In the pilot episode Jessica is introduced by having her guess the ending to a play, in 1980 Angela Lansbury starred in "The Mirror Crack'd" where her character of Miss Marple (the inspiration for Jessica Fletcher) is introduced in much the same way.
The pilot art director was Tomas Azzari, and Marry Ann Biddle was his assistant art director. The Mendocino, (Northern California) location stood in for Cabot Cove, Maine. In the heart of the small seaside village, the Jessica Fletcher's Victorian residence was chosen. The Victorian house was actually a doctor's office. The pilot established this exterior as Jessica's home. The interior foyer-living room was filmed in the week on location. A Ranger's office exterior was filmed for the Sheriff's office and jail. Other business store fronts were filmed establishing the newspaper, the beauty shop, the doctor's office, the local hotel became the infamous Hill House hotel and lobby interior. All of these location sites, established throughout the series, return during ensuing location filming in various trips the production company made. When the company returned to Universal Studios, Stage 29, Jessica's kitchen and dining room, the doctor's residence foyer and converted living room, which became his office, were ready for filming. The Sheriff's office had originally been a standing cabin interior with a rustic fireplace. The front wall of the set was replaced, matching the Mendocino Ranger's Station, floor to ceiling glass plate windows and a side entry door. Added to the rectangular floor plan was a jail cell wing. These three sets became the permanent series sets. After the pilot was filmed, Leslie Parsons (art director) added onto Jessica's set, adding the living room and entrance foyer hall (front double door and front window bay matching the Mendocino location). Leslie repeated the use of wallpaper (as the kitchen and dining room) in these set areas. Rob Wingo decorated both the pilot and the series. Azzari and Biddle did not continue with the series' art department after finishing the pilot.
Production Designer Hub Braden, early in his career, had been the scenic designer for a summer at the Kennybunkport Playhouse, in Maine. During his return to Kennybunkport for a vacation, he discovered an Atlantic ocean inlet bay which a main town road bridged over. The inlet has a very small sign on either end of the bridge with the inlet bay's name: Cabot Cove.
In the pilot Jessica Fletcher is introduced by having her guess the murderer in a play. Four years earlier Angela Lansbury played Miss Marple in The Mirror Crack'd where her character is introduced in almost exactly the same way, except it was a movie that she guessed the ending of.