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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).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Murder, She Wrote deserves congratulations for running 12 seasons, and
it is one of the longest running prime time network series.
Death by Demographics is the final episode every of the series (although MSW TV movies followed this, just like Diagnosis Murder). I'm not sure if the plot to this final episode, Death by Demographics, was a swipe at the network or the audience generally for abandoning the old and true formula of MSW for younger demographics watching Must See TV on NBC, but if there's any consolation, MSW ran for two seasons longer than Friends.
David Odgen Stiers (who played Major Winchester, a classical music buff in M*A*S*H), plays a classical music presenter in this episode.
I don't know if the axe fell on the MSW series before this episode was filmed, but I would have loved to have seen a special curtain call at the end of the episode with Angela Lansbury and the cast and crew, thanking the fans for 12 years of support.
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