The only thing I really remembered about Murder, She Wrote was that as a young American child, I used to see it being advertised after 60 Minutes and before a TV movie starring Tori Spelling or something. It would bother me even more because these ads were being announced by a semi-drunk pro football announcer, and put a damper on whatever football game I was watching. Enough with the plugs and get back to the action!
But Murder, She Wrote was a lynchpin of Sunday nig…t television on CBS for a lot of people, lasting 12 seasons, and even running strong with The Simpsons as counter programming that appealed to the older demographic, before fading away in 1995. And to be fair, no one could have ever predicted the kind of phenomenon that Homer, Bart and family have imprinted on the American TV public, and to see that half of Murder, She Wrote’s series run was during the beginning of Fox’s Sunday Night lineup makes it a bit impressive in its own right.
In a bit of an Americanized version of the Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot literary characters, Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury, The Manchurian Candidate) is a published, successful writer of murder mystery novels, who is forced into an unenviable position when she has to solve mysteries wherever she goes, living in the fictitious town of Cabot Cove, a place that is very similar to Martha’s Vineyard.
That’s basically it in a nutshell. And when mysteries/whodunits have been successful, they usually stick around on TV or in books for quite awhile. I’m dating myself here, but I used to read Encyclopedia Brown books growing up, so I’ll usually watch an episode from time to time. The show was definitely for the older set, as supporting characters included Jerry Orbach (Law and Order) and Tom Bosley (Happy Days), to name a few, and in the pilot, TV geriatrics like Brian Keith (Hardcastle and McCormick) and Ned Beatty (Deliverance), appear, but you can even spot a young Andy Garcia (Ocean’s Twelve) as well.
The folks behind the smash TV sets like Miami Vice have finally released the first season of this show on DVD, and the full 22 episode season is included on 3 flipper discs for your pleasure.
The usual Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack here, though it’s in mono and sounds very hollow and a little bit disappointing. Not that I was expecting a stereo soundtrack, and I’d assume those soundtracks will start appearing in the later seasons, but this was, considering it’s a bit of a “talkie,” was just too quiet for my tastes.
The usual full frame 1.33:1 TV viewing treatment accompanies each episode. Not a lot appears to be cleaned up from the original broadcasts, and perhaps not enough time was given to this for fans of the set. Still though, it reproduces an average image and by and large there aren’t any real complaints.
Aside from the 2 hour pilot (which appears on most shows’ 1st season DVD sets) and some teaser clips, there’s nothing here, implying a bit of a phoned in attitude for the DVD release of such a successful show. I’m not expecting a treasure trove of supplements, but there’s just nothing really here.
Fans of this long-running show can check this off of their wish lists, as Murder, She Wrote finally makes its way to DVD. While the audio and video presentations are a bit iffy, the reason to watch the show is for its humor, drama and suspense, with various capable supporting cast members and guest stars. If you like whodunits, you will love this show.
Special Features List
- Pilot movie
- Preview Clips