Murder, She Wrote is an American television mystery series starring Angela Lansbury as mystery writer and amateur detective Jessica Fletcher. The series aired for 12 seasons from 1984 to 1996 on the CBS network, with 264 episodes transmitted. It was followed by four TV films and a spin-off series, The Law & Harry McGraw. It is one of the most successful and longest-running television shows in history, with close to 23 million viewers in its prime, and was a staple of its Sunday night lineup for a decade. The series is also successful around the world.
Lansbury was nominated for a total of ten Golden Globes and 12 Emmy Awards for her work on Murder, She Wrote. She holds the record for the most Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress in a television drama series and the most Emmy nominations for outstanding lead actress in a drama series for Murder, She Wrote, with those nominations netting her four Golden Globe awards. The series received three nominations but no wins in the Outstanding Drama Series category at the Emmys. It was nominated for a Golden Globe in the same category six times and won twice.
Since the series ended in 1996, a series of four TV movies were released between 1997 and 2003, and a game created by Legacy Interactive was released for the PC platform in 2009. A second game was released in 2012. A spin-off book series, written by Donald Bain, continues to the present.
- 2 Reboot
- 3 Cast
- 4 Episodes
- 5 Awards and nominations
- 6 U.S. television ratings
- 7 Broadcast history
- 8 International syndication
- 9 Merchandise
- 10 Multimedia
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Murder, She Wrote might never have come about had producers Richard Levinson and William Link succeeded with their TV series Ellery Queen. That series folded after a single season, but Levinson and Link were still committed to the concept of a bestselling murder-mystery novelist who solved real murders when not at the typewriter. In collaboration with writer-producerPeter S. Fischer, with whom they had previously worked on Columbo, Link and Levinson changed the sex of their protagonist from male to female and transformed the character from a good-looking, absent-minded young pedant to a middle-aged, down-to-earth widow.
Murder, She Wrote was never pitched as an American version of the Agatha Christie character Miss Marple, contrary to rumors. The show was initially offered to actress Jean Stapleton, who turned it down stating that, after nine years of playing the ditsy but well-meaning Edith Bunker on All in the Family and Archie Bunker's Place, respectively, she did not want to be tied down to another television series. Doris Day was offered the part afterwards, and also declined.
Fischer, Levinson and Link thought Angela Lansbury would be perfect in the part but had not dreamed that she would be interested in a television series. When she made it known she would be available if the right project came along, the trio of creators sent her the script and almost immediately, Lansbury felt she could do something with the role of Jessica Fletcher. With Murder, She Wrote debuting on Sunday, September 30, 1984, the producers were able to parlay their "mystery writer/amateur detective" premise into a 12-year hit for CBS. It also made Lansbury, known previously for her motion picture and Broadway stage work, a household name for millions of television viewers.
The show revolved around the day-to-day life of a retired English teacher who, after being widowed in her early fifties, becomes a very successful mystery writer. Despite fame and fortune, Jessica remains a resident of Cabot Cove, a cozy coastal town in Maine, and maintains her links with all of her old friends, never letting her success go to her head. Exterior shots of Cabot Cove were filmed in Mendocino, California. The fictional "Cabot Cove" name for the series' coastal town was derived from the name of an actual bay harbor inlet in Kennebunkport, Maine, located near the town's center, on the road where motels and lobster shack dives are located.
The show mostly starts with a preview of the episode's events, with Jessica stating: "Tonight On Murder, She Wrote..." Jessica invariably proves more perceptive than the official investigators, who are almost always willing to arrest the most likely suspect. By carefully piecing the clues together and asking astute questions, she always manages to trap the real murderer. Although many famous guest stars appeared on the series during its 12-year run, the series kept the viewers guessing, as special guest stars may be the actual murderer, a victim or just a member of the supporting cast. Keith Michell appeared in the "Jessica" role, solving the mystery, introduced in 9 episodes by his friend Mrs Fletcher.
Murder occurred with such regularity in her vicinity that the term "Cabot Cove syndrome" was coined to describe the constant appearance of dead bodies in remote locations. A 2012 study of episodes found that Cabot Cove had a murder rate of 1,490 per million, more than 50 percent higher than Honduras, which has the real world's highest murder rate.
Jessica's relationship with law enforcement officials varies from place to place. Both sheriffs of Cabot Cove resign themselves to having her meddle in their cases. However, most detectives and police officers do not want her anywhere near their crime scenes, until her accurate deductions convince them to listen to her. Some are happy to have her assistance from the start, often because they are fans of her books. With time, she makes friends in many police departments across the U.S., as well as with a British police officer attached to Scotland Yard.
In August 1992, after eight years producing the series, Peter S. Fischer and Robert F. O'Neill quit; newly appointed executive producer David Moessinger and producer J. Michael Straczynski were brought aboard in an effort to shore up ratings. They moved Jessica to New York, and revitalized the show, bringing it back into the top 10 in the yearly ratings. It was Straczynski who made Jessica an instructor in writing and criminology, and is widely held to have most emphasized her role as a working writer, with all the deadlines and problems involved in that profession. The Moessinger and Straczynski producing team lasted through the 1992/93 season, departing in May 1993.
In August 1988, the series was expected to end in June 1990, because Lansbury expressed that she was weary of her commitment. Nevertheless, Lansbury would continue in the role. By the end of the 1994/95 season, Murder, She Wrote's 11th, Lansbury was content in continuing the series, although her advancing age became a concern (she had just turned 70). However, CBS effectively made the decision for her that fall. After spending 11 years on Sunday, the network's longest-running weekly series (at that time) was moved to Thursday nights at 8 p.m. This put the series in direct competition with the first hour of NBC's Must See TV lineup, which had been drawing the highest ratings of the week for any network for years. CBS cited that Murder, She Wrote was "skewing too old" in the ratings demographics, as—while the series was still successful, having just finished the 11th season as the eighth-most watched program on television—they were not gaining the valued 18–49 ratings demographic that is most desired among networks.
Despite protests of many of the show's fans (who believed CBS was intentionally setting the show up to fail in its new timeslot), CBS refused to budge on the new timeslot. Murder, She Wrote plummeted from eighth to 58th in the yearly ratings; the series lost nearly 6 million viewers as the audience was not willing to follow it to Thursday, which left CBS with little choice but to end Murder, She Wrote after 12 seasons in August 1996. To soften the blow, the network agreed to air four Murder, She Wrote movies over the next few years; the first was broadcast in 1997, with three more following in 2000, 2001, and 2003. Lansbury stated in May 2011 that she would like to make a comeback appearance as Jessica Fletcher.
Deadline reported in October 2013 that NBC is planning a "reboot" of the series, starring Oscar winning actress Octavia Spencer as a "hospital administrator and amateur sleuth who self-publishes her first mystery novel."
- Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher (1984–1996; 264 episodes), a retired English teacher who, after being widowed in her early fifties, becomes a very successful mystery writer.
- William Windom as Dr. Seth Hazlitt (1985–1996; 49 episodes), the local doctor of Cabot Cove and one of Jessica's best friends. In season one finale Windom played Sam Breen, a lawyer who jointly murdered the victim in that episode.
- Tom Bosley as Sheriff Amos Tupper (1984–1988; 19 episodes), Cabot Cove's sheriff at the start of the series. Tupper later retires and goes to live with his sister.
- Ron Masak as Sheriff Mort Metzger (1988–1996; 38 episodes), a former NYPD officer who takes Tupper's place as sheriff in the mistaken belief that he would be living in a more peaceful place. In one earlier season episode, Masak played a cheap store owner in New York City who was in trouble with the law and was trying to get out of trouble by selling his business and also played a police officer in the first season, investigating the murder of an author.
- Michael Horton as Grady Fletcher (1984–1995; 11 episodes), Jessica's not-so-lucky favorite nephew, who (through no fault of his own) always seems to get in trouble with the law. After many romantic disasters, he gets married later in the series. In real life, Horton is married to actress Debbie Zipp, who played Grady's eventual wife, Donna Mayberry. The two had been married for many years before working together on Murder, She Wrote.
- Jerry Orbach as Harry McGraw (1985–1991; 6 episodes), an old-school private investigator who becomes friends with Jessica. Orbach was popular enough to garner his own, short-lived spinoff series in 1987, The Law & Harry McGraw.
- Len Cariou as Michael Hagarty (1985–1992; 7 episodes), a British MI6 agent who would appear when Jessica least expected him to drag her into a dangerous case. Cariou had previously starred with Lansbury on Broadway inSweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street as the titular character.
- Richard Paul as Sam Booth (1986–1991; 7 episodes), the genial, ineffectual mayor of Cabot Cove whose main campaign promise is that he will do nothing.
- Julie Adams as Eve Simpson (1987–1993; 10 episodes), the Cabot Cove real estate agent with a great love for men, both single and married, and the hobby of gossiping. She is a good friend of Jessica.
- Keith Michell as Dennis Stanton (1988–1993; 9 episodes), a former jewel thief turned insurance claims investigator, who always solves his cases using unusual methods, and often sends a copy of the story to his friend Jessica afterwards. Many episodes starring Michell do not involve Jessica Fletcher or any other main or recurring character, and usually begin with Jessica introducing the story to the audience invoking the fourth wall.
- Wayne Rogers as Charlie Garrett (1993–1995; 5 episodes), a disreputable private investigator who usually gets into trouble and needs Jessica's help.
- Claude Akins as Ethan Cragg (1984; 4 episodes), Jessica's fisherman friend.
Murder, She Wrote had a two-part crossover with fellow CBS series Magnum, P.I., in which Jessica Fletcher is called to Hawaii to help Thomas Magnum investigate an attempt on Robin's guests, then helps the private investigator back on the mainland where he's accused of killing the hit man. The story begins on the Magnum, P.I. episode "Novel Connection" and concludes on the episode "Magnum on Ice".
Over its twelve-year run Murder, She Wrote received numerous award nominations. Angela Lansbury herself holds the record for the most Emmy nominations for outstanding lead actress in a drama series with twelve, one for each season. She never won, which is also a record.
|Emmy Awards||Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Angela Lansbury)||1985–1996||No|
|Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (John Addison)||1985||Yes|
|Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Bruce Babcock)||1993, 1995||No|
|Outstanding Costume Design for a Series (Alfred E. Lehman)||1986||Yes|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best TV Series – Drama||1985, 1986||Yes|
|Best TV Series – Drama||1987–1990||No|
|Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series – Drama (Angela Lansbury)||1985, 1987, 1990 & 1992||Yes|
|Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series – Drama (Angela Lansbury)||1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993 & 1995||No|
|Edgar Awards||Best Episode of a TV Series ("Deadly Lady")||1985||Yes|
|Best Episode of a TV Series ("The Dead File")||1993||No|
|Screen Actors Guild Awards||Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series – Drama (Angela Lansbury)||1995||No|
Murder, She Wrote maintained extremely high ratings finishing in the top 15 of shows for eleven of its 12 seasons (eight of which it was in the top 10), even well into its late seasons. At the beginning of its 12th season in 1995, CBS moved the show from its extremely popular Sunday night time slot to Thursday night forcing it to compete with NBC's Must See TV line up, and as a result the ratings plummeted. The show rated as the following:
|Season||Episodes||Season premiere||Season finale||TV season||Rank||Households
|1||22||September 30, 1984||April 21, 1985||1984/85||#8||17.06|
|2||22||September 29, 1985||May 18, 1986||1985/86||#3||21.73|
|3||22||September 28, 1986||May 10, 1987||1986/87||#4||22.19|
|4||22||September 20, 1987||May 8, 1988||1987/88||#9||17.89|
|5||22||October 23, 1988||May 21, 1989||1988/89||#8||17.98|
|6||22||September 24, 1989||May 20, 1990||1989/90||#13||16.30|
|7||22||September 16, 1990||May 12, 1991||1990/91||#12||15.26|
|8||22||September 15, 1991||May 17, 1992||1991/92||#8||15.56|
|9||22||September 20, 1992||May 16, 1993||1992/93||#5||16.47|
|10||21||September 12, 1993||May 22, 1994||1993/94||#11||15.07|
|11||21||September 25, 1994||May 14, 1995||1994/95||#8||14.88|
|12||24||September 21, 1995||May 19, 1996||1995/96||#58||9.50|
- Sunday at 8:00-9:00 pm on CBS - September 30, 1984 – May 14, 1995; January 7 – May 19, 1996
- Thursday at 8:00-9:00 pm on CBS - September 21, 1995 – April 4, 1996
Since its original run on CBS, Murder, She Wrote has been syndicated in many countries around the world.
| Australia||Network Ten,||Murder, She Wrote||English|
|||ORF||Immer wenn sie Krimis schrieb;
Mord ist ihr Hobby
|Whenever She Wrote Crime Novels;
Murder Is Her Hobby
|||VTM,||Murder, She Wrote||English,
| Belgium: Wallonia||La Une||Arabesque||French dubbed|
|||Universal Channel||Assassinato por Escrito||Written Murder||Portuguese dubbed|
|||Fox Crime,||Убийство по сценарий||Murder by Script||Bulgarian dubbed|
|||Vision TV||Murder, She Wrote||English|
| Canada: Quebec||TQS||Elle écrit au meurtre||She Writes "Murder!"||French dubbed|
|||Canal 13||Reportera del crimen||Crime Reporter||Spanish dubbed|
|||HRT||Ubojstvo, napisala je||Murder, She Wrote||English,
|||Nova,||To je vražda, napsala||That Is Murder, She Wrote||Czech dubbed|
|||DR 2||Hun så et mord||She Saw a Murder||English,
|||TV3||Mõrv sai teoks||Murder Became True||English,
|||YLE TV1,||Murhasta tuli totta||Murder Became True||English,
| France||La Cinq,
TF1, TV Breizh, TMC
| Germany||ARD,||Immer, wenn sie Krimis schrieb;
Mord ist ihr Hobby
|Whenever She Wrote Crime Novels;
Murder is Her Hobby
|||Star Channel||Η συγγραφέας ντετέκτιβ||The Detective Writer||English,
|||Viasat 3||Gyilkos sorok||Murderous Lines||Hungarian dubbed|
|||RTÉ One||Murder, She Wrote||English|
|||HOT||רצח במשיכת קולמוס||Murder With a Stroke of Pen||English,
|||Rai Uno,||La signora in giallo||The Lady in Yellow||Italian dubbed|
Mystery Channel, LaLa TV, Chiba TV, Gunma TV
|Jessica obachan no jikenbo||Auntie Jessica's Case Files||Japanese dubbed|
|||KTV 2||Murder, She Wrote||English,
|||LTV||Noziegumam pa pēdām||On the Trail of the Crime||Latvian dubbed|
|||TV3||Džesika Flečer||Jessica Fletcher||Lithuanian dubbed|
|||Fox Crime||Убиство, таа напиша||Murder, She Wrote||English,
|||4TV (former),||La reportera del crimen||The Crime Reporter||Spanish dubbed|
|||RTL 8,||Murder, She Wrote||English,
|||TV3,||Jessica Fletcher||Jessica Fletcher||English,
| Pakistan||Pakistan Television,
|Murder, She Wrote||English|
|Murder, She Wrote||English|
|||13th Street,||Napisała: Morderstwo||Murder, She Wrote||English,
Polish voice-over translation
|||RTP 1,||Crime, Disse Ela||Crime, She Said||English,
|||Pro Cinema,||Verdict: Crima||Verdict: Murder||English,
|||NTV,||Она написала убийство||Murder, She Wrote||Russian dubbed|
|||FOX Crime||Pisac i detektiv||A Writer and a Detective||English,
|||Markíza||To je vražda, napísala||Murder, She Wrote||Slovak dubbed|
|||RTVSLO||Umor, je napisala||Murder, She Wrote||English,
| South Africa||TV1||Murder, She Wrote||English|
| Spain||TVE,||Se ha escrito un crimen||A Crime Has Been Written||Spanish dubbed|
| Spain: Catalonia||TV3||S'ha escrit un crim||A Crime Has Been Written||Catalan dubbed|
| Spain: Galicia||TVG||Escribiuse un crime||A Crime Has Been Written||Galician dubbed|
|||TV3,||Mord och inga visor||Murder and No Melodies||English,
|||TRT 1,||Cinayet Dosyası||Murder File||Turkish dubbed|
|||СТБ||Вона написала вбивство||Murder, She Wrote||Ukrainian dubbed|
| United Kingdom||ITV,||Murder, She Wrote||English|
| United States||Hallmark Movie Channel,||Murder, She Wrote||English|
|||Monte Carlo Televisión||Reportera del crimen||Crime Reporter||Spanish dubbed|
|||Venezolana de Televisión||Reportera del crimen||Crime Reporter||Spanish dubbed|
In December 2009, casual game developer and publisher Legacy Interactive, under license with Universal Pictures Digital Platforms Group (UPDPG), announced the release a PC and Macintosh video game based on the television series. In the game, players help Jessica Fletcher to solve five unusual murders. A sequel, Murder She Wrote 2, was launched by Legacy Interactive in November 2012.