Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996)
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It Runs in the Family 

Jessica's British cousin, Emma MacGill (played by Angela Lansbury), is charged with an old flame's murder.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Emma McGill
John David Bland ...
Derek Constable
Johnny Constable
Humphrey Defoe
Lord Geoffrey Constable
Gwen Petrie
Sybil Constable
Insp. Frost
Pauline Constable
Arthur Constable
Dr. Blandings
Rev. Twilley
Mrs. Dexter-Hundley
Peter Browne ...
Peter Ashton ...


His family solicitor and fellow Burma veteran Humphrey Defoe hands Jessica's lookalike cousin, London music hall performer Emma McGill, £1,000 just to visit her terminally ill old acquaintance Geoffrey Constable, recently the 18th viscount Blackraven since the 17th, Rupert, died at 87. Geoffrey tells her he's leaving her a country house with income, feels better and takes her on a picnic she packs, but dies from a heart-attack. Inspector Frost is right to insist on an autopsy: strychnine poison, in the hearing he was so fond of. The heir, eldest brother Arthur Constable, cuts his spoiled rotten 19 year-old son Derek short, who next gets lightly wounded while hunting with the third brother, Johnny Constable, who could have poisoned Rupert with candy he smuggled in against diet rules. Emma, Humphrey and the inspector ultimately set a trap. Written by KGF Vissers

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Plot Keywords:

picnic | diet | poison | song | england | See All (8) »


Crime | Drama | Mystery





Release Date:

1 November 1987 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Jessica Fletcher doesn't appear at all in this episode (and this is the only episode in the entire series where this happens). Her cousin Emma MacGill does the sleuthing without any help from her American cousin. See more »


References Till the Clouds Roll By (1946) See more »


How'd You Like To Spoon With Me?
Written by Jerome Kern
Performed by Angela Lansbury
See more »

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User Reviews

'Murder She Wrote'...without Jessica Fletcher
20 August 2017 | by See all my reviews

Have always been quite fond of 'Murder She Wrote'. It is a fun and relaxing watch that makes you think as you try to unwind in the evening. If one wants more complex, twisty mysteries with lots of tension and suspense 'Murder She Wrote' may not be for you, but if you want something light-hearted and entertaining but still provide good mysteries 'Murder She Wrote' fits the bill just fine.

Compared to the very good to outstanding previous five episodes, "It Runs in the Family" is something of a disappointment. Certainly not awful and there are worse episodes in the show, but it just isn't the most inspired or compelling of episodes. It is most notable for being the only episode to not feature Jessica Fletcher other than in brief passing in conversation (the mystery is solved by her cousin Emma McGill), but Jessica's absence, despite being deeply felt, is not among the reasons really as to why "It Runs in the Family" doesn't work.

There are certainly good things, the best assets being the production values and the cast. It's very nicely shot and there are as ever some attractive and nostalgia-inducing fashions. The music has energy and has presence but also not making the mistake of over-scoring, while it is hard to forget or resist the theme tune.

Angela Lansbury, playing Emma, heads the cast with aplomb and there are also noble efforts from Mark Lindsay Chapman, Christopher Hewett, Jane Leeves, and Anthony Newley. Some of the writing provokes thought and is suitably light-hearted and there is the odd intriguing part to the mystery.

On the other hand, "It Runs in the Family" is one of the episodes that doesn't feel like it comes from 'Murder She Wrote' and like it comes from any old show. There are worse cases in the show though, especially some of the book-ends (not all) and "The Szechuan Dragon" (needs a re-watch, but do remember it being a show low-point).

Regarding the story, the first half is particularly dull with much of it being overlong set up. The mystery itself, apart from the odd intriguing part, is one of those paint-by-numbers, who-cares mysteries, and lacks inspiration and compelling thrust mostly. The script is the same, while the characters are not particularly interesting other than Emma and the accents are almost as bad as those of the likes of "Sing a Song of Murder" and "Southern Double Cross".

Altogether, not awful but didn't do much for me. 5/10 (with regret) Bethany Cox

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