After a stint as Miss Marple on screen, former movie star Angela Lansbury was a dead-cert for this watchable but ridiculous murder mystery series. She plays Jessica Fletcher, a crime writer and amateur sleuth who solves more crimes than the cops – but she almost always knows the victim and/or the main suspect.
Lansbury is good although the scripts were increasingly trite and the solutions became blindingly obvious. If there is a file of papers, Jessica will steal it. If times don’t tally, Jessica will be on the trail quicker than a bloodhound. Ron Masak played long-suffering Sheriff Metzger for most of the run, always being shown up by Jessica’s dogged insistence that every decision he makes is wrong. William Windom played her doctor friend, Seth Hazlett, from series 2, adding some comedy value, but he really was slumming it in this series.
Cabot Cove becomes the US murder capital – everyone who lunches with Jessica, talks to her on the telephone, or even bumps into her in the street might end up as a murder victim. This ranges from movie stars to drug smugglers, to gossipy biography writers and theatricals, to high-flying business men and willowy models.
In the tradition of ‘Columbo’ and other US crime series, ‘Murder She Wrote’ doesn’t tax the brain and – amazingly – had enough material to replay pretty much the same episode for twelve years and some feature length specials. When it ended in 1996 we even missed it. A bit.