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|Murder, She Wrote|
The end of the original opening title sequence.
|Format||Murder mystery, Procedural drama|
|Created by||Peter S. Fischer
Tom Bosley (1984–1988)
Ron Masak (1988–1996)
|Theme music composer||John Addison|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||12|
|No. of episodes||264 (+ 4 TV movies)
(List of episodes)
|Executive producer(s)||Angela Lansbury
Peter S. Fischer
|Running time||40 minutes
|Production company(s)||Universal Television
Columbia Pictures Television
|Picture format||35 mm film
4:3 480i (SDTV)
4:3 1080i (HDTV)
|Original run||September 30, 1984 – May 19, 1996|
|Related shows||The Law & Harry McGraw|
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, a game created by Legacy Interactive was released for the PC platform in 2009, and a second game is to be released in spring 2012. and a spin-off book series, written by Donald Bain, continues to the present.
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-producer Peter 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 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 Angela Lansbury, known previously for her motion picture and Broadway stage work, a household name for millions of television viewers.
The title comes from Murder, She Said, which was the title of a 1961 film adaptation of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple novel 4:50 from Paddington. The character of Jessica Fletcher could be thought to be based on a combination of Miss Marple, and Agatha Christie herself.
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.
Murder occurs with great regularity in her vicinity (so improbably often that the mystery term "Cabot Cove syndrome" was eventually coined  to describe the constant appearance of dead bodies in remote locations). 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, who, given the series' "special guest star" policy, was often played by a famous film or TV personality.
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 1991, 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 ten in the yearly ratings. It was Straczynski who made her 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.
Following the 1991–92 season, Angela Lansbury became the series' executive producer after she and her husband's production company, Corymore Productions, purchased a majority interest in Murder, She Wrote from Universal Television and Columbia Pictures Televsion, which remained as a producer and distributor. As the series entered the middle of the decade, it remained a Sunday night staple and eventually became the longest-running mystery series in television history. While the ratings for Murder, She Wrote had slipped slightly following its resurgence in 1991, it still maintained a loyal viewing audience. In fact, the first season that Lansbury served as executive producer saw another rise in the ratings, as Murder, She Wrote ended the season in the top five for the first time since 1988. For individual episodes synopses please refer to this subpage.
By the end of the 1994–95 season, Murder, She Wrote's eleventh, Lansbury began to consider ending the series, as her advancing age became a concern (she had just turned seventy). However, CBS effectively made the decision for her that fall. After spending eleven years on Sunday, the network's longest-running weekly series (at that time) was moved to Thursday nights at 8 PM. 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. More specifically, Murder, She Wrote would be facing off against NBC's comedy Friends, which was entering its second season on the network and was given the 8 PM timeslot for the fall, and The Single Guy, a brand-new sitcom that NBC gave the coveted 8:30 timeslot between Friends and Seinfeld. 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 eleventh 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, CBS refused to budge on the new timeslot. Friends had finished its first season (1994–95) in ninth place in the final Nielsen ratings. This situation was exacerbated further by the success of The Single Guy (which many attributed to piggybacking off of Friends), as well as another freshman sitcom, Boston Common, which debuted in March 1996 against the second half of Murder, She Wrote. As a result of these combined factors, Murder, She Wrote plummeted from eighth to fifty-eight in the yearly ratings; the series lost nearly six 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 twelve seasons in August 1996. To soften the blow, the network agreed to air several Murder, She Wrote movies over the next few years; the first was broadcast in 1997, with three more following in 2000, 2001, and 2003.
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 twelve seasons (8 of its 12 seasons it was in the top ten), even well into its late seasons. At the beginning of its twelfth 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||Viewers
|1||22||September 30, 1984||April 21, 1985||1984–1985||#8||17.06|
|2||22||September 29, 1985||May 18, 1986||1985–1986||#3||21.73|
|3||22||September 28, 1986||May 10, 1987||1986–1987||#4||22.19|
|4||22||September 20, 1987||May 8, 1988||1987–1988||#9||17.89|
|5||22||October 23, 1988||May 21, 1989||1988–1989||#8||17.98|
|6||22||September 24, 1989||May 20, 1990||1989–1990||#13||16.30|
|7||22||September 16, 1990||May 12, 1991||1990–1991||#12||15.26|
|8||22||September 15, 1991||May 17, 1992||1991–1992||#8||15.56|
|9||22||September 20, 1992||May 16, 1993||1992–1993||#5||16.47|
|10||21||September 12, 1993||May 22, 1994||1993–1994||#11||15.07|
|11||21||September 25, 1994||May 14, 1995||1994–1995||#8||14.88|
|12||24||September 21, 1995||May 19, 1996||1995–1996||#58||9.50|
Since its original run on CBS, Murder, She Wrote has been syndicated in many countries around the world.
|Murder, She Wrote||English|
|Austria||ORF||Mord ist ihr Hobby||Murder Is Her Hobby||German dubbed|
|Belgium : Flanders||VTM,
|Murder, She Wrote||English,
|Belgium : Wallonia||La Une||Arabesque||French dubbed|
|Brazil||Universal Channel||Assassinato por Escrito||Written Murder||Portuguese dubbed|
|Убийство по сценарий||Murder by Script||Bulgarian dubbed|
|Canada||Vision TV||Murder, She Wrote||English|
|Canada: Quebec||TQS||Elle écrit au meurtre||She Writes "Murder!"||French dubbed|
|Chile||Canal 13||Reportera del crimen||Crime Reporter||Spanish dubbed|
|Croatia||HRT||Ubojstvo, napisala je||Murder, She Wrote||English,
|To je vražda, napsala||That Is Murder, She Wrote||Czech dubbed|
|Denmark||DR 2||Hun så et mord||She Saw a Murder||English,
|Estonia||TV3||Mõrv sai teoks||Murder Became True||English,
|Murhasta tuli totta||Murder Became True||English,
|Immer, wenn sie Krimis schrieb;
Mord ist ihr Hobby
|Whenever She Wrote a Crime Novel;
Murder is Her Hobby
|Greece||Star Channel||Η συγγραφέας ντετέκτιβ||The Detective Writer||English,
|Hungary||Viasat 3||Gyilkos sorok||Murderous Lines||Hungarian dubbed|
|Ireland||RTÉ One||Murder, She Wrote||English|
|רצח במשיכת קולמוס||Murder With a Stroke of Pen||English,
|La signora in giallo||The Lady in Yellow||Italian dubbed|
|Jessica obasan no jikenbo||Aunt Jessica's Case Files||Japanese dubbed|
|Kuwait||KTV 2||Murder, She Wrote||English,
|Noziegumam pa pēdām||On the Trail of the Crime||Latvian dubbed|
|Lithuania||TV3||Džesika Flečer||Jessica Fletcher||Lithuanian dubbed|
|Republic of Macedonia||Fox Crime||Убиство, таа напиша||Murder, She Wrote||English,
Universal Channel (former),
FX Latin America (current)
|La reportera del crimen||The Crime Reporter||Spanish dubbed|
|Murder, She Wrote||English,
|Jessica Fletcher||Jessica Fletcher||English,
|Murder, She Wrote||English|
|Napisała: Morderstwo||Murder, She Wrote||English,
Polish voice-over translation
|Crime, Disse Ela||Crime, She Said||English,
|Verdict: Crima||Verdict: Murder||English,
|Она написала убийство||Murder, She Wrote||Russian dubbed|
|Serbia||FOX Crime||Pisac i detektiv||A Writer and a Detective||English,
|Slovakia||Markíza||To je vražda, napísala||Murder, She Wrote||Slovak dubbed|
|Umor, je napisala||Murder, She Wrote||English,
|South Africa||TV1||Murder, She Wrote||English|
|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|
|Mord och inga visor||Murder and No Melodies||English,
|Cinayet Dosyası||Murder File||Turkish dubbed|
|Ukraine||СТБ||Вона написала вбивство||Murder, She Wrote||Ukrainian dubbed|
|United Kingdom||ITV1 HD,
BBC One HD,
|Murder, She Wrote||English|
|United States||Hallmark Channel,
|Murder, She Wrote||English|
|Uruguay||Monte Carlo Televisión||Reportera del crimen||Crime Reporter||Spanish dubbed|
|Venezuela||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/MAC video game based on the television series. In the game, players help Jessica Fletcher to solve five unusual murders.
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