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Murder, She Wrote: The Complete First Season
(April 6/05)

Though it features a fairly ludicrous premise - aging mystery writer Jessica Fletcher (played by, of course, Angela Lansbury) spends her spare time solving murders - Murder, She Wrote is a surprisingly entertaining little show, anchored by Lansbury's delightful and expectedly quirky central performance. It's the kind of show that one can't help but assume has been geared solely towards older viewers, but that's clearly not the case. Like Golden Girls, there's a universal appeal to Murder, She Wrote; after all, who wouldn't get a kick out watching this little old lady outsmart actual law enforcement officers and supposed master criminals?

The series opens with the 93-minute pilot episode, The Murder of Sherlock Holmes, which effectively establishes the show's premise. Jessica Fletcher is a widowed retiree who, unbeknownst to her family or friends, finds herself thrust into the spotlight after her whodunit (which she wrote in her spare time) becomes an instant smash hit. But Jessica's keen crime-solving skills often come in handy in her own neck of the woods, a quaint little town called Cabot Cove, where she's a more adept detective than virtually everyone around her (particularly the inept local sheriff, played by Tom Bosley).

Comparisons to contemporary shows such as CSI and Law and Order are probably inevitable, though not entirely fair. Those programs have a far more clinical approach to the offences portrayed, eschewing character development in favor of an in-depth exploration of the ins-and-outs of crime-solving (a more apt comparison, in terms of what's on the air right now, would be Monk). Murder, She Wrote, on the other hand, effectively combines sleuthing with Jessica's personal life (ie there's an episode in which she contemplates a position in Washington). As a result, the show retains a feeling of levity that's sorely missing from something like CSI; though the crimes that Jessica investigates are undoubtedly quite serious, the character remains unusually positive and even perky.

The first season of Murder, She Wrote, which originally aired in 1984, features appearances from a variety of familiar faces - including Joaquin Phoenix, Leslie Nielsen, Martin Landau, and Andy Garcia (playing a creep who tries to mug Jessica!) The majority of the episodes follow the same formula, with Jessica drawn into a murder investigation despite her protests, followed by a resolution in which the author unveils the killer (she will, of course, explain just how the suspect did what he/she did, usually to the astonishment of a nearby crowd). It's because of Jessica's gee-whiz persona that the show never feels repetitive, though when you get right down to it, virtually every single episode is exactly the same.

Murder, She Wrote hasn't aged too terribly (well, except for the questionable fashion choices and laughable hair styles), and there's no doubt that the show will continue to appeal to viewers of all ages.

 

About the DVD: Universal Studios presents all 22 episodes of Murder, She Wrote's first season (including the extended pilot) with clean, full-frame transfers. There are no bonus features.
© David Nusair