Now just so we’re all clear, I’m referring to the TV show staring Angela Lansbury. Not the pop reggae hit of the same name by Chaka Demus & Pliers. Just in case there was any confusion. It’s a simple mistake to make.
I first discovered the wonder that is Dame Angela Lansbury in Bedknobs & Broomsticks, a film I still watch every Christmas despite the fact I’m nearly 35. But that’s enough about my sad, single life.
So as a youngster when I sat on the sofa with my Nan and Grandad to watch Murder, She Wrote and I saw she was the star, I was already a fan. And 30 years later, I still am.
The beauty of the show and many of that ilk was the simplicity of its premise. *SPOILER ALERT* A person is murdered and no one knows who did it, someone gets arrested but they’re innocent; crime writer and amateur sleuth Jessica usually knew the victim or the falsely accused suspect. Slowly over the 44 minutes she would work out what really happened while embarrassing the local law enforcement along the way. What’s not to love about a well-spoken, middle-aged woman who bakes cakes solving all these crimes and sending the bad guys or girls to jail? And she’s a Brit!
But as much as it was simple, it was complex. How did so many people end up dead in the little fishing village of Cabot Cove? I’m surprised they had any visitors at all as they inevitably ended up dead. How come murder seemed to follow sweet little Jessica everywhere she went? How come the cops in this show are so damn stupid? How come her hair was always perfect but I don’t recall ever seeing her go to the hairdressers? See, seriously complex!
Not to mention the fact that they produced 264 episodes and four tv movies over a 12 year period, yet still managed to stay amongst the top ten shows on a yearly basis despite coinciding with the height of the cable TV revolution.
I would like to think that I’ve seen at least 200 of those episode’s, mostly because I’d be pretty gutted if I hadn’t. And even though it ceased production 20 years ago it still continues to be shown in dozens of countries. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to hear the dubbed Russian version.
Not to mention the books – which are still ongoing – and the board games. Although I suspect whoever designed this cover found commissions hard to come by after this disaster. Less Angela Lansbury, more Anne Robinson.
But in all seriousness to create a show that lasts that long and continues to be shown worldwide is no easy feat. And while we will give most of the credit to the writers, you have to wonder if any other actress could have carried that show in an era where female leads were still not the norm.
But it wasn’t just the legendary Lansbury who brought star quality to the show, the guest stars list is extraordinary. Alongside regular cast members like Tom Bosley, Jerry Orbach and Len Cariou; we saw appearances from people we are now well familiar with. Andy Garcia, Neil Patrick Harris, Janet Leigh, Tom Selleck and Bryan Cranston all appeared in episodes.
But maybe the thing I love most about the show is how comfortable it feels. Like a blanket from childhood or some warm socks, you can randomly catch an episode and be transported to a world that feels more familiar than the one outside of your front door.
If you don’t believe me, just give it a try.