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"Murder, She Wrote" Family Doctor (1991)

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Brother, Can You Spare these Kidnapping Victims?

Author: WeatherViolet from United States
31 January 2010

This episode marks the final appearance by Tige Andrews, actor, artist and singer, who began his film and television career in 1951, while continuing his stage performances, although here Tige appears somewhat unrecognizable from his "Mod Squad" (1968-73) days, he now portraying the patriarch of a crime syndicate family.

This also represents William Windom's only "MSW" Seventh Season appearance, as he takes leave from his Doctor Seth Hazlitt recurring role to star in the Sitcom "Parenthood" (1990) as Frank Buckman. As a result, Season Seven's five Cabot Cove episodes are presented without Seth. But here, in the first "MSW" episode broadcast of January of 1991, Jessica and Seth take a mid-season excursion into Boston....

In the frequent "MSW" stop-over city of Boston, Massachusetts, mobster Carmine Abruzzi (Tige Andrews) meets with two of his henchmen in a parking garage, before a rival syndicate clobbers his thugs and whisks Carmine to points unknown in a limousine, thus generating tabloid headlines, "Where Is Carmine Abruzzi?" These are seen on a Boston sidewalk, upon which Doctor Seth Hazlitt (William Windom) and Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) during an afternoon outing.

Seth decides to make dinner reservations at "Clams & Claws," a mutually favorite dining spot, when Jessica challenges Seth to make the call. To her surprise, he manages reservations by announcing his "doctor" title, and off they go to face Maître d' Freddie (Robert Costanzo), who seats them, before turning to face prominent Attorney Andrew Gant (Monte Markham), who tells Freddie that his party is waiting in the rear dining room.

This series tends to flatter ethnic characters, by escalating those from many a background into successful role model types; however, on more than one occasion, "MSW" screenwriters seem to begrudge characters of Italian-American descent as stereotypical crime syndicate types, and "Family Doctor" presents itself into evidence as Defense exhibit "C" or "D" thus far into the series. But there are also other ethnic stereotypes perpetuated as manipulative along the way, such as characters of Russian and certain Oriental descents.

Anyhow, Andrew Gant serves as counselor for the Abruzzi family, as matriarch Rosa Abruzzi (Rose Gregorio) attends the gathering with her and Carmine's sons, the responsible Michael Abruzzi (Vincent Irizarry) and the irresponsible Salvatore Abruzzi (David Ciminello).

Salvatore attends with his fiancée, the fiery haired and fiery tempered Connie Canzinaro (Amy Yasbeck), while Michael attends with his expectant wife, Denise Abruzzi (Cynthia Bain), who pleads with him to leave the syndicate before the baby comes along.

Spoiled wealthy Phyllis Gant (Diane Franklin), daughter of Andrew, enters the restaurant in a drunken stupor to cause a scene with the waitress and Freddie, across from Jessica and Seth's table, when she vows revenge upon being bounced through the doorway.

Carmine Abruzzi enters through the alley to meet with his family, and to announce his plans to retire from the mob, and to take a long vacation in Italy with Rosa, and to hand the reigns of power over to Michael, this to the objections of Denise and Salvatore, as well as to Michael's goal of leaving crime behind to forge a legitimate operation, which also conflicts with Andrew's objectives to join forces with rival syndicates.

But outdoors in the darkened alley, as the family exits into the night, a perched assassin fires a shot, felling a victim, who cannot be treated in a hospital. So Freddie is summoned to abduct the proverbial "doctor in the house," who, of course, turns out to be Seth.

When Seth does not return to the table after forty minutes, Jessica demands an explanation from Freddie, who claims to know nothing, and so she turns to the Boston Police Department, at which she is given another run-around, until the self-assured Lieutenant Jerry Marino (Joseph Cortese) steps to the plate to make the rounds with Jessica.

When Jessica discovers blood upon the carpet near the rear office of "Clam & Claw" Restaurant, Lieutenant Marino tells Freddie to open the rear dining room. When Freddie tells Lieutenant Marino that he has no warrant, Jerry answers, "If I need a warrant, then you are really going to be in trouble, pal."

After police officers discover Seth along a Boston street hours later, and reunite him with Jessica back at the station, Jerry advises them to stay overnight, so that he would send for them in the morning, but Joey (uncredited actor) beats the police to the punch and abducts Jessica and Seth, delivering them to the Abruzzi hideaway at Gant's country estate, at which the patient has not survived the night, and so they blame Seth.

Jessica, demanding an explanation from Michael, who answers the door, surprised to see Seth again, informs the two that he has no intention of kidnapping them, but others in the house disagree, while screams are heard upstairs from Connie, who searches for a room for Denise, but discovers Phyllis in a compromising position with her Salvatore.

Lieutenant Marino joins forces with Agent Misch (William Utay) and Agent Zweiback (Newell Alexander) to piece together clues from Seth's interview the night before, while Jessica figures a way to contact them, after figuring who hired the assassin, injected the victim with an overdose, and then turned around and murdered the assassin for not doing it right the first time around, thereby necessitating the need for a "Family Doctor."

The cast is rounded out by Howard George as Desk Sergeant, Linda Larkin as Waitress, Randall James Jeffries as Bellhop, Michael Blue as Policeman #1, and Jay Hill as Policeman #2.

This episode reflects the first television role for Linda Larkin, as well as the most recent appearances by Michael Blue and Jay Hill.

This represents the first of two "MSW" roles each for David Ciminello and Randall James Jeffries, the second of two for Michael Blue, the second of three for Robert Costanzo, and the third of four "MSW" guest starring roles for Monte Markham.

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