Joyce Holleran, the new producer and head writer of a New York soap, makes enemies by having many recurrent characters written out, belittling her husband Larry and refusing to let Todd Worthy go who got a far better Hollywood series offer. Jessica visits her niece Nita Cochran, one of the actresses fearing the ax. The Joyce is shot, believing by Nita as the killer wears her masking Avenger costume. NYPD Lieutenant Antonelli thinks it's a shut case and arrests her by following Jessica, who is determined to prove her niece's innocence. When Joyce's successor as director, Gordon LaMonica, who has network instructions to continue the cast pruning, is shot in the arm by someone in Avenger costume but with a non-matching police gun, proven to be the murder weapon, Jessica starts untangling a web of false appearances... Written by
This episode marks one of the last appearances by, and final television role for Lloyd Nolan, who has been acting in films since 1935, and who has been appearing on many television programs since 1950. His 1985 passing becomes the first loss of a "MSW" guest star.
This also features one of the last roles for Lurene Tuttle, who appears in Classic films "Stand Up and Cheer!" (1934) and "Tom, Dick and Harry" (1941), before acting on a steady basis in films and upon many television programs since 1947. Paul Burke, acting in film and on television since 1951, has also since passed.
One afternoon in New York City, "The Avenger," concealed in over-cloak, hat and sunglasses, draws a bullet from the barrel of a pistol onto Martin Grattop (Robert Lipton), who reaches for his shoulder and stumbles around his study--to the dismay of Joyce Holleran (Jessica Walter), head writer for a daytime television serial, who intends to kill off the character of an actor who fights to stay on the program.
An embittered Joyce Holleran throws her weight around at every turn. Another actor on the program, Todd Worthy (Nicholas Hammond), seeks to end his contract with the serial, but Joyce forces him to stay on and forgo his opportunity to star in a prospective Hollywood film. Performers who want to leave are forced to stay with the series (within a series), while performers who prefer to stay are faced with firing.
Julian Tenley (Lloyd Nolan), Herbert Upton (Paul Burke), Bibi Hartman (Tricia O'Neil) and Nita Cochran (Alice Krige) also act on the daytime serial, and one of their characters will be assigned to be unmasked as the notorious "Avenger."
Joyce Holleran's crew for the program includes Carol Needom (Mackenzie Phillips) as Assistant Screenwriter, Gordon LaMonica (Terry Kiser) as Director, and Larry Holleran (William Atherton), her husband, as Co-Producer.
Even though the program does not display a happy set by any means, Nita Cochran's grandmother, Agnes Cochran (Lurene Tuttle), expresses pride that her dedicated offspring has the opportunity to shine, acting upon a program which she enjoys following; however, she trusts that Nita's character would turn out as the Avenger.
When Agnes and Nita receive a special visitor in Nita's dear Aunt Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury), Nita invites her to tour the studio at which this trouble soap opera is produced, when someone disguised as the Avenger launches into an unscripted shooting spree, murdering one of the show's celebrities, and wounding another with the Avenger's pistol.
Lieutenant Antonelli (Robert Walden) and Sergeant Kaplan (George Murdock) are assigned by the NYPD to investigate the murder and attempted murder with the assistance of the observant Jessica, who plans a showdown on the set to trap the perpetrator of "Murder in the Afternoon."
Rounding out the cast are John Miranda as Prop Man and Elven Havard as Guard.
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