Murder, She Wrote

Murder, She Wrote
Murder, She Wrote
The end of the original opening title sequence.
Format Murder mystery, Procedural drama
Created by Peter S. Fischer
Richard Levinson[1]
William Link
Starring Angela Lansbury
William Windom
Tom Bosley (1984–1988)
Ron Masak (1988–1996)
Theme music composer John Addison
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 12
No. of episodes 264 (+ 4 TV movies)
(List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Angela Lansbury[2]
Peter S. Fischer
Richard Levinson
William Link
David Moessinger
Running time 40 minutes
(excluding commercials)
Production company(s) Universal Television
Corymore Productions
Original channel CBS[3]
Picture format 4:3
Original run September 30, 1984 – May 19, 1996
Related shows 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 its 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 were released between 1997 and 2003, a game created by Legacy Interactive was released for the PC platform in 2009,[7] and 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 Columbo. Link, Levinson and Fischer changed the gender 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. 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 available if the right project came along, the trio of creators sent her the script and almost immediately, Angela 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 Angela Lansbury 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 character of Jessica Fletcher could be thought to be based on a combination of Miss Marple, and Agatha Christie herself.


The show revolved around the day-to-day life of 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.

Murder rears its ugly head with great regularity in her vicinity (so improbably often that the mystery term "Cabot Cove syndrome" was eventually coined[citation needed] to describe the constant appearance of dead bodies in remote locations). 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, who, given the series' "special guest star" policy, was often played by a famous film or TV personality.

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.

In 1991, newly appointed executive producer David Moessinger and producer J. Michael Straczynski were brought aboard in an effort to shore up ratings. They moved Jessica to New York, and revitalized the show, bringing it back into the top ten in the yearly ratings. It was Straczynski who made her an instructor in writing and criminology, and is widely held to have most emphasized her role as a working writer, with all the deadlines and problems involved in that profession.

Following the 1991–92 season, Angela Lansbury became the series' executive producer after she and her husband's production company, Corymore Productions, purchased a majority interest in Murder, She Wrote from Universal Television, which remained as a producer and distributor. As the series entered the middle of the decade, it remained a Sunday night staple and eventually became the longest-running mystery series in television history.[citation needed] While the ratings for Murder, She Wrote had slipped slightly following its resurgence in 1991, it still maintained a loyal viewing audience. In fact, the first season that Lansbury served as executive producer saw another rise in the ratings, as Murder, She Wrote ended the season in the top five for the first time since 1988. For individual episodes synopses please refer to this subpage.


By the end of the 1994–95 season, Murder, She Wrote's eleventh, Lansbury began to consider ending the series, as her advancing age became a concern (she had just turned seventy). However, CBS effectively made the decision for her that fall. After spending eleven years on Sunday, the network's longest-running weekly series (at that time) was moved to Thursday nights at 8 PM. 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. More specifically, Murder, She Wrote would be facing off against NBC's comedy Friends, which was entering its second season on the network and was given the 8 PM timeslot for the fall, and The Single Guy, a brand-new sitcom that NBC gave the coveted 8:30 timeslot between Friends and Seinfeld. CBS cited that Murder, She Wrote was "skewing too old" in the ratings demographics, as—while the series was still successful, having just finished the eleventh season as the eighth-most watched program on television—they were not gaining the valued 18–49 ratings demographic that is most desired among networks.

Despite protests of many of the show's fans,[citation needed] CBS refused to budge on the new timeslot. Friends had finished its first season (1994–95) in ninth place in the final Nielsen ratings. This situation was exacerbated further by the success of The Single Guy (which many attributed to piggybacking off of Friends), as well as another freshman sitcom, Boston Common, which debuted in March 1996 against the second half of Murder, She Wrote. As a result of these combined factors, Murder, She Wrote plummeted from eighth to sixty-fifth in the yearly ratings; the series lost nearly six 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 twelve seasons in August 1996. To soften the blow, the network agreed to air several Murder, She Wrote movies over the next few years; the first was broadcast in 1997, with three more following in 2000, 2001, and 2003.[8]

Angela Lansbury has recently stated that she wishes to make a comeback appearance as Jessica Fletcher.[citation needed]


Regular cast

  • Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher (1984–1996). The show was originally conceived as a vehicle for Jean Stapleton, who had just finished a nine-year run on All in the Family; when Stapleton decided she didn't want to commit to another television series, the role was offered to Lansbury. Doris Day was offered the part afterwards, and also declined.
  • William Windom as Dr. Seth Hazlitt (1985–1996), the local doctor of Cabot Cove and one of Jessica's best friends. In one episode before he played Dr. Hazlitt, Windom played a killer.
  • Tom Bosley as Sheriff Amos Tupper (1984–1988), Cabot Cove's sheriff at the start of the series. Tupper later retires and goes to live with his sister.
  • Ron Masak as Sheriff Mort Metzger (1988–1996), a former NYPD officer who takes Tupper's place as sheriff in the mistaken belief that he would be living in a more peaceful place. In one episode, the actor played a cheap store owner in New York City who was in trouble with the law and was trying to get out of trouble by selling his business.

Recurring cast

  • Michael Horton as Grady Fletcher (1984–1995), Jessica's not-so-lucky favorite nephew, who (through no fault of his own) always seems to get in trouble with the law. After many romantic disasters, he gets married later in the series. In real life, Horton is married to actress Debbie Zipp, who played Grady's eventual wife, Donna Mayberry. The two had been married for many years before working together on Murder, She Wrote.
  • Jerry Orbach as Harry McGraw (1985–1991), an old-school private investigator who becomes friends with Jessica. Orbach was popular enough to garner his own, short-lived spinoff series in 1987, The Law & Harry McGraw.
  • Len Cariou as Michael Hagarty (1985–1992), a British MI6 agent who would appear when Jessica least expected him to drag her into a dangerous case. Cariou had previously starred with Lansbury on Broadway in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street as the titular character.
  • Richard Paul as Sam Booth (1986–1991), the genial, ineffectual mayor of Cabot Cove whose main campaign promise is that he will do nothing.
  • Julie Adams as Eve Simpson (1987–1993), the Cabot Cove real estate agent with a great love for men, both single and married, and the hobby of gossiping. She is a good friend of Jessica.
  • Keith Michell as Dennis Stanton (1988–1993), a former jewel thief turned insurance claims investigator, who always solves his cases using unusual methods, and sends a copy of the story to his friend Jessica afterwards. Many episodes starring Michell do not involve Jessica Fletcher or any other main or recurring character, and usually begin with Jessica introducing the story to the audience invoking the fourth wall.
  • Wayne Rogers as Charlie Garrett (1993–1995), a disreputable private investigator who usually gets into trouble and needs Jessica's help.

Guest stars

Awards and nominations

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.

Group Award Year(s) Won
Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Angela Lansbury) 1985–1996 No
Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (John Addison) 1985[9] Yes
Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Bruce Babcock) 1993, 1995 No
Outstanding Costume Design for a Series (Alfred E. Lehman) 1986[10] Yes
Golden Globe Awards Best TV Series – Drama 1985, 1986 Yes
Best TV Series – Drama 1987–1990 No
Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series – Drama (Angela Lansbury) 1985, 1987, 1990 & 1992 Yes
Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series – Drama (Angela Lansbury) 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993 & 1995 No
Edgar Awards Best Episode of a TV Series ("Deadly Lady") 1985 Yes
Best Episode of a TV Series ("The Dead File") 1993 No
Screen Actors Guild Awards Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series – Drama (Angela Lansbury) 1995 No

U.S. television ratings

Murder She Wrote maintained extremely high ratings finishing in the top 15 of shows for eleven of its twelve seasons (8 of its 12 seasons it was in the top ten), even well into its late seasons. At the beginning of its twelfth 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:

Season Episodes Season Premiere Season Finale TV Season Rank Viewers
(in millions)
1 22 September 30, 1984 April 21, 1985 1984–1985 #8[11] 17.06
2 22 September 29, 1985 May 18, 1986 1985–1986 #3[12] 21.73
3 22 September 28, 1986 May 10, 1987 1986–1987 #4[13] 22.19
4 22 September 20, 1987 May 8, 1988 1987–1988 #9[14] 17.89
5 22 October 23, 1988 May 21, 1989 1988–1989 #8[15] 17.98
6 22 September 24, 1989 May 20, 1990 1989–1990 #13[16] 16.30
7 22 September 16, 1990 May 12, 1991 1990–1991 #12[17] 15.26
8 22 September 15, 1991 May 17, 1992 1991–1992 #8[18] 15.56
9 22 September 20, 1992 May 16, 1993 1992–1993 #5[19] 16.47
10 21 September 12, 1993 May 22, 1994 1993–1994 #11[20] 15.07
11 21 September 25, 1994 May 14, 1995 1994–1995 #8[21] 14.88
12 24 September 21, 1995 May 19, 1996 1995–1996 #65[22] 9.50

International syndication

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

Country Channel(s) Title Translation Language
Australia Australia Network Ten,
TV1, Channel Seven, GEM
Murder, She Wrote English
Austria Austria ORF Mord ist ihr Hobby Murder Is Her Hobby German dubbed
Belgium Belgium VTM,
Murder, She Wrote English,
Dutch subtitles
Brazil Brazil Universal Channel Assassinato por Escrito Written Murder Portuguese dubbed
Bulgaria Bulgaria Fox Crime,
Убийство по сценарий Murder by Script Bulgarian dubbed
Canada Canada Vision TV Murder, She Wrote English
Quebec Canada: Quebec TQS Elle écrit au meurtre She Writes "Murder!" French dubbed
Chile Chile Canal 13 Reportera del crimen Crime Reporter Spanish dubbed
Croatia Croatia HRT Ubojstvo, napisala je Murder, She Wrote English,
Croatian subtitles
Czech Republic Czech Republic Nova, Prima To je vražda, napsala Murder, She Wrote Czech dubbed
Denmark Denmark DR 2 Hun så et mord She Saw a Murder English,
Danish subtitles
Estonia Estonia TV3 Mõrv sai teoks Murder Became True English,
Estonian subtitles
Finland Finland YLE TV1 Murhasta tuli totta Murder Became True English,
Finnish subtitles
France France La Cinq,
TV Breizh
Arabesque Arabesque French dubbed
Germany Germany ARD,
Super RTL,
TNT Serie,
kabel eins
Immer, wenn sie Krimis schrieb,
Mord ist ihr Hobby
Whenever She Wrote a Crime Novel,
Murder is Her Hobby
German dubbed
Greece Greece Star Channel Η συγγραφέας ντετέκτιβ The Detective Writer English,
Greek subtitles
Hungary Hungary Viasat 3 Gyilkos sorok Murderous Lines Hungarian dubbed
Republic of Ireland Ireland RTÉ One Murder, She Wrote English
Israel Israel HOT
Israel 10
רצח במשיכת קולמוס Murder With a Stroke of Her Pen English,
Hebrew subtitles
Italy Italy Rai Uno,
Fox Crime ; Rai Due; Rete 4
La signora in giallo The Lady in Yellow[23] Italian dubbed
Japan Japan NHK,
Mystery Channel,
LaLa TV,
Chiba TV,
Gunma TV
Jessica obasan no jikenbo Aunt Jessica's Case Files Japanese dubbed
Kuwait Kuwait KTV 2 Murder, She Wrote English,
Latvia Latvia LTV Noziegumam pa pēdām On the Trail of the Crime Latvian dubbed
Lithuania Lithuania TV3 Džesika Flečer Jessica Fletcher Lithuanian dubbed
Republic of Macedonia Republic of Macedonia Fox Crime Убиство, таа напиша Murder, She Wrote English,
Macedonian subtitles
Mexico Mexico Universal Channel La reportera del crimen The Crime Reporter Spanish dubbed
Netherlands Netherlands RTL 8NCRV Murder, She Wrote English,
Dutch subtitles
Norway Norway TV3,
Jessica Fletcher Jessica Fletcher English,
Norwegian subtitles
Philippines Philippines GMA Network,
Murder, She Wrote English
Poland Poland 13th Street Napisała morderstwo Murder, She Wrote English,
Polish dubbing
Portugal Portugal RTP 1, FOX CRIME Crime, Disse Ela Crime, She Said English,
Portuguese subtitles
Romania Romania Pro Cinema,
Verdict: Crima Verdict: Murder English,
Romanian subtitles
Russia Russia НТВ,
Она написала убийство Murder, She Wrote Russian dubbed
Serbia Serbia FOX Crime Pisac i detektiv A Writer and a Detective English,
Serbian subtitles
Slovakia Slovakia Markíza To je vražda, napísala Murder, She Wrote Slovak dubbed
Slovenia Slovenia RTVSLO
Kanal A
FOX Crime
TV3 Slovenia
Umor, je napisala Murder, She Wrote English,
Slovene subtitles
South Africa South Africa TV1 Murder, She Wrote English
Spain Spain TVE,
Calle 13,
Antena 3
Se ha escrito un crimen A Crime Has Been Written Spanish dubbed
Catalonia Spain: Catalonia TV3 S'ha escrit un crim A Crime Has Been Written Catalan dubbed
Galicia (Spain) Spain: Galicia TVG Escribiuse un crime A Crime Has Been Written Galician dubbed
Sweden Sweden TV3,
TV4 Guld
Mord och inga visor Murder and Not Melodies English,
Swedish subtitles
Turkey Turkey TRT 1,
Star TV,
Kanal D
Cinayet Dosyası Murder File Turkish dubbed
Ukraine Ukraine СТБ Вона написала вбивство Murder, She Wrote Ukrainian dubbed
United Kingdom United Kingdom ITV,
BBC One,
BBC Two,
Murder, She Wrote English
United States United States Hallmark Channel Murder, She Wrote English
Uruguay Uruguay Monte Carlo Televisión Reportera del crimen Crime Reporter Spanish dubbed


In December 2009, casual game developer and publisher Legacy Interactive, under license with Universal Pictures Digital Platforms Group (UPDPG), announced the release a PC/MAC video game based on the television series. In the game, players help Jessica Fletcher to solve five unusual murders.[24]



  1. ^ "It's No Crime When Yesterday's Stars Get Into 'Murder'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  2. ^ "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 2010-10-20. 
  3. ^ "TV: The grind of a weekly hour series is too much, but a half-hour show is something else.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  4. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (October 27, 1985). "ANGELA LANSBURY'S UNLIKELY SLEUTH HAS STAYING POWER". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  5. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (December 1, 1991). "TELEVISION; Angela Lansbury Has a Hit. She Wants Respect". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  6. ^ "Television: CBS 'youth' move upsets Angela Lansbury after her show's 11 years as a Sunday evening staple.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  7. ^ E3 2009: Murder, She Wrote game coming to the PCAmerica Online. Retrieved January 14, 2010.
  8. ^ "Movies Keep `Murder, She Wrote' Alive". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  9. ^ "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 2010-10-20. 
  10. ^ "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 2010-10-20. 
  11. ^
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  22. ^ "Low Ratings Did In Lansbury's Show but Her Character Isn't Dying". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  23. ^ In Italian, the "yellow genre" expression is equivalent to crime fiction from the 1930s when a famous publishing company published a series of crime fiction books using a yellow cover.
  24. ^

External links

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