Murder, She Wrote

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Murder, She Wrote
Created byPeter S. Fischer
Richard Levinson[1]
William Link
StarringAngela Lansbury
William Windom
Tom Bosley
Ron Masak
Theme music composerJohn Addison
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons12
No. of episodes264 (+ 4 TV movies)
(List of episodes)
Executive producer(s)Angela Lansbury (1992–1996)[2]
Peter S. Fischer
Richard Levinson
William Link
David Moessinger
Running time48 minutes
(excluding commercials)
Production company(s)Universal Television
Corymore Productions
Original channelCBS[3]
Picture format35 mm film
Original Broadcast:
4:3 480i (SDTV)
4:3 1080i (HDTV)
Original runSeptember 30, 1984 – May 16, 1996
Related showsMagnum, P.I.
The Law & Harry McGraw
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the television series. For the reggae song, see Chaka Demus.
Murder, She Wrote
Created byPeter S. Fischer
Richard Levinson[1]
William Link
StarringAngela Lansbury
William Windom
Tom Bosley
Ron Masak
Theme music composerJohn Addison
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons12
No. of episodes264 (+ 4 TV movies)
(List of episodes)
Executive producer(s)Angela Lansbury (1992–1996)[2]
Peter S. Fischer
Richard Levinson
William Link
David Moessinger
Running time48 minutes
(excluding commercials)
Production company(s)Universal Television
Corymore Productions
Original channelCBS[3]
Picture format35 mm film
Original Broadcast:
4:3 480i (SDTV)
4:3 1080i (HDTV)
Original runSeptember 30, 1984 – May 16, 1996
Related showsMagnum, P.I.
The Law & Harry McGraw

Murder, She Wrote is an American television mystery series starring Angela Lansbury as mystery writer and amateur detective Jessica Fletcher.[4][5] The series aired for 12 seasons from 1984 to 1996 on the CBS network, with 264 episodes transmitted. It was followed by four TV films and a spin-off series, The Law & Harry McGraw. It is one of the most successful and longest-running television shows in history, with close to 23 million viewers in its prime, and was a staple of the CBS Sunday night lineup for a decade.[6] The series is also successful around the world.

Lansbury was nominated for a total of ten Golden Globes and 12 Emmy Awards for her work on Murder, She Wrote. She holds the record for the most Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress in a television drama series and the most Emmy nominations for outstanding lead actress in a drama series for Murder, She Wrote, with those nominations netting her four Golden Globe awards. The series received three nominations but no wins in the Outstanding Drama Series category at the Emmys. It was nominated for a Golden Globe in the same category six times and won twice.

Since the series ended in 1996, a series of four TV movies was released between 1997 and 2003, and a game created by Legacy Interactive was released for the PC platform in 2009.[7] A second game was released in 2012.[8] A spin-off book series, written by Donald Bain, continues to the present.



Murder, She Wrote might never have come about had producers Richard Levinson and William Link succeeded with their TV series Ellery Queen. That series folded after a single season, but Levinson and Link were still committed to the concept of a bestselling murder-mystery novelist who solved real murders when not at the typewriter. In collaboration with writer-producer Peter S. Fischer, with whom they had previously worked on Ellery Queen and Columbo, Link and Levinson changed the sex of their protagonist from male to female and transformed the character from a good-looking, absent-minded young pedant to a middle-aged, down-to-earth widow.

Murder, She Wrote was never pitched as an American version of the Agatha Christie character Miss Marple, contrary to rumors. The show was initially offered to actress Jean Stapleton, who turned it down stating that, after nine years of playing the ditsy but well-meaning Edith Bunker on All in the Family and Archie Bunker's Place, respectively, she did not want to be tied down to another television series. Doris Day was offered the part afterwards, and also declined.

Fischer, Levinson and Link thought Angela Lansbury would be perfect in the part but had not dreamed that she would be interested in a television series. When she made it known she would be available if the right project came along, the trio of creators sent her the script and almost immediately, Lansbury felt she could do something with the role of Jessica Fletcher. With Murder, She Wrote debuting on Sunday, September 30, 1984, the producers were able to parlay their "mystery writer/amateur detective" premise into a 12-year hit for CBS. It also made Lansbury, known previously for her motion picture and Broadway stage work, a household name for millions of television viewers.

The title comes from Murder, She Said, which was the title of a 1961 film adaptation of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple novel 4:50 from Paddington.


The show revolves around the day-to-day life of Jessica Fletcher, a retired English teacher who, after being widowed in her early fifties, becomes a very successful mystery writer. Despite fame and fortune, Jessica remains a resident of Cabot Cove, a cozy coastal town in Maine, and maintains her links with all of her old friends, never letting her success go to her head. Exterior shots of Cabot Cove were filmed in Mendocino, California. The fictional "Cabot Cove" name for the series' coastal town was derived from the name of an actual bay harbor inlet in Kennebunkport, Maine, located near the town's center, on the road where motels and lobster shack dives are located.

The show mostly starts with a preview of the episode's events, with Jessica stating: "Tonight On Murder, She Wrote..." Jessica invariably proves more perceptive than the official investigators, who are almost always willing to arrest the most likely suspect. By carefully piecing the clues together and asking astute questions, she always manages to trap the real murderer. Although many famous guest stars appeared on the series during its 12-year run, the series kept the viewers guessing, as special guest stars may be the actual murderer, a victim or just a member of the supporting cast.

Murder occurred with such regularity in her vicinity that the term "Cabot Cove syndrome" was coined to describe the constant appearance of dead bodies in remote locations.[citation needed] A 2012 study of episodes found that Cabot Cove had a murder rate of 1,490 per million, more than 50 percent higher than Honduras, which has the real world's highest murder rate.[9]

Jessica's relationship with law enforcement officials varies from place to place. Both sheriffs of Cabot Cove resign themselves to having her meddle in their cases. However, most detectives and police officers do not want her anywhere near their crime scenes, until her accurate deductions convince them to listen to her. Some are happy to have her assistance from the start, often because they are fans of her books. With time, she makes friends in many police departments across the U.S., as well as with a British police officer attached to Scotland Yard.

At the start of season eight, more of the stories were set in New York City with Jessica moving into an apartment there part-time in order to teach criminology. In August 1991, after seven years producing the series, Peter S. Fischer and Robert F. O'Neill quit; newly appointed executive producer David Moessinger and producer (formerly co-producer in season 7) J. Michael Straczynski were brought aboard in an effort to shore up ratings. The show gained in viewership, returning to the top 10 in the yearly ratings. Allegedly it was Straczynski who made Jessica an instructor in writing and criminology. The Moessinger and Straczynski producing team lasted through the 1992–93 season, departing in May 1993.


By August 1988, when Lansbury expressed her weariness of her commitment, the series was expected to end in June 1990. Nevertheless, Lansbury continued in the role. By the end of the 1994–95 season, Murder, She Wrote's 11th, Lansbury was content continuing with the series, although her advancing age became a concern[by whom?] (she had just turned 70). However, CBS effectively made the decision for her that Autumn. After spending 11 years on Sunday, the network's longest-running weekly series (at that time) was moved to Thursday nights at 8 p.m. This put the series in direct competition with the first hour of NBC's Must See TV lineup, which had been drawing the highest ratings of the week for any network for years.

Despite protests of many of the show's fans (who believed CBS was intentionally setting the show up to fail in its new timeslot), CBS refused to budge on the new timeslot. Murder, She Wrote plummeted from eighth to 58th in the yearly ratings; the series lost nearly 6 million viewers as the audience was not willing to follow it to Thursday, which left CBS with little choice but to end Murder, She Wrote after 12 seasons in August 1996. To soften the blow, the network agreed to air the final four episodes in its original Sunday night timeslot, as well as commission four Murder, She Wrote movies over the next few years; the first was broadcast in 1997, with three more following, in 2000, 2001, and 2003.[10] Lansbury stated in May 2011 that she would like to make a comeback appearance as Jessica Fletcher.[11]

Abandoned reboot[edit]

Deadline Hollywood reported in October 2013 that NBC is planning a "reboot" of the series, starring Oscar winning actress Octavia Spencer as a "hospital administrator and amateur sleuth who self-publishes her first mystery novel."[12] Angela Lansbury has commented that she is not a fan of using the title, saying "I think it's a mistake to call it 'Murder, She Wrote,' because 'Murder, She Wrote' will always be about Cabot Cove and this wonderful little group of people who told those lovely stories and enjoyed a piece of that place, and also enjoyed Jessica Fletcher, who is a rare and very individual kind of person." Early on it was decided by producers that Spencer's character would not be named Jessica Fletcher, for only Lansbury could play Jessica Fletcher.[13] It was announced on January 21, 2014, that the reboot would not be going forward.[14]


Regular cast[edit]

Recurring cast[edit]

Guest stars[edit]


Crossover with Magnum, P.I.[edit]

The episode "Magnum on Ice" concludes a crossover that begins on the Magnum, P.I. episode "Novel Connection" in which Jessica comes to Hawaii to investigate an attempt on Robin Masters' guests, then tries to clear Magnum when he's accused of killing the hitman.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Over its twelve-year run Murder, She Wrote received numerous award nominations. Angela Lansbury herself holds the record for the most Emmy nominations for outstanding lead actress in a drama series with twelve, one for each season. She never won, which is also a record.

Emmy AwardsOutstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Angela Lansbury)1985–1996Nominated
Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (John Addison)1985[15]Won
Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Bruce Babcock)1993, 1995Nominated
Outstanding Costume Design for a Series (Alfred E. Lehman)1986[15]Won
Golden Globe AwardsBest TV Series – Drama1985, 1986Won
Best TV Series – Drama1987–1990Nominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series – Drama (Angela Lansbury)1985, 1987, 1990 & 1992Won
Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series – Drama (Angela Lansbury)1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993 & 1995Nominated
Edgar AwardsBest Episode of a TV Series ("Deadly Lady")1985Won
Best Episode of a TV Series ("The Dead File")1993Nominated
Screen Actors Guild AwardsBest Performance by an Actress in a TV Series – Drama (Angela Lansbury)1995Nominated

U.S. television ratings[edit]

Murder, She Wrote maintained extremely high ratings finishing in the top 15 of shows for eleven of its 12 seasons (eight of which it was in the top 10), even well into its late seasons. At the beginning of its 12th season in 1995, CBS moved the show from its extremely popular Sunday night time slot to Thursday night forcing it to compete with NBC's Must See TV line up, and as a result the ratings plummeted. The show rated as the following:

Television ratings
SeasonEpisodesSeason premiereSeason finaleTV seasonRankHouseholds
122September 30, 1984April 21, 19851984–85#8[16]17.06
222September 29, 1985May 18, 19861985–86#3[17]21.73
322September 28, 1986May 10, 19871986–87#4[18]22.19
422September 20, 1987May 8, 19881987–88#9[19]17.89
522October 23, 1988May 21, 19891988–89#8[20]17.98
622September 24, 1989May 20, 19901989–90#13[21]16.30
722September 16, 1990May 12, 19911990–91#12[22]15.26
822September 15, 1991May 17, 19921991–92#8[23]15.56
922September 20, 1992May 16, 19931992–93#5[24]16.47
1021September 12, 1993May 22, 19941993–94#11[25]15.07
1121September 25, 1994May 14, 19951994–95#8[26]14.88
1224September 21, 1995May 19, 19961995–96#58[27]9.50

Broadcast history[edit]

International syndication[edit]

Since its original run on CBS, Murder, She Wrote has been syndicated in many countries around the world.

CountryChannel(s)TitleLiteral translationLanguage
Australia AustraliaNine Network,
Network Ten,
Channel Seven,
Murder, She WroteEnglish
Austria AustriaORF,
Puls 4
Mord ist ihr HobbyMurder Is Her HobbyGerman dubbed
Belgium Belgium: FlandersVTM,
Murder, She WroteEnglish,
Dutch subtitles
Belgium Belgium: WalloniaLa UneArabesqueFrench dubbed
Brazil BrazilUniversal ChannelAssassinato por EscritoWritten MurderPortuguese dubbed
Bulgaria BulgariaFox Crime,
AXN White
Убийство по сценарийMurder by ScriptBulgarian dubbed, Bulgarian subtitles
Canada CanadaVision TVMurder, She WroteEnglish
Quebec Canada: QuebecTQSElle écrit au meurtreShe Writes "Murder!"French dubbed
Chile ChileCanal 13Reportera del crimenCrime ReporterSpanish dubbed
Croatia CroatiaHRTUbojstvo, napisala jeMurder, She WroteEnglish,
Croatian subtitles
Czech Republic Czech RepublicNova,
To je vražda, napsalaThat Is Murder, She WroteCzech dubbed
Denmark DenmarkDR 2Hun så et mordShe Saw a MurderEnglish,
Danish subtitles
Estonia EstoniaTV3Mõrv sai teoksMurder Became TrueEnglish,
Estonian subtitles
Finland FinlandYLE TV1,
MTV3 Sarja
Murhasta tuli tottaMurder Became TrueEnglish,
Finnish subtitles
France FranceLa Cinq,
TV Breizh, TMC
ArabesqueArabesqueFrench dubbed
Germany GermanyARD,
Super RTL,
TNT Serie,
kabel eins,
Immer, wenn sie Krimis schrieb;
Mord ist ihr Hobby
Whenever She Wrote Crime Novels;
Murder is Her Hobby
German dubbed
Greece GreeceStar ChannelΗ συγγραφέας ντετέκτιβThe Detective WriterEnglish,
Greek subtitles
Hungary HungaryViasat 3Gyilkos sorokMurderous LinesHungarian dubbed
Republic of Ireland IrelandRTÉ OneMurder, She WroteEnglish
Israel IsraelHOT
Israel 10
רצח במשיכת קולמוסMurder With a Stroke of PenEnglish,
Hebrew subtitles
Italy ItalyRai Uno,
Fox Crime,
Rai Due
Rete 4
La signora in gialloThe Lady in Yellow[28]Italian dubbed
Japan JapanNHK,
Mystery Channel,
LaLa TV,
Chiba TV,
Gunma TV
Jessica obasan no jikenboAuntie Jessica's Case FilesJapanese dubbed
Kuwait KuwaitKTV 2Murder, She WroteEnglish,
Arabic subtitles
Latvia LatviaLTV
Fox Crime
Noziegumam pa pēdāmOn the Trail of the CrimeLatvian dubbed
Lithuania LithuaniaTV3Džesika FlečerJessica FletcherLithuanian dubbed
Republic of Macedonia MacedoniaFox CrimeУбиство, таа напишаMurder, She WroteEnglish,
Macedonian subtitles
Mexico Mexico4TV (former),
Universal Channel (former),
FX Latin America (current)
La reportera del crimenThe Crime ReporterSpanish dubbed
Netherlands NetherlandsRTL 8,
13th Street Universal
Murder, She WroteEnglish,
Dutch subtitles
New Zealand New ZealandTV One,
Murder, She WroteEnglish
Norway NorwayTV3,
Jessica FletcherJessica FletcherEnglish,
Norwegian subtitles
Pakistan PakistanPakistan Television,
Murder, She WroteEnglish
Philippines PhilippinesGMA Network,
Murder, She WroteEnglish
Poland Poland13th Street,
AXN Crime
Napisała: MorderstwoMurder, She WroteEnglish,
Polish voice-over translation
Portugal PortugalRTP 1,
Crime, Disse ElaCrime, She SaidEnglish,
Portuguese subtitles
Romania RomaniaPro Cinema,
TVR 2,
AXN Crime
Verdict: CrimaVerdict: MurderEnglish,
Romanian subtitles
Russia RussiaNTV,
Она написала убийствоMurder, She WroteRussian dubbed
Serbia SerbiaFOX CrimePisac i detektivA Writer and a DetectiveEnglish,
Serbian subtitles
Slovakia SlovakiaMarkízaTo je vražda, napísalaMurder, She WroteSlovak dubbed
Slovenia SloveniaRTVSLO
Kanal A
FOX Crime
TV3 Slovenia
Umor, je napisalaMurder, She WroteEnglish,
Slovene subtitles
South Africa South AfricaTV1Murder, She WroteEnglish
Spain SpainTVE,
Calle 13,
Antena 3
Se ha escrito un crimenA Crime Has Been WrittenSpanish dubbed
Catalonia Spain: CataloniaTV3S'ha escrit un crimA Crime Has Been WrittenCatalan dubbed
Galicia (Spain) Spain: GaliciaTVGEscribiuse un crimeA Crime Has Been WrittenGalician dubbed
Sweden SwedenTV3,
TV4 Guld
Mord och inga visorMurder and No Melodies[29]English,
Swedish subtitles
Turkey TurkeyTRT 1,
Star TV,
Kanal D
TNT Türkiye
Cinayet DosyasıMurder FileTurkish dubbed
Ukraine UkraineСТБВона написала вбивствоMurder, She WroteUkrainian dubbed
United Kingdom United KingdomITV,
Murder, She WroteEnglish
United States United StatesHallmark Movie Channel,
TV Land
Murder, She WroteEnglish
Uruguay UruguayMonte Carlo TelevisiónReportera del crimenCrime ReporterSpanish dubbed
Venezuela VenezuelaTelevenReportera del crimenCrime ReporterSpanish dubbed
Argentina Argentina-Reportera del crimenCrime ReporterSpanish dubbed


In 1985, Warren Company released a Murder, She Wrote board game. In the game, one player takes the hidden role of a killer and the other players try to determine which player is the killer through deduction. The killer is successful if he or she can kill five of the characters on the game-board and escape, while the detective players win by correctly deducing the identity of the killer.

In December 2009, casual game developer and publisher Legacy Interactive, under license with Universal Pictures Digital Platforms Group (UPDPG), announced the release a PC and Macintosh video game based on the television series. In the game, players help Jessica Fletcher to solve five unusual murders.[30] A sequel, Murder She Wrote 2, was launched by Legacy Interactive in November 2012.



  1. ^ Silden, Isobel (August 17, 1989). "It's No Crime When Yesterday's Stars Get Into 'Murder'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 20, 2010. 
  2. ^ Weinstein, Steve (May 21, 1994). "Television: After 10 years and more than 200 corpses, no one has been able to knock off 'Murder, She Wrote,' powered by you-know-who.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 20, 2010. 
  3. ^ Haithman, Diane (October 20, 1990). "TV: The grind of a weekly hour series is too much, but a half-hour show is something else.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 20, 2010. 
  4. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (October 27, 1985). "Angela Lansbury's unlikely sleuth has staying power". The New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  5. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (December 1, 1991). "TELEVISION; Angela Lansbury Has a Hit. She Wants Respect". The New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  6. ^ Du Brow, Rick (May 24, 1995). "Television: CBS 'youth' move upsets Angela Lansbury after her show's 11 years as a Sunday evening staple.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 20, 2010. 
  7. ^ E3 2009: Murder, She Wrote game coming to the PCAmerica Online. Retrieved January 14, 2010.
  8. ^ "First screenshots of Murder, She Wrote - November 17, 2011". Retrieved May 14, 2012. 
  9. ^ "The most dangerous place on Earth is revealed to be... the fictional setting for TV series Murder, She Wrote". The Daily Mail (London). August 22, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Movies Keep `Murder, She Wrote' Alive". Chicago Tribune. August 5, 1997. Retrieved October 20, 2010. 
  11. ^ "'Murder, She Wrote' Angela Lansbury Return". Entertainment Weekly. May 13, 2011. Retrieved February 22, 2012. 
  12. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (Oct 24, 2013). "NBC To Reboot ‘Murder, She Wrote’ With Octavia Spencer Starring, Alex Cunningham Writing And David Janollari Producing". Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  13. ^ "Angela Lansbury is not happy with 'Murder, She Wrote' remake". Los Angeles Times. November 11, 2013. 
  14. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (January 21, 2014). "NBC’s ‘Murder She Wrote’ Reboot Not Going Forward, Could Be Revisited In The Future". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 21, 2014. 
  15. ^ a b Du Brow, Rick (September 13, 1991). "Television: Angela Lansbury is miffed that her top-rated series, a CBS bulwark, is routinely ignored at Emmy time: 'The industry is barely aware the show exists.'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 20, 2010. 
  16. ^ "". Retrieved May 14, 2012. 
  17. ^ "". Retrieved May 14, 2012. 
  18. ^ "". Retrieved May 14, 2012. 
  19. ^ "Top Rated Programs - 1985–90". July 26, 2002. Retrieved May 14, 2012. 
  20. ^ "". Retrieved May 14, 2012. 
  21. ^ "". Retrieved May 14, 2012. 
  22. ^ "". Retrieved May 14, 2012. 
  23. ^ "". Retrieved May 14, 2012. 
  24. ^ "". Retrieved May 14, 2012. 
  25. ^ "". Retrieved May 14, 2012. 
  26. ^ "". Retrieved May 14, 2012. 
  27. ^ "Complete TV Ratings 1995–96". July 26, 2002. Retrieved May 14, 2012. 
  28. ^ In Italian, the "yellow genre" expression is equivalent to crime fiction from the 1930s when an Italian publisher, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, published a series of crime fiction books using a yellow cover.
  29. ^ While "Murder and No Melodies" is the literal translation, the translation is a word play, alluding to the Swedish idiom "Ord och inga visor" ("Words and no melodies"), with the idiomatic meaning "plain speaking" or "hard, honest words".
  30. ^ "" (Press release). Legacy Interactive. December 18, 2009. Retrieved May 14, 2012. 

External links[edit]