Proving age is just a number, Jessica Fletcher became one of TV’s most beloved characters. Disappointed by the lack of good roles for mature women, Angela Lansbury jumped at the chance to play the novelist-turned-crime-solver and a classic series was born: “Murder, She Wrote.” The show continues to entertain audiences more than 20 years after leaving the primetime airwaves. There’s just something special about the show that keeps us glued to the TV. Here are eight reasons why we still love “Murder, She Wrote.”
The Many Expressions of Angela Lansbury
Something about Angela Lansbury makes her inherently likable. You just want to spend time with her. A darling of the stage and silver screen, Lansbury made a name for herself long before taking on the role of mystery writer-turned-sleuth Jessica B. Fletcher. Her early credits include National Velvet with Elizabeth Taylor in 1944 and The Picture of Dorian Gray the following year. Over the span of her career, Lansbury has received three Academy Award nominations, six Golden Globe wins, and five Tony wins. At age 93, Lansbury continues to act. She most recently starred as Aunt March in PBS’s 2018 adaptation of Little Women.
Location, Location, Location: Cabot Cove, Maine
Jessica Fletcher’s hometown of Cabot Cove was the quintessential small town. As a longtime resident, Jessica knew everyone in town from Mayor Sam Booth to Sheriff Amos Tupper, played by Happy Day’s alum Tom Bosley. The town itself was even featured in a few story lines. In one episode, big city developers get stopped in their tracks when excavations uncover a corpse presumed to be Revolutionary War hero Joshua Peabody. In another episode, a former student of Jessica’s writes a novel about the scandalous town of Castle Cove. The townspeople are all abuzz trying to figure out the inspiration for the story. While the show would frequently involve Jessica’s travels abroad, she would inevitably always return to home Cabot Cove. Everyone could agree that Cabot Cove seemed to be the perfect vacation destination, if only there weren’t so many murders.
Jessica Fletcher’s Success as a Writer
After publication of her first book, The Corpse Danced at Midnight, Jessica enjoyed an impressive mystery writing career under the moniker J.B. Fletcher. We learn that Jessica’s first career was as a high school teacher. She returns to that role in later seasons when she teaches criminology in New York. It was refreshing to see a mature character following their passions, taking on new adventures, and refusing to back down when challenged. Don’t expect Jessica Fletcher to just sit around the house all day!
Jessica’s Active Social Life
We learn early on that Jessica Fletcher is a widow. Her husband Frank passed away before the show started. While they did not have children of their own, Jessica is close to her extended family. Her nephew Grady appears in several episodes. Jessica is also frequently involved with events around town as she has made a name for herself by being Cabot Cove’s most famous citizen. One of Jessica’s most trusted confidantes is Dr. Seth Hazlitt played by William Windom. Romance is always in the air as Jessica clicked with both dashing MI-5 agent Michael Hagarty, played by Len Cariou, and jewel thief turned insurance investigator Dennis Stanton. Some hoped Jessica and Seth might kindle a romance but it wasn’t meant to be. Romance or not, Jessica was far from alone and always had plenty of friends and family to keep her busy.
The Show Opening
The first few notes of the piano and the accompanying image of typing on a typewriter makes anyone break out into a smile. The theme song, composed by John Addison, even won an Emmy award, something Angela Lansbury was never able to do after 18 nominations. You can’t help but feel good when you hear the last few notes of the opening credits and see the episodes title in the series’ distinctive yellow font.
The Happy Ending
Almost every episode ends with someone thanking Jessica for her help and a freeze frame of Jessica smiling or laughing. So many shows don’t have a happy ending, but “Murder, She Wrote” always wrapped up with a happy ending in just under one hour.
Half of the fun of an episode was trying to figure out who the murderer was before Jessica did. Luckily for the audience, the show helped by highlighting certain evidence or conversations to make sure we knew about a clue. Zooming in on a missing button or a phone call to an accomplice, we always had a chance to play junior detective before Jessica revealed the murderer with law enforcement.
It’s Still on the Air
While the show originally aired on CBS in 1984, there is no need for a special service if you want to catch a few episodes today. Multiple television channels including Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Cozi, and WGNA all regularly air episodes so you are likely to catch a repeat while flipping channels. With 12 seasons and 264 episodes, there are plenty of mysteries to solve and, like a good friend, Murder, She Wrote is there for us.