Murder, She Wrote (TV Series 1984–1996) Poster

(1984–1996)

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10/10
This cherished television series will forever be dearly missed... but will always live on in our hearts via syndicated re-runs!
Aussie Stud10 October 2001
Angela Lansbury IS Jessica Fletcher, a colorful-minded imaginative geriatric author of best-selling mystery novels who always saves the day by helping friends and strangers discover who the 'real' killer is.

This show ran for twelve seasons, albeit the last season was pretty crook. Guest stars and friends of Angela Lansbury in the industry from the silver screen would often appear as victims, friends and even the killer throughout the 264 episodes that aired on CBS.

Angela Lansbury, a long time pin-up queen for Disney movies and the like, was the right choice to play television's leading lady of the endless 'who-done-it' mysteries. She plays a kind woman, an unlikely character who would find themselves in the countless situations she got herself into, and someone we didn't mind having in our living room at least once a week.

Funny as it sounds, this show was suitable for the whole family to watch. A show about 'murder' is suitable for the 'family' you ask? It was tasteful in the way it presented the various different deaths of its victims throughout its long run. People died in just about any and every imaginable manner you could think of on MURDER SHE WROTE. The most desirable choice was via a gunshot - but there were certainly plenty of more elaborate set-ups. The poisonings.. the hangings.. the stabbings.. yet, it was about as 'family' as you could get with the different shows that were on at the same time it was aired.

Early in its run, MURDER SHE WROTE had a smart ensemble cast including Tom Bosley who played Sheriff Amos Tupper. The setting was usually Cabot Cove of Maine, a quiet coastal fishing town - the ideal place to raise a family... or so you would think, every other week when a murder didn't take place there! When Tom Bosley left to portray a leading role in FATHER DOWLING MYSTERIES, Jessica Fletcher would often travel to different locations across America, and yes, the world. It is quite amusing to wonder why it never seemed funny to Jessica Fletcher that wherever she went, a murder would occur. Although in one episode, she does refer to herself as the 'Typhoid Mary of Murders', a joke within itself.

A great line-up of guest stars from both the film and television industry would play different characters in each episode. Nearly every episode had at least one 'known' celebrity. The most amazing thing was seeing past-Oscar winners playing various characters. From Martin Landau to Van Johnson. From June Allyson to Jose Ferrer. Stewart Granger, Cyd Charisse, Lurene Tuttle, Glynnis Johns, Claire Trevor, Cornel Wilde, Dorothy Lamour, Ann Blythe, Eleanor Parker, Ernest Borgnine... the list goes on. This show probably sported more famous guest stars than 'THE LOVE BOAT'.

Of course, for every Jean Simmons, June Havoc and James Coburn, there was Charlene Tilton, Barbie Benton and Michael McKean to tickle your fancy.

Unknown stars at the time such as Billy Zane, Courtney Cox, Paul Rudd, Megan Mullally and Bill Maher used this show as a stepping stone to get to where they are now.

Several stars and most likely close friends of Angela Lansbury such as David Ogden Stiers, Fritz Weaver, Pat Hingle, Vera Miles and Larry Wilcox appeared more than three or four times throughout the show's entire run, each time playing a different character.

As 'MURDER SHE WROTE' slowly grinded to a halt during its 12th season in 1996, you couldn't help but notice that the show had lost probably more than half of its original spark. Angela Lansbury herself never looked better, but the story lines were getting a bit tired, and seriously, just how many murders in the last season seemed a little bit 'familiar' to the other episodes earlier in the show's run? The guest actors that were being scraped together was pretty much 'bottom-of-the-barrel' selection - Gerald McRaney, Rosalind Chao and Bo Svenson were about the biggest names during the 12th season that could be scrounged up. On top of that, audiences across the world were getting hooked on newer fare such as 'E.R.', 'FRIENDS' and 'LAW & ORDER'. Who had time for 'MURDER SHE WROTE' anymore?

So when the axe finally fell, it came as no surprise, and Angela Lansbury, or should I say, Jessica Fletcher, made a graceful exit to re-appear in isolated MURDER SHE WROTE telemovie projects that would be produced on an almost yearly annual basis after the series was canceled. Although I do remember that she put up quite a fight to keep her show on the air for one more season, I think it came as a blessing in disguise when the show left the broadcast airwaves.

Angela Lansbury was what made this show work. Her character was inspirational. She wasn't some young attractive lady, or a hot-shot lawyer who was solving all the mysteries. She was a retired English teacher, now writing best-selling novels who was the heroine we came to adore. I used to love it when during the last 15 minutes of each episode, someone would mention a keyword like, "Creosote", or a clue-giving caption like "Hmm, my watch seems to have stopped" which would give her the final piece of the puzzle to solve the murder mystery and her eyes would light up as the pieces clicked together in her head.

It's been years since she left our television sets, but she will forever live on in syndicated re-runs, a blessing in disguise perhaps, but something for the younger generation to surely appreciate.
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One of the greatest shows ever
Comrade Genghis1 July 2000
You don't have to be an old lady to like this show; I'm sixteen years old and a male to boot. I am a big fan of whodunits, and always have been. This is one of the best. In the first few seasons, several episodes featured creative and delightful gimmicks. Although creatively the series sagged a bit in the "middle years," the last two seasons showed a resurgence in quality. Throughout the series' twelve years, however, very few episodes failed to deliver in terms of the mystery itself: it's always fun to try to find the clues and deduce their meaning before the detective does, but if you don't, it's also fun to hear the explanation.

Although there are several lovable recurring characters, the only real regular in the series is Angela Lansbury. Consequently, the format is refreshingly free, and the writers aren't forced to bog the stories down for a boatload of regulars. However, there are always plenty of interesting characters acting as suspects. Frequently there are famous beloved older guest stars, especially in the first few seasons, but the special guest star is not always the killer; the mystery always comes first! This is an old-fashioned mystery series, unmarred by an overdose of violence or melodrama. Plus, Jessica Fletcher is a character that one can't help but love, and Angela Lansbury plays it to charming perfection.

There is, of course, the obvious creative license: that Jessica Fletcher always accidentally stumbles across a murder. If you are willing to put this aside, this is a show one can really enjoy. (Note: The show pokes fun at itself on occasion, including one where Jessica reveals that she is nicknamed "the Bloody Mary of murder.")
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Jessica Fletcher
stuzbern223 March 2005
Jessica is the best. I love her. She makes me feel good. Every time the music comes on it is always uplifting! I wish she hadn't gone off the air. When I tell people how much I love her they make fun of me since I'm a guy but I tell you it was a hell of a show. I wonder when they'll come out with a DVD on all the seasons. I can't say there are any shows like this one on the air now. The closest thing is to watch A & E. They have some shows. She, however, was the original that all other mystery shows are trying to be. The interesting thing is that she was born in England but i never picked up on that. It's not like she had an accent or anything. The only bad thing about the show was that Jessica and Frank didn't have any kids but she seemed to have an awful lot of cousins, niece's and nephews.
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9/10
It Could Still Be Running
bkoganbing13 August 2007
I'm not quite sure why Murder She Wrote isn't still running. I'm willing to bet that Angela Lansbury could command any kind of deal she could have if she wanted to do more episodes of this wonderful series.

Angela Lansbury is maybe one of the kindest and most unselfish of players ever to grace the big screen, the small screen and the legitimate theater. Let's not forget she's a star in all three mediums. What I like best about her is the fact that she used her star power to give lots of work to her fellow performers from the golden age of Hollywood's studio system who weren't as lucky with their careers as she. Just look at the cast list of any random selection of Murder, She Wrote episodes.

For twelve years she got every weekend to show up the police in every corner of the globe that they had the wrong solution to a given murder. The amazing thing is that most of them simply went with the flow as far as her interference with their investigation. It was part of her charm for them and for us.

About half the episodes took place in the little New England coastal town of Cabot Cove where William Windom as the town doctor and first sheriff Tom Bosley and then sheriff Ron Masak got assistance from Jessica Fletcher every time she was in town at her home. I liked the Cabot Cove shows best and I suspect most viewers did. Though that presents a problem in that Cabot Cove given the percentage of the population might just have the highest murder rate in the country. Good thing she WAS around. But even there she never embarrassed Bosley or Masak in solving the cases.

Her best scenes are with William Windom, the crusty old town doctor, Seth Hazlitt. I suspect that back in their youth Jessic and Seth were an item and the way Lansbury and Windom are with each other, you can see the bonds are strong. The writers in Murder, She Wrote very wisely never made Dr. Hazlett any kind of buffoon the way Nigel Bruce was as Doctor Watson to Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes. Windom played it absolutely straight and his medical knowledge occasionally helped Lansbury solve the case. I think it's a shame that William Windom never got an Emmy for playing Dr. Hazlitt.

My hope is that somebody gets the bright idea to have a reunion episode and maybe finally marry Jessica Fletcher and Dr. Seth Hazlitt. It would be the highest rated show of a given season.
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9/10
Cherished series, mystery novelist sleuth's a genuine lady
roghache21 April 2006
This series is one of my all time favourites, and I still eagerly catch it on re runs. Angela Lansbury is surely one of the greatest of all the entertainment world's ladies, growing simply more graceful, dignified, and endearing as the years pass. She made a superb Miss Marple in some of the Agatha Christie movies, but her role as Jessica Fletcher, Cabot Cove's retired high school English teacher and current mystery novelist sleuth, is the one she was born to play.

True, the series isn't very realistic, as Jessica invariably stumbles upon a murder each week and manages to ferret out the killer quite single handedly, while local law enforcement remains stumped. However, this is fairly typical of all fictional sleuths; look at Miss Marple herself. Certainly Cabot Cove has an astonishing murder rate! Some episodes are of course more captivating than others, but even when a situation is predictable, it's always a joy watching this lovely, clever, & kind lady in action as she uses her charm, wits, imagination, and instincts about human nature. Of course it's always fun to try figuring out the killer before she does.

Jessica's travels take her around the USA and indeed the world, as she makes frequent trips to her New York City publisher, visits friends & relatives around the country (ranches, ski resorts, Las Vegas etc.), and even travels abroad, for example to Hong Kong, Ireland, Rome, Athens, and Monte Carlo. However, my favourite episodes are set in her small Maine hometown of Cabot Cove. I always enjoy the depiction of her lovely old fashioned white house and small town New England life, her traveling about on her bicycle (like myself, Jessica does not drive a car), and especially her relationships with other townsfolk, notably series regulars Dr. Seth Hazlitt and Sheriff Amos Tupper. As Jessica is a widow, it's always interesting to watch her with her good friend, Seth; one is tempted to look for a glimmer of romance. Quite often Jessica's young nephew, Grady, appears with her as she tackles the solution to a case.

The guest list throughout the long running series does indeed read like a veritable 'Who's who' of Hollywood, including Hayley Mills, Shelley Fabares, Van Johnson, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Polly Bergen, Wayne Rogers, Lucie Arnaz, and David Ogden Stiers...to name but a few.

I'm thrilled that the series continues to live on in re runs and tip my hat to Angela Lansbury's twelve season stint as the mystery writer sleuth. Personally, I wish Jessica Fletcher had taught my son English in high school, would love to read one of her mystery novels, and think she would make a fabulous & interesting next door neighbour...except that I'd be a teeny bit afraid I might just turn up murdered!
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One Of My Top Five Favorite Shows Of All Time And My Favorite Mystery Show
luke-3121 August 2001
I love this show. Angela Lansbury shines in the role of her career as the delightful mystery novelist,Jessica Fletcher. She never recieved an Emmy for the role, but should have. The writing is top notch, and the mysteries are engrossing. This is one of my all-time favorite shows,and is so much fun to watch.The many guest stars are great too.A wonderful show.Catch the reruns!
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Predictable,and yet highly entertaining.....
chester-gray29 January 2003
Murder, She Wrote ranks #1 in the drama series category, and around #4 in the greatest shows of all time, right behind M*A*S*H*, All in the Family and Maude. I liked Jessica Fletcher, but also the antics of her crusty doctor friend, Seth Hazlitt, and the Sheriff. The sheer greatness of this show explains its long TV life of 12 seasons.

Angela Lansbury and William Windom both play the part to a T. I still enjoy watching seemingly endless reruns daily of the show on A&E.
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One of the Best Mystery Shows Ever
Sargebri16 April 2003
This has to be one of the best shows that ever came out. Angela Lansbury truly created one of the great detectives that ever graced the small screen. However, the best episodes actually took place in her hometown of Cabot Cove where she had a fine supporting cast. Doc Hazlett proved to be the Watson to Jessica's Holmes and Sheriffs Tupper and Metzger couldn't get along without her. This show is truly a classic.
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I like to see shows that portray that type of woman. It is good for women.
macpherr14 August 1999
I like the series! Jessica Fletcher, played by Angela Lansbury (The Picture of Dorian Gray ) is adorable, refined, well read, has a sixth sense, insightful, witty, elegant and fun. I love the fact that she bikes everywhere she goes on her cute bike with a wicker basket, I have a basket on my bike just like hers and I also write. I have not resolved a murder case yet but I love forensic medicine, the legal issues. She is always outsmarting the sheriff. I like to see shows that portray that type of woman. It is good for women. Angela Lansbury is so talented: she can sing, dance, produce, yet she looks so vulnerable. I have probably watched the entire series because I made a point in hanging around the house when it was on. I have heard people say that the plot is repetitive. I do not care, I always have fun watching it. Things got more interesting when she befriended the doctor. He loves to eat. Although there is always a murder, there are no gory scenes. Just the mystery. Too bad they stopped making the series, but still runs in syndication. I love Angela Lansbury.
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8/10
Angela Lansbury Is Queen
philipfhayes24 August 2018
If you haven't watched this please do. Angela Lansbury was amazing in this!
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9/10
the best chicken soup
scottschada@yahoo.com30 October 2017
I acknowledge that I love Angela Lansbury. If you think of her only as the lovely and charming Jessica Fletcher of "Murder She Wrote", then I implore you to see the original "The Manchurian Candidate".

This series has the same level of care and attention to detail that went into all-time great shows such as "Breaking Bad" and "The Andy Griffith Show". It rarely disappoints. The guest roster is amazing. I discovered that fact when I was struck by the performance of an attractive older woman whom I later discovered to be the legendary Jean Simmons. But she is only one of a rainbow of actors from every corner of Hollywood.

I apologize for the lack of specifics in this commentary; but I felt I needed to put in writing my admiration for a show that has given me so much pleasure and comfort, especially in its civility, in recent years.
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6/10
predictable but reassuringly so - good whodunit TV
HelenMary11 December 2012
Angela Lansbury (Bedknobs and Broomsticks) plays Jessica Fletcher, an ex English teacher, mystery novel author and amateur sleuth much in the vein of Miss Marple by Agatha Christie. She is without doubt one of the world's *nicest* characters; she makes friends wherever she goes, remembers names, treats everyone the same and helps out anyone she can. It's easy "early evening" or "mid-afternoon" watching so may be considered to be a program for an older audience as most of the characters are older, but Jessica is much loved by young characters too. It's very dated now, but ran for twelve years from 1984; you see the increased popularity of mobile phones, changes in fashion and also her getting to grips with word processors having used a typewriter to write her books in the early series.

It's predictable and whilst the plots are original it is formulaic; Jessica is somehow connected to the person who is accused of the murder, believes them to be innocent so proves them so or reluctantly identifies them as the killer. She butts into the Police investigation, with varying degrees of acceptance, and she points out the killer. There's always a eureka moment, when she's doing something else, where she says, "I think I know who the killer is!" and often she needs to play a trick to flush out the murderer and then there's the denouement where she tells everyone how she worked it out. It's always some tiny thing she noticed and remembered that is the nail in the coffin, and sometimes the connections and "clues" are a little tenuous.

Most of the episodes are set in Cabot Cove, Maine, but there's many in NYC and then some around the world - everywhere she goes somewhere is found dead and sometimes she's the suspect! The regular supporting cast; the Sheriffs in her home town (Ron Mazak and Tom Bosley), friends and the local doctor (William Windom) depending on the series are great characters, and the additional cast are varied and there are many very familiar faces, some from when the actors are starting out (George Clooney, Joaquin "Leaf" Phoenix, Courtney Cox etc) and there are a few recurring characters, and a few actors that have appeared a few times as different characters (Jeff Conaway, Kenickie in Grease, for example, played three different characters in four episodes) but it doesn't matter.

It's not rocket science, it's not got bangs and whistles, maybe a few explosions and car chases and stunts, but it's relaxing intelligent TV where it's fun to guess the outcomes... it's just about a nice lady who solves murders. With so many episodes (264) over the twelve years I've still not seen them all and I really enjoy them despite them often being a bit cheesy and sometimes the acting is a little hammy but hey, this is a guilty pleasure.
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why murder she wrote is the tops
saculnamron3 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I love a good whodunnit and murder she wrote is top notch at delivering just that but with one big difference. It does it with warmth and feeling. Angela Lasnbury is truly inspirational as Jessica Fletcher the retired school teacher turned novelist with a nose for solving murders. Cabot coves favourite resident usually gets sucked in to situation much to the chagrin of the local sheriff (Tom Bosely and Ron Masak)best friend Dr Seth Hazlitt (William Windom)is never far from her side. There was a touching episode where Seth ate a poisoned apple meant for Jessica and Jessica was truly heartbroken. Thankfuly cabot coves favourite doc recovered and was soon his grumpy self. You know I could see a potential romance there (Jessicas husband Frank fletcher had died) The list of guest stars is impressive too showing what an inspiration this show was.Later seasons move to New York where Jessica teaches at a college but always returned to Cabot cove Maine periodically. The shows heart is as big as dear Jessica's. Catch the re runs.
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Entertaining
Quills1135 April 2002
Murder She Wrote is a very suspenseful and entertaining show. Angela Lansbury is a wonderful actress and i wish that she would do television again. This show will be missed and i hope they keep on playing the re-runs...if you like this show then i think you should read Dame Agatha Christies books...which some of the episodes were based on.
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10/10
My favourite TV show ever!
FilmAddit6 May 2011
I usually don't like watching TV, and I'm a filmmaker myself and only care to put all my attention in films. But Murder, She Wrote is one exceptional excellent TV show that has captured one of the top five spots of my all time favourites.

Every episode was seriously made like a feature film, nice set decorations (- I extremely adore Mrs. Fletcher's cozy and homey house and dream to have one exactly like that one day), and even the numerous extras in restaurant scenes, hotel scenes, party scenes did a professional job. I never actually fancy any lives in films, but Mrs. Fletcher's. Living in a quiet small town, bicycling for groceries, travelling to big cities all expenses paid to solve mysteries, writing in spare time making good money, famous and respectful...

I found the stories all very interesting. After watching a few seasons, I have really developed an eye for details. Now when I watch any suspense / thriller movies, I barely got out-beat by those scriptwriters and can always guess correctly where a film's going and who's the guilty one.

Jessica Lansbury is the perfect cast for Mrs. Fletcher. I love her and this character she portrayed. I couldn't find more information on how she's doing now but wish her all healthy and happy somewhere in the world.
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8/10
Murder she wrote- Classic Angela Lansbury
Ibuk4 November 2007
I absolutely love this show. Angela Lansbury was great as Jessica Fletcher and made the show her own.The weird thing about this show is that Jessica Fletcher rarely had a love interest. She may not have had a love interest but she did have a lot of male companions who would regularly help her solve the murders, like for instance Seth Hazlet. She would be pondering about the murder and Seth would say something and suddenly everything would fit together and she would have the murderer.

The show can be enjoyed by all but only if you see it as escapist fun that is not taxing on the brain. It shouldn't be seen as a realistic TV show, if viewers watch it expecting it to be realistic then they will be sorely disappointed. For instance to obtain evidence Jessica would break into offices, people who watch a lot of murder mysteries(like me) would know this evidence would be inadmissible in the court of law and the killer would get off scot free.

The show ended in 96 but I normally catch it on reruns. Although I am a fan of the series but I still feel it should have ended after the 93 season. After the 93 season the plots became increasingly tired and predictable. In fact I thought the story lines became far more soapy, it became more about the characters and less about the murders.

Out of all the murder mystery shows I watch I like this the most. It was fun to spot stars like Ceasar Romero (the Joker from the Batman T.V. series. Over the years most stars came on the show more than once but in different roles.
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10/10
The Best Mystery and Detective TV-Show of all times.
alexanderreznikov28 October 2007
"Murder, She Wrote"(1984) has everything you need and want. You can find there conspiracy, lies, love triangles, good sense of humor, and, of course, murders. Each episode of this show is an excellent piece of work. Each episode has at least one murder. In my opinion, Angela Lansbury was the best choice for the role of mystery writer Jessica B. Fletcher. She did a great job as an actress and also as the executive Producer of the show. Jessica can solve even most difficult murders, find the clues which police even weren't aware of and catch the murderer(s). Most of the times, there were cold blooded murderers. But sometimes, Jessica wished she was wrong because people committed crimes under extremely difficult issues in personal life. The writer Fletcher tries to help them to ease possible conviction and chargers.

Anyway, the best mystery show ever.

10 out of 10.
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A good but rigid formula
len-2627 November 2002
Warning: Spoilers
First of all, I liked this show. Having said that, I will now give the plot of almost every single episode (so I guess I better say "SPOILERS ahead").

In the first quarter of the show, we meet the cast of characters. These always include one "bad" person hated by many, and one friend (or relative or other acquaintance) of Jessica. At 8:14PM Jessica's friend says, very publicly, to the "bad" person, "I'm going to kill you."

The second quarter's events must be watched closely, because we all know that at 8:29PM the "bad" person will be found dead.

The third quarter has some potential for variation. Usually the cops dismiss Jessica as an old busybody, but occasionally they listen to her. Either way, by 8:44PM Jessica's friend has been arrested.

Now for the exciting conclusion. At 8:51PM Jessica suddenly realizes who the real killer is. At 8:55PM the killer has fallen for Jessica's trap and confesses everything. The real killer is the peripheral character that had about 53 seconds of screen time before being trapped. At 8:58PM Jessica has the final conversation with her friend.
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Predictable but highly entertaining.
crownimperial6 January 2003
This is arguably the most predictable of all the T.V mystery series,(Colombo? mmmmm, maybe). Most of time the plots are unique and,with the endless stream of talented actors provide a good hours entertainment. I find that when Ron Masak is the police representative there is always a touch of humor, even though he appears to be more authoritative than Tom Bosley. I never miss an episode which includes Ron Masak, I`ve never seen him in anything I did not like. Nobody can play the role of Mrs. Fletcher better than Angela Lansbury and William Windom always excells.
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10/10
GroundBreaking Series and Angela Lansbury Perfect!
ShelbyTMItchell10 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The show lasted up to twelve seasons and 265 episodes not to mention four TV movies. And still loved by so many people.

Angela Lansbury was only the fourth choice in the protagonist role of Jessica Fletcher a novelist and widow. With Jean Stapleton of All in the Family, the front runner.

Jessica lived in Cabot Cove Maine. And murder would find her rather than the other way around. Later she would move to NY to follow her publisher to greener pastures.

She would be a amateur sleuth who would solve the clues and crime. Way before the police though it is not realistic but still, very entertaining of the show.

Like Stapleton but the show would not be as much of a hit without Lansbury's dry wit and smartness!
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the first bite
Kirpianuscus14 July 2018
For me, it was the first bite from the detective series. in the sense than the other films/series, adaptations of novels by Agatha Christie or Georges Simenon or propositions of smart, cold, ironic men were not boring but too far for me, at the early ages. and the love for Jessica Fletcher remains fresh today, after decades . because the mix of lovely old woman, almost a sort of good fairy and many , many cases, the universe of a writer, her friends, the danger against here, the humor and the deductions are pieces of a seductive portrait. it remains more than a good serie. or a legendary one. but one of lovely memories about the great and admirable art of Angela Lansburry.
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10/10
Wonderful Series!
lmcooper-3233220 May 2018
I am not going to dissect this series. I just love it, all of it, the good and the bad. It just all came together and became a part of most people's Sunday Night in North America. People of all ages knew of Jessica Fletcher. People of all ages know of Angela Lansbury. Miss Lansbury, the regular cast, and guest stars made the end of everybody's weekend extra special. When the show started in reruns on A&E it was a blessing. Ill at the time "Murder, She Wrote" was the highlight of my day. Although on for twelve seasons, "Murder, She Wrote" and Dame Angela did not deserve the ending given it by CBS. Moved from it's regular Sunday time spot to a spot opposite the show "Friends". A strategic move to end the series, which was still doing well on Sunday night. Regardless "Murder, She Wrote lives on and is more than fondly remembered. As for Dame Angela, well the theatre before and after, "Murder, She Wrote", has found her to be a treasure and regarded by many as a living legend, both in and out of showbiz!
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7/10
"MSW" most easily appreciated one episode at a time.
WeatherViolet2 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Yes, of course the premise of "Murder, She Wrote" ("MSW") is highly implausible: a retired English teacher-turned Mystery novelist, who succeeds grandly at her every page, while happening to stumble across bodies right and left at nearly every turn.

But yet if you take it in small doses, as it were, one episode at a time as opposed to enduring Murder-thons, it becomes easier to accept the premise that a retired English teacher may have written a novel and stumbles across a body or two, while a friend or relative is framed for the murder.

Friends and relatives of Mrs. Fletcher are very often framed for murders, to say the least. In fact, nearly every suspect under arrest has been falsely accused of the crime. Law enforcement officers, prosecuting attorneys, judges and juries get it wrong at each turn, and only J.B. Fletcher is able to steer them right.

And yet, she insists that the matter of homicide investigation must be left for the police or sheriff, and the matter for prosecuting must be left to the courts. Nevermind that several a corrupt officer has done it along the way. Nevermind that prosecuting attorneys have been proved the perpetrators. Nevermind that juries are clueless without Jessica in town.

The fact of the matter is that no police department in the country nor around the world is able to arrest anyone but an innocent bystander until Jessica turns up to steer them on the right track through her logical deductions through piecing clues together. But if the authorities insist against her interference, she investigates anyway. And if they solicit her assistance and expertise, she invariably answers, "I'm sorry, but I'm just a writer." Of course, she is thereby easily coaxed into the act of investigating.

Episode writing generally follows formula yet varies according to author. Some offer dark, eerie scripts, while others add humor and lightheartedness, which makes for the more pleasant watch. "Murder, She Wrote" finds its strongest outings in stories in which Jessica rises to the occasion of "doing everything that I can to help" her friend or relative in trouble instead of those in which she sets out to nail someone.

Guest stars add a great deal to the color and richness of this 12-year series, they primarily entering from film and television, and often playing against type in the process here. Some episodes are directed to portray guest suspects as very innocent-looking, while others have them acting with very guilty demeanors.

This may result in criticisms of weak or unrealistic acting, such as when Jessica points to the murderer during a showdown scene, the other performers do not react very naturally, as if to say, "Oh, so you're the one who killed my husband? I thought it might have been she. I didn't think that I did it, but we had to wait until Jessica figured it out." Instead, the killer most often confesses then and there, to reaffirm Jessica's clever skills at reasoning.

She often spots the clues along the way, later causing her to say, "I didn't think much about it at the time, but...." This occurs after the perpetrators motive resonates in her mind. After that, nothing gets passed J.B. If her suspect denies a charge, she remembers another clue, and sometimes yet another.

Nobody is immune from murder in J.B.'s world, as she travels from her adoptive hometown of Cabot Cove, where murder is an everyday activity, to cities and communities around the world, from the halls of academia to the halls of legislators, from Wall Street to Madison Avenue, from studios to galleries, from rural roadhouses to televangelist centers, from convents to Amish fellowships, from continent to continent, and incompetent law enforcement officers get it wrong at every turn.

It somehow doesn't matter very much if a murder were planned to the last detail, whether it were impulsive, whether it were accidental or in self-defense, or whether it turns out a suicide in disguise. Suspects are treated all the same and await very similar fates.

During the midpoint of this series, throughout seasons six and seven, Jessica voluntarily takes a backseat to guest detectives in many episodes, in which she introduces a case and later summarizes, without appearing amid the other characters. These have come to be known as "Bookend episodes," and largely disappear throughout seasons eight through twelve. Some were designed to launch potential spin off series. However, the solitary spin off series from "Murder, She Wrote" came earlier on, with Jerry Orbach's "The Law and Harry McGraw."

During its remaining seasons, "MSW" seems to have attempted to streamline itself for an updated appearance, with Jessica's conditioning herself from her earlier frumpy appearance, with chic wardrobe and a less ambitious sense of curiosity than before. She is regarded by authorities for her proved expertise more frequently than in the past. Amplified background "music," especially in foreign settings, becomes harder to take than the previous segue music, foreshadowing Jessica's ambitions.

Taken all-in-all, one episode of the 264 installments of "Murder, She Wrote" may fit the bill for a diversion from routine provided that one doesn't attempt to over-analyze.

Why a retired English teacher-turned successful novelist would butcher the language as often as Mrs. Fletcher does leaves severe doubt for the authenticity of this series in itself. But yet it what it loses in plausibility, it makes up for towards authenticity in points of law, medicine, physics and technology.

And even if you become the trusted friend should Jessica arrive in your community, remember to hide away those fireplace pokers, oh those dreadful, lethal flinging fireplace pokers, which claim all too many a victim.
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Angela Lansbury's twelve-year meal ticket
didi-52 April 2005
After a stint as Miss Marple on screen, former movie star Angela Lansbury was a dead-cert for this watchable but ridiculous murder mystery series. She plays Jessica Fletcher, a crime writer and amateur sleuth who solves more crimes than the cops - but she almost always knows the victim and/or the main suspect.

Lansbury is good although the scripts were increasingly trite and the solutions became blindingly obvious. If there is a file of papers, Jessica will steal it. If times don't tally, Jessica will be on the trail quicker than a bloodhound. Ron Masak played long-suffering Sheriff Metzger for most of the run, always being shown up by Jessica's dogged insistence that every decision he makes is wrong. William Windom played her doctor friend, Seth Hazlett, from series 2, adding some comedy value, but he really was slumming it in this series.

Cabot Cove becomes the US murder capital - everyone who lunches with Jessica, talks to her on the telephone, or even bumps into her in the street might end up as a murder victim. This ranges from movie stars to drug smugglers, to gossipy biography writers and theatricals, to high-flying business men and willowy models.

In the tradition of 'Columbo' and other US crime series, 'Murder She Wrote' doesn't tax the brain and - amazingly - had enough material to replay pretty much the same episode for twelve years and some feature length specials. When it ended in 1996 we even missed it. A bit.
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9/10
A Sly Sleuth Of A Series.
buckikris22 March 2016
I love Murder She Wrote, I remember watching it every week, a very successful series from 1984-1996. I was young when the series started in 84. I was still in elementary school, but when I saw the first episode I was hooked. A professional author by trade, Jessica Fletcher( Angela Landsbury); helps the authorities out by helping solve cases. Her knowledge of crime comes from her experience as a mystery writer. I have to say the series gets better as the years go by. Yes, I admit some of the episodes I could hardly get though; but most of them are awesome. I am probably one of the few that loved her episodes that involved her traveling to various places. They were more interesting, and included some stars that would go on to bigger and better things. I was so involved, I would find myself trying to find out who committed the crime. I would get some, because of the slip ups by the characters; but others would keep you guessing to the end. I loved this series so much it got me to take an interest in the Criminal Justice profession. I also had some help from other shows like Hunter. A great series that has stood the test of time, I still love watching it today. I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves detective series or just great T.V.. If interested in buying any of the series by year check out EBay or Amazon.
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