Murder She Wrote
Murder, She Wrote
1984- 1996
I'm in a very enviable position, being able to work like this 45 years later. It's always beginning! I never have a sense of finishing up, just new things beginning. When I die, they're going to carry me off a stage.
Angela Lansbury
The first black and white motion picture to be digitally converted to color was "Yankee Doodle Dandy", the 1942 biography of George M. Cohen.
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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 gender 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, 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.

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.

Angela Lansbury stated in May 2011 that she would like to make a comeback appearance as Jessica Fletcher.
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.

Angela Lansbury was the fourth choice to play Jessica Fletcher. Jean Stapleton was offered the part but turned it down, as did Doris Day.

Jessica's maiden name was McGill, taken from Angela Lansbury's real-life mother, Moyna McGill.

Angela Lansbury also played Jessica's look-alike cousin Emma, who was a performer on the London stage.

On several episodes, Angela Lansbury, as Jessica, would just appear briefly at the beginning to introduce that week's episode and many of those episodes would feature Keith Michell as Jessica's friend Dennis Stanton.

Besides Dennis Stanton, other recurring characters that helped Jessica solve the various murders she encountered were private investigators Harry McGraw and Charlie Garrett (played by Jerry Orbach and Wayne Rogers, respectively), British intelligence agent Michael Haggerty (played by Len Cariou) and N.Y.P.D detective Lt. Artie Gelber (played by Herb Edelman). However, the only one of these characters to be spun off onto his own series was Harry McGraw in the short lived series titled, appropriately enough, The Law and Harry McGraw.

Jessica Fletcher lived at 698 Candelwood, Cabot Cove, Maine.

Jessica's late husband Frank was a bomber pilot in Korea

Jessica's middle name is Beatrice, a link to Angela Lansbury's best friend (and Mame co-star) Beatrice Arthur. Her late husband was named "Frank", another reference to Bea, who's birth name was "Bernice Frankel".

Before she met and married her late husband, Frank, Jessica was studying to become a journalist.

Another recurring character was Michael Hagarty (as played by Len Cariou), who was an undercover agent, who met up with Jessica at many different locales all over the world. Len Cariou also starred with Angela Lansbury on Broadway as part of the original cast in "Sweeney Todd".

There are many in-jokes in "The Committee" (episode 8.9). The last names of characters Edward Dunsany, Gerald Innsmouth, and Philip Arkham all refer to works by H.P. Lovecraft. The name of Harcourt Fenton is an obvious reference to Star Trek rogue Harcourt Fenton Mudd, and the names of Lieutenant Tartarus and the Avernus Club both refer to mythological hells. This is no surprise, given that prolific SF author J. Michael Straczynski wrote this episode.

In "Incident in Lot 7" (episode 8.13), the novel of Jessica's being made into a movie is called "Messengers of Midnight." Jessica says that it's based on a true story, a car going over a cliff is mentioned, and a particular character is named as the killer. All of this means that the "true story" Jessica wrote into the novel was her investigation in the episode "The Committee," another episode written by J. Michael Straczynski.

The name of Jessica's first novel was "The Corpse Danced at Midnight".

The show's title is a reference to the Miss Marple mystery Murder She Said, which was based on a novel by Agatha Christie.

{Jack and Bill (#6.5)}_ and {Murder -- According to Maggie (#6.17)}_ are apparently pilots for other shows that were broadcast as "Murder She Wrote" episodes, apparently in an attempt to create a spin-off. The only successful spin off of this series was The Law and Harry McGraw.

Jessica never drove a car. She always rode her bicycle or took a cab. Sometimes she would ask someone to give her a ride.

When Tom Bosley left the series, his absence was explained by having Sheriff Tupper retire from the position and move to Kentucky to live near his family.

The harbor of Jessica's home town, Cabot Cove, is actually the Jaw's lake on the Universal Studios tram tour.

Sheriff Metzger's wife Adelle was often talked about but was never seen.

Jessica had four brothers and sisters. However, the only one that was seen was her brother Marshall, who was a doctor. Another brother, Martin, was also mentioned but never seen.

Grady moved in with Jessica and her husband Frank after Grady's parents, Frank's brother and his wife, were killed in an automobile accident.

The episode "Mr. Penroy's Vacation" shares several plot points with "Arsenic and Old Lace." At one point, Helen says to Lillian "Not my best lace tablecloth!"

Jessica's Manhattan phone number is 212-191-1498.

Series star Angela Lansbury and co-creator/producer Peter S. Fischer weren't particularly fond of one another, with numerous magazine articles documenting how overworked Lansbury was and how she would insist on numerous revisions to her character. In fact, Lansbury was rumored ready to quit after her contract expired at the end of the fifth season, and the season-ending two-parter was supposed to be the series finale. When Lansbury decided at the last moment to come back after all (with much prodding from CBS, which desperately needed the hit show to stay on), Fischer had to rewrite the entire script. For the final episode of the seventh season, Fischer (on his way out the door; Lansbury had been promised the job of executive producer after a transition year under David Moessinger, whom she also didn't like) had two versions of the last scene filmed: one where Jessica nods in agreement to Harry McGraw's "And that's all she wrote" and one where she winks at the audience, saying she'll come back.

Many viewers (and Angela Lansbury herself) believed that the move of the venerable show from Sunday to Thursday for the twelfth season was a deliberate plan by CBS programming chief Leslie Moonves to kill it. After all, it was going up against "Friends," which was about to get super-show status. But everything Moonves tried in the Sunday slot failed so badly that he wound up double-running "Murder, She Wrote" on Thursdays and Sundays for the last few weeks of the regular season and then for a summer of reruns. He had to place "Touched by an Angel" in the time slot the following fall to get a decent audience. The final season alludes to this with episodes tellingly titled "Murder Among Friends" (featuring the ensemble cast of hit TV series "Buds") and "Death By Demographics" - the final regular edition before the show switched to TV Movies.

Angela Lansbury received an Emmy nomination for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series for the each of the show's twelve seasons. She did not win for any of the nominations.

Nine episodes and exteriors for numerous others were shot in Mendocino, California, including the exterior of Jessica Fletcher's house.
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