One of the few reruns that I had the pleasure of watching first run before it became a rerun junkie delight, to me, it was never just for old ladies.
Murder, She Wrote follows the exploits of widowed former-teacher Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) who now writes mysteries under the name of J.B. Fletcher and solves a few in her spare time. In her quaint hamlet of Cabot Cove, she’s assisted by first Sheriff Amos Tupper (Tom Bosley) and then his successor Sheriff Mort Metzger (Ron Masak) and local doctor Seth Hazlitt (William Window). Most, if not all of the mysteries, were murders, so a lot of people died in Cabot Cove. The guy adjusting the population number on the welcome sign was always busy.
But, it wasn’t just Cabot Cove that was filled with people offing their neighbors left and right. Wherever Jessica Fletcher went, people died (sort of an important component of the series, but it made the woman look like the Angel of Death). At a circus? Murder. On an airplane? Murder. Trapped in a cafe during a storm? Murder. Trapped in a ski lodge during a storm? Murder. At the stockbroker’s office? Murder. In a prison? Murder. At an archaeological dig? Murder. At a wedding? Murder. At a crazy friend’s house? Murder. On a ranch? Murder. At a local inn? Murder. In Sleepy Hollow? Murder.
Here a murder, there a murder, everywhere a murder murder.
They mysteries were pretty straight-forward. They introduced the principal characters, someone died, an investigation ensued, and Jessica would solve it before the credits rolled. A simple formula that could be used to in so many ways, the stories didn’t really get old.
I admit that most of my favorite episodes take place in or near Cabot Cove, or at least with one of the sheriffs or doctor. The chemistry Dame Lansbury has with Mr. Tom Bosley and Mr. William Windom, and later Mr. Ron Masak (who is one of my favorites), is fabulous. You’d never get tired of having lunch with that group.
The show ran for twelve years with over 200 episodes, so I’m not exactly exaggerating when I say EVERYONE was on this show. It took me hours over days to sort through everyone before I realized that I could do a whole blog post on the guest stars alone, which I’ll probably end up doing at some point. In the meantime, I decided to do a very short list featuring the names I wanted to feature. Neener.
Other recurring characters on the show included:Michael Horton as Jessica’s often-in-trouble nephew Grady; private investigators Jerry Orbach as Harry McGraw (who got his own, short-lived spin-off) and Wayne Rogers as Charlie Garrett; Keith Mitchell as jewel thief Dennis Stanton; Len Cariou as British agent Michael Hagarty; Herb Edleman as Lt. Artie Gelber and Ken Swafford as Lt. Catalano, the law enforcement Jessica often collaborated with when she was in New York (not my favorite episodes, sorry, guys); Cabot Cove folks Claude Akins as Captain Ethan Cragg, Julie Adams as Eve Simpson, Richard Paul as Mayor Samm Booth, John Astin as Harry Pierce, and Will Nye as Deputy Floyd and Louis Hearthom as Deputy Andy Broom.
Familiar faces from the reruns I’ve blogged about here include: Kevin Tighe, Randolph Mantooth, Robert Fuller, Marco Lopez, Vince Howard, James McEachin, Harry Morgan, Martin Milner, Kent McCord, Adam West, Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, Lee Meriweather, James MacArthur, Chuck Connors, Johnny Crawford, Dirk Benedict, Melinda Culea, Eddie Velez, Robert Vaughn, William Lucking, Lance LeGault, Rue McClanahan, George Grizzard, Monte Markham, Melissa Sue Anderson, Karen Grassle, Bonnie Bartlet, Dean Butler, Max Gail, Gregory Sierra, Ron Glass, Abe Vigoda, David Soul, Alan Hale, James Hampton, Forrest Tucker, Joe Santos Noah Beery Jr, Gretchen Corbett, William Conrad, and David Hedison (okay, I haven’t done Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea yet, but I’m going to!).
And just think…that’s the only the tip of the ice berg when it comes to familiar faces.
This is one of those shows that never fails to entertain me, no matter how many times I’ve seen an episode. I catch new things each time I watch it. And Jessica Fletcher is a delightful woman to spend an hour with.
Mostly because you know that you’re the one that won’t end up dead.