Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996)
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Class Act 

Jessica narrates the tale of a police detective sent to teach a university criminology class and challenges his students to solve a real homicide.


Allen Reisner


Peter S. Fischer (created by), Richard Levinson (created by) | 3 more credits »


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Angela Lansbury ... Jessica Fletcher
Grant Heslov ... Bernard 'Bernie' Berndlestein
Lise Hilboldt ... Elizabeth Mills
Robert Lipton ... Colin Hale
Heather McAdam ... Jane Ballinger
Barry Newman ... Lt. Amos 'Jake' Ballinger
Gerald S. O'Loughlin ... Capt. Joe Rawlings
Robert Pine ... Sen. Andrew Grainger
Hallie Todd ... Moira McShane
Garry Walberg ... Sam Kendall
Christina Hart ... Sister Maria
Elinore O'Connell ... Joanne Summerfield (as Elinor O'Connell)
Gloria Cromwell Gloria Cromwell ... Anna Gunderson
Robert Casper ... Dean Howard Cogden
Vicki Lynne Davis Vicki Lynne Davis ... Graingers Secretary


Young drifter, Leo Gunderson, stumbles upon Janet Carr's corpse on the beach and confesses to her murder, but only under duress. The case is officially closed after his convictions. However, Lieutenant Amos 'Jake' Ballinger, who through political intervention was removed from active detective duty to be a criminology teacher at Freemont University, decides to solve the case as a 'practical exercise'. He is helped by students Bernie Berndlestein, who wants to become a P.I., and Mrs. Elizabeth Mills, an insurance investigator. They find a link with the hostile politician, state Senator Andrew Grainger. Written by KGF Vissers

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Crime | Drama | Mystery


TV-PG | See all certifications »

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[first lines]
Jessica Fletcher: [on phone] Jake, I'm sorry, but you're wrong.
Jessica Fletcher: No! That is absolutely untrue. You have not been put out to graze.
Jessica Fletcher: Yes. Yes, I'm sure you do.
Jessica Fletcher: Now, look, I may be flying out there in a month, and I promise I will call you the minute that I land.
Jessica Fletcher: Wonderful. Well, love to Janie. Bye.
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Murder She Wrote Theme
Written by John Addison
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User Reviews

Anyone for an Extra Credit Project, Class?
11 January 2010 | by WeatherVioletSee all my reviews

Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) introduces and summarizes this "Bookend" guest sleuth episode about an LAPD Lieutenant friend of hers, who, along with two students in his college Criminology course, investigates a closed case murder, in which authorities have, naturally, arrested an innocent suspect.

Its action begins one evening on a California beach near Los Angeles, as a "Young Man" (Bill Brochtrup) hikes along the rocks, preparing to camp beneath the stars, when he witnesses an altercation across a dune and investigates to discover the body of a "Girl" (Holly Clark), as the driver of one automobile speeds away, and the driver of a police patrol car shines his headlights upon the startled Young Man.

LAPD Lieutenant Amos 'Jake' Ballinger (Barry Newman) believes the account of the sole suspect's ailing mother, Anna Gunderson (Gloria Cromwell), who pleads with the Lieutenant to defend her son's innocence, for by now he has been unjustly incarcerated for nearly a year.

When Captain Joe Rawlings (Gerald S. O'Loughlin) dismisses Jake Ballinger from his ongoing investigation, which turns up no other leads, and arranges for Dean Howard Cogden (Robert Casper) to hire Jake as a Criminology instructor on a Los Angeles campus.

Jake is therefore able to provide for his teenage daughter, Jane Ballinger (Heather McAdam), who shares his meager apartment, as they, together manage their domestic responsibilities, while Jane continues her education. But, through this new experience of facing dismissal from the force for disobeying orders, Jake devises a plan to continue the investigation of the now cold case murder, by soliciting volunteers from among his students, to sleuth for extra credit.

And when Jake delivers his extra-credit project before his forum classroom, students begin to drop the course left and right, and then there are three: Moira McShane (Hallie Todd), who bounces the idea around and skips a few classes, Bernard 'Bernie' Berndlestein (Grant Heslov), a geek-ish type, who maintains that information is there to be discovered, and Elizabeth Mills (Lise Hilboldt), who resolves to prove that she is up to any challenge that the police refuse to handle, and able beyond their limited capacity of understanding.

Jane tolerates her father's ongoing rounds of visitors into their humble dwelling at odd hours because she reasons that investigating and proving the innocence of the unjustly accused are woven into his very fabric.

And while Bernie handles the processing of facts and information, Elizabeth makes the rounds to garner clues through her conversations with various sources and suspects, they impressing Jake beyond measure, as he questions their methods, but, of course, they're adamantly focused upon solving the case, by doing things as making plaster casts of tire tracks, and infiltrating the state capitol, at Sacremento.

After deciding that information in the case has been covered up, they question State Senator Andrew Grainger (Robert Pine) and his Chief of Staff, Colin Hale (Robert Lipton), as well as Sam Kendall (Garry Walberg), Joanne Summerfield (Elinore O'Connell), and even Sister Maria (Christina Hart), under the trail of a relative of the senator, who may have shared a past with the murder victim, as the LAPD has its hands full, trying to calm suspects whom they've already cleared, while they simultaneously face exposure by a "Class Act."

The cast is rounded out by Vicki Lynne Davis as Graingers Secretary, Robin Claire as Secretary, and Brett Stimely as Patrolman.

This episode represents the only acting credit each by Vicki Lynne Davis and Elinore O'Connell, the most recent television role each by Robin Claire and Christina Hart, one of three by Holly Clark, and one of the most recent performances by Garry Walberg.

This also marks the first of two "MSW" appearances for Bill Brochtrup, the second of two each for Robert Casper and Lise Hilboldt, the second of three for Barry Newman, the third of three for Robert Lipton, the second of four for Gerald S. O'Loughlin, the second of five for Robert Pine, and the first of seven "MSW" episodes featuring Hallie Todd, before her six as Dennis Stanton's receptionist, Rhoda Markowitz.

Gloria Cromwell, acting on television since 1975, has unfortunately since passed.

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Release Date:

3 December 1989 (USA) See more »

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Production Co:

Universal Television See more »
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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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