas Selleck reprises his role as Thomas Magnum

EpisodesEdit

For several years, the show was the longest-running mystery show on television. In total, there were 264 weekly episodes including the feature-length pilot episode, The Murder of Sherlock Holmes. Lansbury is the only actress to appear in all of the episodes and TV films.

Beginning in season six, Lansbury cut back her appearances due to exhaustion. 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, to wrap up the story. Others, such as Insurance Investigator Dennis Stanton, MI6 Agent Michael Hagarty, and private eye Harry McGraw, took center stage. Viewers, however, didn't respond well to Jessica's frequent absences, and the "surrogate detective" policy was eventually dropped.

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

TV MoviesEdit

Msw tcr

Advertisement for The Celtic Riddle on CBS

  • Murder, She Wrote: South by Southwest, aired November 2, 1997. Jessica is warned away by an FBI agent while following clues to Agua Verde where a woman who left her purse apparently lives.
  • Murder, She Wrote: A Story to Die For, aired May 18, 2000. Jessica Fletcher puts her sleuthing skills to work at a writer's conference after a Russian author is found dead.
  • Murder, She Wrote: The Last Free Man, aired May 2, 2001. Jessica Fletcher uncovers a shocking link between her family history and the death of a slave in the 1860s.
  • Murder, She Wrote: The Celtic Riddle, aired May 9, 2003. Jessica travels to Ireland, where she attends the reading of an old acquaintance's will. The will contains the clues to finding a secret treasure, one that will require an already strained family to work together in order to solve the mystery.

Awards and nominationsEdit

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 AwardsEdit

Nominations

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

Golden GlobesEdit

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)

NovelsEdit

Main article: Novels

Murder, She Wrote Novels continue to be released at the rate of two to three a year. The author is credited as Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain. With "A Slaying In Savannah" being released in late 2008, and "Madison Avenue Shoot" tenatively scheduled for a 2009 release.

DVD ReleasesEdit

Main article: DVDs

Season releasesEdit

MSWS1(R1)

DVD cover art of Murder, She Wrote: The Complete First Season

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has released the first seven seasons of Murder, She Wrote on DVD in Region 1, with season eight to be released in April 2008. Universal Playback have also released the first six seasons in Region 2 with season 7 to be released on March 31 2008. The remaining seasons are expected to be released soon.

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 23, 2008

Other releasesEdit

Title Region 2
Seasons One, Two & Three November 20, 2006
Seasons One, Two, Three, Four & Five October 22, 2007

See AlsoEdit

External LinksEdit

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