Murder, She Wrote
|Murder, She Wrote|
|Created by||Peter S. Fischer
|Theme music composer||John Addison|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||12|
|No. of episodes||264 (+ 4 TV movies)
(List of episodes)
|Executive producer(s)||Angela Lansbury (1992–96)
Peter S. Fischer
|Running time||48 minutes
|Production company(s)||Universal Television
|Distributor||NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution (current)|
|Picture format||35 mm film
4:3 480i (SDTV)
4:3 1080i (HDTV)
|Original release||September 30, 1984 – May 19, 1996|
|Related shows||Magnum, P.I.
The Law & Harry McGraw
Murder, She Wrote is an American crime drama television series starring Angela Lansbury as mystery writer and amateur detective Jessica Fletcher. The series aired for 12 seasons with 264 episodes from 1984 to 1996 on the CBS network. It was followed by four TV films and a spin-off series was produced in 1987, The Law & Harry McGraw. It is one of the most successful and longest-running television shows in history, averaging close to 26 million viewers per week in its prime, and was a staple of the CBS Sunday night lineup for a decade. In syndication, the series is still highly successful throughout the world.
Lansbury was nominated for a total of ten Golden Globes, and 12 Emmy Awards for her work on Murder, She Wrote. She holds the record for the most Golden Globe nominations and wins for Best Actress in a television drama series and the most Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Murder, She Wrote, with those nominations netting her four Golden Globe awards. The series received three nominations but no wins in the Outstanding Drama Series category at the Emmys. It was nominated for a Golden Globe in the same category six times and won twice.
Since the series ended in 1996, a series of four TV movies was released between 1997 and 2003. In 2009, a point-and-click video game was released for the PC platform, followed in 2012 by a sequel. A spin-off book series, written by Donald Bain, continues publication at present.
- 1 History
- 2 Cast
- 3 Episodes
- 4 Awards and nominations
- 5 U.S. television ratings
- 6 Broadcast history
- 7 Abandoned reboot
- 8 International syndication
- 9 Merchandise
- 10 Multimedia
- 11 References
- 12 External links
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Murder, She Wrote might never have come about had producers Richard Levinson and William Link succeeded with their TV series Ellery Queen. That series folded after a single season, but Levinson and Link were still committed to the concept of a bestselling murder-mystery novelist who solved real murders when not at the typewriter. In collaboration with writer-producer Peter S. Fischer, with whom they had previously worked on Ellery Queen and Columbo, Link and Levinson changed the sex of their protagonist from male to female and transformed the character from a good-looking, absent-minded young pedant to a middle-aged, down-to-earth widow.
Murder, She Wrote was never pitched as an American version of the Agatha Christie character Miss Marple, contrary to rumors. The show was initially offered to actress Jean Stapleton, who turned it down stating that, after nine years of playing Edith Bunker on All in the Family and Archie Bunker's Place, respectively, she did not want to be tied down to another series. Doris Day was offered the part afterwards, and also declined.
Fischer, Levinson and Link thought Angela Lansbury would be perfect in the part but had not dreamed that she would be interested in a television series. Earlier, she had acted in two film adaptations of Agatha Christie's mystery novels: as the murder suspect/victim Salome in Death on the Nile (1978 film) and as the famous sleuth Miss Marple in The Mirror Crack'd (1980). When the latter film failed, the offer for Lansbury to reprise Miss Marple in three more films never materialized.
When she made it known she would be available if the right project came along, the trio of creators sent her the script and almost immediately, Lansbury felt she could do something with the role of Jessica Fletcher. With Murder, She Wrote debuting on Sunday, September 30, 1984, the producers were able to parlay their "mystery writer/amateur detective" premise into a 12-year hit for CBS. It also made Lansbury, known previously for her motion picture and Broadway stage work, a household name for millions of television viewers. The title comes from Murder, She Said, which was the title of a 1961 film adaptation of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple novel 4:50 from Paddington.
The show revolves around the day-to-day life of Jessica Fletcher, a childless, widowed, retired English teacher who becomes a 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. The fictional "Cabot Cove" name for the series' coastal town was derived from the name of an actual bay harbor inlet in Kennebunkport, Maine, located near the town's center, on the road where motels and lobster shack dives are located.
The show mostly starts with a preview of the episode's events, with Jessica stating: "Tonight On Murder, She Wrote..." Jessica invariably proves more perceptive than the official investigators, who are almost always willing to arrest the most likely suspect. By carefully piecing the clues together and asking astute questions, she always manages to trap the real murderer. Murder occurred with such regularity in her vicinity that the term "Cabot Cove syndrome" was coined to describe the constant appearance of dead bodies in remote locations. Indeed, if Cabot Cove existed in real life, it would top the FBI's national crime statistics in numerous categories, with some analysis suggesting that the homicide rate in Cabot Cove exceeds even that of the real-life murder capital of the world. Fan theories have even arisen that Jessica herself is murdering these people since there is no better explanation for the sheer number of murders she encounters throughout the long run of the series besides her involvement in all of them.
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 happy to have her assistance from the start, often because they are fans of her books. With time, she makes friends in many police departments across the U.S., as well as with a British police officer attached to Scotland Yard.
At the start of season eight, more of the stories were set in New York City with Jessica moving into an apartment there part-time in order to teach criminology.
By August 1988, when Lansbury expressed weariness of her commitment, the series was expected to end in May 1989. Nevertheless, Lansbury continued in the role. By the end of the 1994–95 season, Murder, She Wrote's 11th, Lansbury was content continuing with the series, although her advancing age became a concern to the producers and the network (she had just turned 70). CBS effectively made the decision for her that autumn. After spending 11 years on Sunday, the network's longest-running weekly series (at that time) was moved to Thursday nights at 8 p.m. This put the series in direct competition with the first hour of NBC's Must See TV lineup, which had been drawing the highest ratings of the week for any network for years.
Despite protests of many of the show's fans (who believed CBS was intentionally setting the show up to fail in its new timeslot), CBS refused to budge on the new timeslot. Murder, She Wrote plummeted from eighth to 58th in the yearly ratings; the series lost nearly 6 million viewers as the audience was not willing to follow it to Thursday, which left CBS with little choice but to end Murder, She Wrote after 12 seasons in August 1996. To soften the blow, the network agreed to air the final four episodes in its original Sunday night timeslot, as well as commission four Murder, She Wrote movies over the next few years: the first was South by Southwest (1997), with three more following as A Story to Die For (2000), The Last Free Man (2001), and The Celtic Riddle (2003).
Lansbury stated in May 2011 that she would like to make a comeback appearance as Jessica Fletcher.However, in a 2015 interview, Lansbury squashed the idea of reprising the much beloved character stating, "I think it would be a downer. In some way, we’d have to show her as a much older woman, and I think it’s better to maintain that picture we have in our mind’s eye of her as a vigorous person. I’m still pretty vigorous, especially in the garden … but if I wanted to transform myself back into the woman I looked like then, it would be ridiculous. And I can’t do that."
- Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher (1984–96; 263 episodes), a retired English teacher who, after being widowed in her early fifties, becomes a very successful mystery writer.
- William Windom as Dr. Seth Hazlitt (1985–96; 49 episodes), the local doctor of Cabot Cove and one of Jessica's best friends and most intrepid supporters. There is a hint that Dr. Hazlitt may want to be more than a platonic friend but this possibility was never explored. In the season one finale, Windom portrayed Sam Breen, a lawyer who jointly murdered the victim in that episode.
- Tom Bosley as Sheriff Amos Tupper (1984–88; 19 episodes), Cabot Cove's sheriff at the start of the series. Tupper later retires and goes to live with his sister.
- Ron Masak as Sheriff Mort Metzger (1988–96; 38 episodes), 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. His unseen wife, Adele, a former Marine capable of prodigious acts of strength, teaches self-defense classes. In an earlier season episode, Masak portrayed a different character, a store owner in trouble with the IRS, trying to get out of trouble by selling his business. He also portrayed a police officer investigating the murder of an author in another season one episode.
- Louis Herthum as Deputy Andy Broom (1991–96, 25 episodes)
- Michael Horton as Grady Fletcher (1984–95; 11 episodes), 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 were married before working together on Murder, She Wrote.
- Jerry Orbach as Harry McGraw (1985–91; 6 episodes), 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 (1985–92; 7 episodes), a British MI5 agent who would appear when Jessica least expected him to drag her into a dangerous case. Cariou had previously starred with Lansbury on Broadway in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street as the titular character.
- Richard Paul as Sam Booth (1986–91; 7 episodes), the genial, ineffectual mayor of Cabot Cove whose main campaign promise is that he will do nothing.
- Julie Adams as Eve Simpson (1987–93; 10 episodes), the Cabot Cove realtor with a great love for men, both single and married, and for gossiping.
- Ruth Roman as Loretta Speigel (1987–89; 3 episodes), Cabot Cove's lovelorn hairdresser, also an inveterate gossip.
- Keith Michell as Dennis Stanton (1988–93; 9 episodes), a suave English former jewel thief turned insurance claims investigator, who always solves his cases using unusual methods, and often sends a copy of the story to Jessica afterwards. Stanton's assistant, Rhoda, who appeared in most or all of the Stanton-related episodes, was played by Hallie Todd. Many of the episodes starring Michell do not involve Jessica, and usually begin with her introducing the story to the audience invoking the fourth wall.
- Wayne Rogers as Charlie Garrett (1993–95; 5 episodes), a disreputable private investigator who usually gets into trouble and needs Jessica's help.
- Claude Akins as Ethan Cragg (1984; 4 episodes), Jessica's fisherman friend.
Crossover with Magnum, P.I.
The episode of Magnum, P.I. entitled "Magnum on Ice" concludes a crossover that begins on the earlier Magnum, P.I. episode "Novel Connection". In the episode's plot, Jessica comes to Hawaii to investigate an attempt to murder Robin Masters' guests, then tries to clear Magnum when he's accused of killing the hitman.
Awards and nominations
Over its twelve-year run Murder, She Wrote received numerous award nominations. Angela Lansbury herself holds the record for the most Emmy nominations for outstanding lead actress in a drama series with twelve, one for each season. She never won, which is also a record. Mary Dodson, the art director for 102 of the series' 264 episodes, received three Emmy nominations for her work on Murder, She Wrote.
|Emmy Awards||Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Angela Lansbury)||1985–96||Nominated|
|Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (John Addison)||1985||Won|
|Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Bruce Babcock)||1993, 1995||Nominated|
|Outstanding Costume Design for a Series (Alfred E. Lehman)||1986||Won|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best TV Series – Drama||1985, 1986||Won|
|Best TV Series – Drama||1987–90||Nominated|
|Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series – Drama (Angela Lansbury)||1985, 1987, 1990 & 1992||Won|
|Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series – Drama (Angela Lansbury)||1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993 & 1995||Nominated|
|Edgar Awards||Best Episode of a TV Series ("Deadly Lady")||1985||Won|
|Best Episode of a TV Series ("The Dead File")||1993||Nominated|
|Screen Actors Guild Awards||Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series – Drama (Angela Lansbury)||1995||Nominated|
U.S. television ratings
Murder, She Wrote maintained extremely high ratings finishing in the top 15 of shows for eleven of its 12 seasons (eight of which it was in the top 10), even well into its late seasons. By its 11th season, Murder, She Wrote was still averaging 25 million viewers per week. However, at the beginning of its 12th season in 1995, CBS moved the show from its extremely popular Sunday night time slot to Thursday night forcing it to compete with NBC's Must See TV line up, and as a result the ratings plummeted. The show rated as the following:
|Season||Episodes||Season premiere||Season finale||TV season||Rank||Rating|
|1||22||September 30, 1984||April 21, 1985||1984–85||#8||20.1|
|2||22||September 29, 1985||May 18, 1986||1985–86||#3||25.3|
|3||22||September 28, 1986||May 10, 1987||1986–87||#4||25.4|
|4||22||September 20, 1987||May 8, 1988||1987–88||#4||20.2|
|5||22||October 23, 1988||May 21, 1989||1988–89||#8||19.9|
|6||22||September 24, 1989||May 20, 1990||1989–90||#13||17.7|
|7||22||September 16, 1990||May 12, 1991||1990–91||#12||16.4|
|8||22||September 15, 1991||May 17, 1992||1991–92||#8||16.9|
|9||22||September 20, 1992||May 16, 1993||1992–93||#5||17.7|
|10||21||September 12, 1993||May 22, 1994||1993–94||#11||16.0|
|11||21||September 25, 1994||May 14, 1995||1994–95||#8||15.6|
|12||24||September 21, 1995||May 19, 1996||1995–96||#58||9.50|
- Sunday at 8:00–9:00 pm on CBS – September 30, 1984 – May 14, 1995; January 7, 1996; April 25, 1996 – May 19, 1996
- Sunday at 9:00–10:00 pm on CBS – March 10, 1985
- Thursday at 8:00–9:00 pm on CBS – September 21, 1995 – April 4, 1996
Deadline Hollywood reported in October 2013 that NBC was planning a reboot of the series, starring Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer as a "hospital administrator and amateur sleuth who self-publishes her first mystery novel." Angela Lansbury has commented that she is not a fan of using the title, saying "I think it's a mistake to call it 'Murder, She Wrote,' because 'Murder, She Wrote' will always be about Cabot Cove and this wonderful little group of people who told those lovely stories and enjoyed a piece of that place, and also enjoyed Jessica Fletcher, who is a rare and very individual kind of person." Early on it was decided by producers that Spencer's character would not be named Jessica Fletcher, for only Lansbury could play Jessica Fletcher. It was announced on January 21, 2014, that the reboot would not be going forward.
Since its original run on CBS, Murder, She Wrote has been syndicated in many countries around the world.
|Argentina||-||Reportera del crimen||Crime Reporter||Spanish dubbed|
|Murder, She Wrote||English|
|Mord ist ihr Hobby||Murder Is Her Hobby||German dubbed|
|Murder, She Wrote||English,
|Belgium: Wallonia||La Une||Arabesque||French dubbed|
|Brazil||Universal Channel||Assassinato por Escrito||Written Murder||Portuguese dubbed|
|Убийство по сценарий||Murder by Script||Bulgarian dubbed, Bulgarian subtitles|
|Canada||Vision TV||Murder, She Wrote||English|
|Canada: Quebec||TQS||Elle écrit au meurtre||She Writes "Murder!"||French dubbed|
|Chile||Canal 13||Reportera del crimen||Crime Reporter||Spanish dubbed|
|Croatia||HRT||Ubojstvo, napisala je||Murder, She Wrote||English,
|To je vražda, napsala||That Is Murder, She Wrote||Czech dubbed|
|Hun så et mord||She Saw a Murder||English,
|Estonia||TV3||Mõrv sai teoks||Murder Became True||English,
|Fiji||FBC TV||Murder She Wrote||English|
MTV3 Sarja, Kolmoskanava
|Murhasta tuli totta||Murder Became True||English,
TV Breizh, TMC
|Immer, wenn sie Krimis schrieb;
Mord ist ihr Hobby
|Whenever She Wrote Crime Novels;
Murder is Her Hobby
|German dubbed, original English version|
|Greece||Star Channel||Η συγγραφέας ντετέκτιβ||The Detective Writer||English,
|Hungary||Viasat 3||Gyilkos sorok||Murderous Lines||Hungarian dubbed|
|Ireland||RTÉ One||Murder, She Wrote||English|
|רצח במשיכת קולמוס||Murder With a Stroke of Pen||English,
|La signora in giallo||The Lady in Yellow||Italian dubbed|
Jessica obasan no jikenbo
|Auntie Jessica's Case Files||Japanese dubbed|
|Kuwait||KTV 2||Murder, She Wrote||English,
|Noziegumam pa pēdām||On the Trail of the Crime||Latvian dubbed|
|Lithuania||TV3||Džesika Flečer||Jessica Fletcher||Lithuanian dubbed|
|Macedonia||Fox Crime||Убиство, таа напиша||Murder, She Wrote||English,
Universal Channel (former),
FX Latin America (current)
|La reportera del crimen||The Crime Reporter||Spanish dubbed|
13th Street Universal
|Murder, She Wrote||English,
|New Zealand||TV One,
|Murder, She Wrote||English|
|Jessica Fletcher||Jessica Fletcher||English,
|Murder, She Wrote||English|
|Murder, She Wrote||English|
|Napisała: Morderstwo||Murder, She Wrote||English,
Polish voice-over translation
|Crime, Disse Ela||Crime, She Said||English,
|Verdict: Crimă||Verdict: Murder||English,
|Она написала убийство||Murder, She Wrote||Russian dubbed|
|Serbia||FOX Crime||Pisac i detektiv||A Writer and a Detective||English,
|Slovakia||Markíza||To je vražda, napísala||Murder, She Wrote||Slovak dubbed|
|Umor, je napisala||Murder, She Wrote||English,
|South Africa||TV1||Murder, She Wrote||English|
|South Korea||MBC||제시카의 추리 극장
Jessica-eui Churi Geukjang
|Jessica's Detective Theatre||Korean dubbed|
|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|
|Mord och inga visor||Murder and No Melodies||English,
|Cinayet Dosyası||Murder File||Turkish dubbed|
|Ukraine||СТБ||Вона написала вбивство||Murder, She Wrote||Ukrainian dubbed|
|Murder, She Wrote||English|
|United States||Hallmark Movie Channel,
|Murder, She Wrote||English|
|Uruguay||Monte Carlo Televisión||Reportera del crimen||Crime Reporter||Spanish dubbed|
|Venezuela||Televen||Reportera del crimen||Crime Reporter||Spanish dubbed|
In 1985, Warren Company released a Murder, She Wrote board game. In the game, one player takes the hidden role of a killer and the other players try to determine which player is the killer through deduction. The killer is successful if he or she can kill five of the characters on the game-board and escape, while the detective players win by correctly deducing the identity of the killer.
In December 2009, casual game developer and publisher Legacy Interactive, under license with Universal Pictures Digital Platforms Group (UPDPG), announced the release a PC and Macintosh video game based on the television series. In the game, players help Jessica Fletcher to solve five unusual murders. A sequel, Murder She Wrote 2, was launched by Legacy Interactive in November 2012.
- Silden, Isobel (August 17, 1989). "It's No Crime When Yesterday's Stars Get Into 'Murder'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
- Weinstein, Steve (May 21, 1994). "Television: After 10 years and more than 200 corpses, no one has been able to knock off 'Murder, She Wrote,' powered by you-know-who.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
- Haithman, Diane (October 20, 1990). "TV: The grind of a weekly hour series is too much, but a half-hour show is something else.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
- Harmetz, Aljean (October 27, 1985). "Angela Lansbury's unlikely sleuth has staying power". The New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2010.
- Weinraub, Bernard (December 1, 1991). "TELEVISION; Angela Lansbury Has a Hit. She Wants Respect". The New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2010.
- "The Law And Harry McGraw and Murder, She Wrote". Poobala. Retrieved January 9, 2016.
- N/A, N/A (September 25, 1988). "TV Ratings Archive – 1988/1989". USA Today Weekly. Retrieved February 16, 2016.
- E3 2009: Murder, She Wrote game coming to the PC, news.bigdownload.com, June 8, 2009; retrieved January 14, 2010.
- "First screenshots of Murder, She Wrote". Murdershewrotegame.com. November 17, 2011. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
- Brunsdale, Mitzi M., Icons of Mystery and Crime Detection: From Sleuths to Superheroes. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO,LLC (2010), p. 307
- "Murder She Wrote" location named as Murder Capital of World
- "TV Conspiracy Theory: Was Angela Lansbury Actually a Serial Killer on ‘Murder She Wrote’?"
- "Movies Keep `Murder, She Wrote' Alive". Chicago Tribune. August 5, 1997. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
- "'Murder, She Wrote' Angela Lansbury Return". Entertainment Weekly. May 13, 2011. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
- Barnes, Mike (2016-02-21). "Mary Weaver Dodson, Art Director on 'Murder, She Wrote,' Dies at 83". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2016-03-13.
- Du Brow, Rick (September 13, 1991). "Television: Angela Lansbury is miffed that her top-rated series, a CBS bulwark, is routinely ignored at Emmy time: 'The industry is barely aware the show exists.'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
- "TV Ratings: 1984–85". Classictvhits.com. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
- "TV Ratings: 1985–86". Classictvhits.com. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
- "TV Ratings: 1986–87". Classictvhits.com. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
- "TV Ratings: 1987–88". Classictvhits.com. July 26, 2002. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
- "TV Ratings: 1988–89". Classictvhits.com. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
- "TV Ratings: 1989–90". Classictvhits.com. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
- "TV Ratings: 1990–91". Classictvhits.com. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
- "TV Ratings: 1991–92". Classictvhits.com. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
- "TV Ratings: 1992–93". Classictvhits.com. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
- "TV Ratings: 1989–90". Classictvhits.com. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
- "TV Ratings: 1994–95". Classictvhits.com. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
- "TV Ratings: 1995–96". fbibler.chez.com. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
- Andreeva, Nellie (Oct 24, 2013). "NBC To Reboot ‘Murder, She Wrote’ With Octavia Spencer Starring, Alex Cunningham Writing And David Janollari Producing". Deadline.com. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
- "Angela Lansbury is not happy with 'Murder, She Wrote' remake". Los Angeles Times. November 11, 2013.
- Andreeva, Nellie (January 21, 2014). "NBC’s ‘Murder She Wrote’ Reboot Not Going Forward, Could Be Revisited In The Future". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 21, 2014.
- In Italian, the "yellow genre" expression is equivalent to crime fiction from the 1930s when an Italian publisher, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, published a series of crime fiction books using a yellow cover.
- While "Murder and No Melodies" is the literal translation, the translation is a word play, alluding to the Swedish idiom "Ord och inga visor" ("Words and no melodies"), with the idiomatic meaning "plain speaking" or "hard, honest words".
- "Legacygames.com" (Press release). Legacy Interactive. December 18, 2009. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
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