Murder, She Wrote: Season 12, Episode 24

Death by Demographics (19 May 1996)

TV Episode  |   |  Comedy, Crime, Drama
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In a plot somewhat reminiscent of "WKRP in Cincinnati," a San Francisco radio-station owner decides to convert the station's classical format to rock and roll. He keeps one announcer who's ... See full summary »


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Title: Death by Demographics (19 May 1996)

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Episode cast overview:
Russ Connell
T. T. Baines
Annie Lawson
Bud Forbes (as Robert Curtis-Brown)
Seth Jaffe ...
Eddie Mapp
Graham Forbes
Colleen Sellers
Howard Deems
Dave Pittman
Lucinda Weist ...


In a plot somewhat reminiscent of "WKRP in Cincinnati," a San Francisco radio-station owner decides to convert the station's classical format to rock and roll. He keeps one announcer who's an expert on classical music, and casts him in a dog-and-pony show where the old guy verbally spars with a young colleague who is an expert on rock ... all this to get a younger audience for the station. The experiment seems to be working fine with audiences, but tensions rise at the station and soon the new program director is disemboweled by a stab wound by his own fireplace poker. With the classical-music person (Jessica's good friend) as the obvious suspect, Jessica must try to find another motive and another suspect for the murder. Written by Peter Harris

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Release Date:

19 May 1996 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This 1996 television mystery play "Death by Demographics" concluded the final broadcast for the twelve years of the "Murder, She Wrote" series cycle. Angela Lansbury immediately began preparations to star in a two hour CBS musical special "Mrs. Santa Claus" written and composed by Jerry Herman. Angela and Peter Shaw's son Anthony had been tested in the 1987-1988 season with two shows to direct. Angela's son Anthony Shaw was scheduled initially four of the series television plays to direct during the ensuing four years of 1988-1992. By 1996, Anthony was directing every second show. In the cancellation of the CBS TV series, as a pay-off, Corymore Productions-Angela Lansbury was given four, two hour television-play mystery specials, to be delivered to the CBS network in the course of two years. Angela's revenge, after the musical special "Mrs. Santa Claus" was delivered, was to make CBS wait for the negotiated CBS-TV mystery specials over a period of five years. Anthony Shaw directed all four two hour CBS Film Specials.. See more »

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User Reviews

"Should Fireplace Pokers Be Forgot, and Never Brought to Mind? ~ Or Should They Find Another Use, a Different Murder Kind?"
30 April 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Well, 264 episodes have been produced for the twelve-season "Murder, She Wrote" television series, and now we're up to the last of these.

During the initial CBS broadcasts of "Death by Demographics," Angela Lansbury delivers a note of gratitude to share her appreciation to viewers for tuning into watch the adventures of J.B. Fletcher, whom she develops well throughout this series.

This makes one wonder how the series may have endured otherwise, had producers cast one of its original choices for the starring role, as Angela reportedly had been their fifth choice; some of the other contenders seem to have had a history of abandoning previous series, whereas Angela Lansbury goes on to serve as Executive Producer for "MSW's" last four seasons.

This program's co-creators have reportedly clashed with Angela over the direction of her character, as we see a somewhat different sleuth emerging throughout the series. Two aspects which they have all agreed upon, however, would be that Jessica would never drive an automobile, and that she would have no lasting romantic interest. So, they have succeeded on these points and beyond.

And now, the series winding to a somewhat unceremonious close, as producers have learned their lesson about these "send-off" episodes, Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) visits her dear old friend Howard Deans (David Ogden Stiers) in San Francisco. (What begins on the Atlantic side of Maine climaxes on the Pacific side of California.)

Radio Station KLOY 114.3-FM in San Francisco plans to undergo a format change, from Classical music to Modern Rock, causing Howard Deans to face unemployment, as he specializes in presenting recordings composed by the greats, such as Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture," a rendition of which Howard broadcasts with Jessica at his side, and Sound Engineer Eddie Mapes (Paul Linke) in the adjacent control room.

(Jessica arrives to promote her latest Mystery, "A Case and a Half of Murder.")

KLOY owner Graham Forbes (Robert Pine) welcomes from vacation his son, Bud Forbes (Robert Curtis Brown), to break the news about the station's switch from Classical to Rock, a move which Bud finds unsettling, when someone even more unsettling enters the office, Lauren (Lucinda Weist), a young lady from Cincinnati who plans to marry Graham, thus causing reservations on Bud's behalf.

Lauren has convinced Graham to hire Russ Connell (James Acheson) as youth-oriented program director and T. T. Baines (Christian Bocher) as disc jockey, beginning next Monday, when Howard's morning program will leave the airwaves. Russ and T. T. are on hand to adjust the station.

(Lauren, Russ and T. T. share a past in Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis, as they worm their way into radio stations and manage to get the station owner to propose to Lauren, who was once engaged to Russ, and then Russ makes the move to have T. T. change the station's format, while Russ is busy blackmailing personnel, before they move their scam to another city, which they plan to do after this.) But now, Lauren claims to have fallen in love with Graham for real, and she wants free of Russ and T. T.'s scam.

Colleen Sellers (Robin Riker), Annie Lawson (Diana Canova) and Dave Pittman (Kenneth Tigar) work behind the scenes at KLOY, in sales, promotions and accounting divisions. Colleen, from Bangor, Maine, has a history of introducing headline-grabbing gimmicks, while Dave has had to borrow $45,000 from the till to pay for medical expenses, a transaction with which Annie has secretly assisted Dave, and now Russ is blackmailing these three.

One evening when Russ and T. T. emerge from a restaurant to enter their automobile, someone aims a rifle to shoot through their window, they emerging unscathed, but SFPD Lieutenant Evans (Seth Jaffe) soon arrives at KLOY to question Howard Deans, as the prime suspect, whom Jessica champions as her dear old friend.

But late one other night, someone reaches for a fireplace poker to murder a victim, not by bludgeoning, but by stabbing, by way of variety.

Jessica joins Lieutenant Evans in the resulting investigation, they discovering that more than one suspect has entered the apartment that night, he intending to nail Howard, she standing her ground to defend Howard against "Death by Demographics."

(This title also reflects the cancellation of "MSW" because of a shift in the popular direction of television viewing audiences of the day.)

This episode represents the second of two "MSW" appearances each for Robin Riker, Christian Bocher, and Seth Jaffe (both as SFPD Lieutenant Evans), the third of three each for Diana Canova, Robert Curtis Brown and David Ogden Stiers, the fifth of five for Robert Pine, and the 264th of 264 "MSW" series performances for Angela Lansbury, or at least before the upcoming four "MSW" TV reunion movies (to date).

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