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Murder, She Wrote

Consternation she wroteJessica essays the old wielding-a-torch-in-a-lighted-room double-bluffTEA-AND-SLIPPERS SLEUTHERY, best taken over doilies and Darjeeling, if not Lucozade and egg soldiers. Casting aside her leatherbound library of crime, Jessica Beatrice Fletcher would sally forth unto this week’s house warming party/family reunion/community tea dance only to discover a horrible killing, a clueless local police force and a dozen bystanders urging her to apply her literary skills to this real life tragedy. Having taken up mystery writing once widowed and found fame across the States for her seemingly endless stream of treacherous novellas, Jessica also had cause to travel around the country on promotional junkets which coincidentally – and fortuitously for the viewer – also delivered her unto the scenes of yet more dastardly crimes. ANGELA LANSBURY got stolen from over here and made a star over there, turning Murder, She Wrote (that comma was all-important) into a veritable pension plan. The opening titles set the tone majestically: Jessica in a montage of scenes from her escapades, set to the sound of a cheerily tinkling piano and oom-pah orchestra. Approximately 325,671,290 guest stars appeared, including the great TOM BOSLEY in the semi-regular role of Sheriff Amos Tupper and the two-part special when Jessica went to Hawaii and pooled resources with [cref 2899 MAGNUM]. Later episodes saw our heroine taking it easy, “appearing” at the beginning of each episode to introduce that week’s “guest sleuth” then pissing off back to her writing desk. Well, she was almost 90.



  1. Guest Star Kevin McCarthy

    September 23, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Aka Murder She Did, detailing the crimes of the world’s most devious serial killer. Nobody would suspect a successful, little old lady mystery writer as the real murderer, but every week she managed to frame some hapless character for the slaughter she was committing across America. It was no coincidence that these incidents followed her around, that’s all I’m saying.

  2. Paul Gatenby

    September 23, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Like the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, I have never seen the same episode of this programme twice. There must be dozens in the vaults, just begging to be wiped.

  3. Glenn A

    September 26, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Paul, you also share the surname of my manager out of interest, but Murder She Wrote seems to be a hardy perennial of daytime. Originally it was a peak time programme, but relatively poor ratings- Border used to show it opposite TOTP- saw it moved into daytime where it seemed to end up sandwiched between Aussie soaps for 10 years. I thought maybe this clunker had gone until BBC One got its hands on it a few years ago. However, I am sure when the Border studios are demolished, a few musty tapes of Murder She Wrote will be found.

  4. Rob Free

    September 26, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    I once saw George Clooney in an old episode. He never quite matched the performance.

  5. Aidy

    September 29, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Almost every episode followed the same formula;The murder would take place around 25 minutes in after a build up showing a number of people having a reason to want to kill the deceased,then after 40 minutes an innocent and totally unrelated remark made by someone would give Jessica a “EUREKA” moment where she suddenly knows the who when and why about the murder.Its also worth noting the amazing cross section of Jessicas readers,as it seems absolutely everyone she meets is a big fan who has read all her books.Great entertainment,though.

  6. Glenn Aylett

    May 19, 2023 at 7:47 pm

    Murder She Wrote will always remind me of a time when I would wander into town, cash my fortnightly giro, have a wander aound town and then walk back home to see what daytime joys awaited me on the television. For some reason, Jessica Fletcher seemed to greet me every tome I either returned from signing on or cashing in my giro. Cue a quick visit to one of my friends to play Street Fighter ( a lot of us were unemployed round here in the early nineteis) and then spend some of our dole money in the local pub before the rest of it was swallowed up by the bills- £ 44 a week didn’t go far even in 1993. Funny how this show always reminds me of my doleite years.

  7. Richardpd

    May 19, 2023 at 9:56 pm

    I remember between college & starting work lunchtime repeats of I Dream Of Jeanie at lunchtime on Channel 4 was something to look forward to.

    When Murder She Wrote was last doing the rounds in the day I was working so didn’t get the change to watch it.

    • Glenn Aylett

      May 20, 2023 at 12:26 pm

      Murder She Wrote tended to be sandwiched between Home And Away and some B list Australian soap in the Border region 30 yearsd ago. It had been networked in peak time in the eighties, but ratings were never that good, so it was pushed around the regions in daytime. Rather like Doctor Quinn in the same era, it was the sort of show old ladies would like as it was gentle viewing and for all the show had a murder every episode, it wasn’t a Taggart style slaying.

  8. Richardpd

    May 20, 2023 at 2:16 pm

    It’s odd that some American shows were ratings toppers in their home markets but struggled in prime time over here, but then did well when shown in the day.

    Everybody Loves Raymond is a good example, being popular in Channel 4’s morning schedules for 2 decades, but never getting high viewing figures in the evening.

    Doctor Quinn was like one of those easy going Sunday evening dramas my Mum has a soft spot for.

    • Glenn Aylett

      May 20, 2023 at 8:23 pm

      There are thousands of American actresses that could have played Doctor Quinn, but how they asked a well spoken English actress like Jane Seymour to put on a fake American accent will always be a mystery. Yet it probably made Miss Seymour a large amount of money and she won’t be complaining.

  9. George White

    August 13, 2023 at 11:32 am

    Been watching old Murder, She Wrotes on Amazon prime.
    What a bloody weird show, esp. the foreign eps.
    Being Irish, the Oireland eps are always a treat, esp. the ones set in Wicklow (the Wind Around the Tower and The Celtic Riddle) set in weird stock footage-filled Califronian approximations of Aughrim and Rathdrum, where the likes of Drake off Aliens and Richard Riehle (Tom in Office Space, sans tache and looking twenty years younger than normal) are the local Gardai.

    JW an absolutely gobsmackingly terrible, genuinely offensive voodoo ep, Night of the Tarantula (1989), which begins with Jessica and English pal Shani ‘Nancy’ Wallis (as the widow of a British plantation owner in Jamaica). Her brother in law John Rhys Davies comes in, playing as close to himself as he ever has, a blustering, un-PC, right-wing British duffer who is supposed to have been in Jamaica for forty years, but has never heard of reggae music and thinks it’s someone called Reggie. He is in a dispute with the man his father won the plantation from in a card game forty years before, played by Lansbury’s former Dorian Gray, long time Cork resident/West Brit du jour Hurd Hatfield, doing an outrageous French accent. We also meet Wallis’ sons, who are supposedly English but one is Wicklow-born James Lancaster, doing his own posh Wicklow accent, basically my own accent (knowing he’s a Wicklow Prod, I’m curious if we went to the same primary school).
    Then, we meet Wicklow lad’s girlfriend, Nancy Valen, a white actress with an unconvincing tan and a Copycats-level accent. Yep, she’s supposed to be mixed-race. And her dad is veteran African-American actor Ji-Tu Cumbuka (someone who I know fought hard against stereotyped roles) as the local voodoo priest. Yikes!!! A dignified actor like Cumbuka not only playing such a stereotype, but having to play opposite a white actress in what is basically apologetic blackface, like on Stars in their Eyes when they’d have a Scouse brickie do Nat King Cole and give him an only sporadically noticeable tan to darken him without going the full Jolson.
    The one joy is learning that the recurring character of Cousin Emma (Lansbury in a red wig as Jessica’s Barbara Knox-esque Northern music hall star cousin) is embarrassed at the venue of her latest musical revue – Blackpool Pier.
    God, that’s the ep they should have done. Murder in Blackpool – i.e. a few stock shots, and then mostly Santa Monica or studio recreations.

    Also watched one of the London eps, with a ludicrous mix of unconvincing sets, LA mansions, footage of contemporary London buses advertising Wimpy, 1980s footage of the Piccadilly Wimpy bar and 1960s traffic. Chris Guest regular Jim Piddock as a supposed journo from Empire Magazine, Ian Ogilvy as a terminally ill ‘Lord Glenhaven’, Jean Marsh as a grande dame of the theatre, and Anne ‘Ben Stiller/Hitler’s mam’ Meara as her Oirish dresser. And dear old Norman Lloyd, already about 79 and without another 26 years to go, playing the local solicitor using his own old school Transatlantic accent. And a rare Yorkshire accent on screen – as long time Chicago based Sheffielder Pauline Brailsford (the chaperone in A League of their Own) plays the requisite Scotland Yard DCI (with an unconvincing WPC outfitted extra by her side).

  10. Glenn Aylett

    August 13, 2023 at 12:28 pm

    @ George White, whenever an American show wanted to do an episode based in London and time was tight, there would be the predictable shots of Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and a Routemaster and black cab driving along Whitehall. Most likely the interior shots would be done in a studio in America and use whatever British actor was available. Also, as you say,since most American viewers would be unfamiliar with Ireland, just use a Californian village, remove the American cars and pretend it’s County Donegal.
    On a similar note, episodes of The Saint that were supposed to be in Paris are obviously not, as you can spot the set of a Parisian street and a conveniently positioned Citroen a mile off among ten seconds of stock footage of the Eiffel Tower.

  11. Richardpd

    August 13, 2023 at 3:27 pm

    The ITC shows sometimes did the same thing, unless the budget was big enough for an actual location shot away from Borhamwood.

    One of the studios had a general European backlot used in lots of productions over the years.

    Canadians Shane “Scott Tracy” Rimmer, Bruce “Waldorf Salad” Boa & a few others made steady money playing Americans in British programmes & films.

    I was impressed that the Christopher Reeve Superman films managed to mostly filmed in the UK, using Milton Keynes as a stand in for Metropolis.

    Plenty of stock shots of New York streets full of yellow cabs, Hollywood Hills, Sears Tower etc. would help things.

  12. Glenn Aylett

    August 13, 2023 at 7:42 pm

    @ Richardpd, the sets were good for the time and most people watching in black and white would assume Simon Templar was in Paris for real as soon as they saw The Eiffel Tower, a Citroen and shops with French names. Certainly ITC’s bigger budget showed in this era over the BBC, whose idea of a crimefighter was Sergeant George Dixon in a studio bound version of London.
    Superman mostly used Canada for the rural locations in the first two films as the Canadian Mid West looked very similar to the American one, but I never knew Milton Keynes was used for Metropolis.

  13. George White

    August 13, 2023 at 10:02 pm

    It’s one of my specialities @glenn_aylett.

    Recently been marathoning old eps of McCloud set in ‘London’, one, ‘London Bridges’, with Adam Faith as the imported Brit name, reams of stock footage (including There’s A Girl in My Soup starring Gerald Flood on at the West End), and usage of New York and Little Europe sets. Jack Cassidy plays a Raffles type, there’s a medieval-themed burger bar, both terrible English accents and terrible Oirish IRA accents, fake BBC reports from ‘Buck House’…

    Weirdly, the writer of London Bridges, Michael Sloan was himself a Rentayank (Us-born, British-raised) actor who popped up as Yanks in the Troubleshooters and a few ITC shows before getting a writing job, producing his own exploitation films in Britain, and then after getting the job of writing the Columbo with Jack Cassidy as Santini the Nazi magician, hot-legged it to US ,initially specialised in writing ‘Briddish’ eps (he also did a Hardy Boys where Patrick Macnee plays an unnamed, bowler-hatted, brolly-wielding British spy known only as Agent S)
    Weirdly, the Return of Sam McCloud, the 1989 tvm reunion was a sequel to London Bridges, but actually shot in England, David McCallum playing Faith’s character, and in a reversal, the main baddie being veteran Canadian Brit film/tv/radio American for hire Robert Beatty.

    A few miniseries like Ike, QB VII, SOS Titanic and The Winds of War managed to cast both Rentabrits and Rentayanks due to their complicated Transatlantic schedules.

  14. Richardpd

    August 13, 2023 at 10:26 pm

    Milton Keynes was used for Superman IV due to the lower budget, which meant all production was in the UK.

    Michael Sloan wrote the English scripts to Star Fleet, adapting it from the original Japanese puppet show X-Bomber.

    • David Smith

      August 14, 2023 at 7:25 am

      ..Plus a hilarious use of the Piccadilly Line to stand in for the “Metropolis subway”.

  15. Sidney Balmoral James

    August 14, 2023 at 12:39 pm

    Superman III of course makes a virtue of being shot in UK, by having Graham Stark, Gordon Rollings, Bob Todd etc. appear in the fabulous opening sequence. Well, fabulous is probably a bit strong. But the film is full of quirky passing moments presumably thanks to Dick Lester (and indeed, quirky casting – Annie Ross, Pamela Stephenson!) – when did films abandon that sort of inventiveness? They’re so pleased with themselves these days for any trace of quirkiness – look at the mountain of press that Barbie has attracted – more perhaps than any film since Gone with the Wind.

  16. Adrian Partington

    August 14, 2023 at 3:01 pm

    Apparently years ago a vintage car owners club filmed a load of their cars crossing Westminster Bridge at about 4am on a summer’s day, and this stock footage has been used ever since for period films set in London.

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