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CinemaInternational

Murder, She Wrote Appreciation Thread

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There's been a lot of talk about the classic mystery series around here recently, so why not a whole thread about it :) Afterall, ASngela Lansbury started out in Hollywood's golden age, and many of the show's guest stars had ties to either classic Hollywood or TV. So how about it? Let's pay tribute to the series.

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What I always loved about this show and I've only seen it in reruns, having later bought the DVDs,

Was how Angela Lansbury utilized every part of her career for this TV series.

She is a consummate actress, show business professional. And in her career, which spanned so many years and so many venues, she worked with many other acting professionals.

She utilized people that she knew at MGM,

she utilized people she worked with on the Broadway and London stages

and most of all it was wonderful how she utilized veteran TV actors and actresses.

It was great to see so many of them after having missed them for a number of years.

It was also well known that she gave--

went out of her way--

to find jobs for people who needed the work for insurance and retirement purposes.

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Yes, she kept Madelyn Rhue on the payroll so she could get medical coverage for her M.S. She appeared in a wheelchair.

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I also agree that the fun part of the show was the guest stars from old Hollywood.  It was always such a pleasure to see them again.  One of my favorites episodes was where Ruth Roman played Loretta, owner of the beauty salon, and her customers (Kathryn Grayson, Gloria DeHaven, and Julie Adams).  I didn't care for the series when she left Cabot Cove to teach in New York.  To me, it was never the same after that.

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I love Murder, She Wrote. It is on right now.

There might be other channels, but I know she is on:

(1) WGN America - (2) COZI - (3) Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

I too am fond of the early episodes with Tom Bosley.

 

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57 minutes ago, Terrence1 said:

I also agree that the fun part of the show was the guest stars from old Hollywood.  It was always such a pleasure to see them again.  One of my favorites episodes was where Ruth Roman played Loretta, owner of the beauty salon, and her customers (Kathryn Grayson, Gloria DeHaven, and Julie Adams).  I didn't care for the series when she left Cabot Cove to teach in New York.  To me, it was never the same after that.

Hadn't they murdered almost everyone in Cabot Cove by then anyway.

I watched a few episodes early on, but never really liked the show.

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1 hour ago, Terrence1 said:

I also agree that the fun part of the show was the guest stars from old Hollywood.  It was always such a pleasure to see them again.  One of my favorites episodes was where Ruth Roman played Loretta, owner of the beauty salon, and her customers (Kathryn Grayson, Gloria DeHaven, and Julie Adams).  I didn't care for the series when she left Cabot Cove to teach in New York.  To me, it was never the same after that.

That teaching job only lasted a couple seasons. She kept the NY apt, but still traveled the globe, and of course went back to Cabot Cove. Those small town murders were my favorites (mostly out of towners getting offed!)

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25 minutes ago, Michael Rennie said:

I love Murder, She Wrote. It is on right now.

There might be other channels, but I know she is on:

(1) WGN America - (2) COZI - (3) Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

I too am fond of the early episodes with Tom Bosley.

 

Unfortunately the Hallmark ones (that I get) are cut to add more commercials.

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18 minutes ago, TheCid said:

Hadn't they murdered almost everyone in Cabot Cove by then anyway.

I watched a few episodes early on, but never really liked the show.

Nah. People kept getting killed in Cabot Cove right till the end of the show!

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1 hour ago, Terrence1 said:

I also agree that the fun part of the show was the guest stars from old Hollywood.  It was always such a pleasure to see them again.  One of my favorites episodes was where Ruth Roman played Loretta, owner of the beauty salon, and her customers (Kathryn Grayson, Gloria DeHaven, and Julie Adams).  I didn't care for the series when she left Cabot Cove to teach in New York.  To me, it was never the same after that.

One of the problems with the later years (I'd say the last three seasons) is that they had budget cuts, so this meant they were now using fewer of those costly old movie stars...and more of the roles were taken by less expensive soap opera actors who were trying to make it in primetime.

Some of the soap actors were okay, but they couldn't really do scenes like the big old time stars...and I think the last 40-50 episodes of this series are much weaker, because there's a decline in the acting. Plus you can see that CBS was starting to push for a more youthful demographic, so there are times in those later episodes where Angela/Jessica sets up the basic situation, then she sort of disappears for awhile, until the murder is committed. Like they were being forced to turn portions of the story over to the younger guest stars.

Murder She Wrote really ran too long. It should have ended after the 9th season, not gone on to do twelve seasons.

MSW found its footing again in the TV movies they did later but that's because those were two-hour specials and the budget had increased for those. In one of them, Gloria Stuart is the guest star. 

So my advice is, unless you're an Angela Lansbury (Jessica Fletcher) completist, watch seasons 1-9 then skip ahead to the TV movies.

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7 minutes ago, Hibi said:

That teaching job only lasted a couple seasons. She kept the NY apt, but still traveled the globe, and of course went back to Cabot Cove. Those small town murders were my favorites (mostly out of towners getting offed!)

That was part of CBS' push for younger demographics. They thought that by having her become a college professor, she'd interact with a bunch of new fresh faces. And that would help attract younger viewers. The show was skewing to a middle-aged crowd (and older), which CBS didn't want because it affected ad revenues.

At the beginning of the last season, the network pulled it from its comfortable Sunday time slot and buried it on Wednesdays. They gave the plum Sunday slot to Touched by an Angel which became a mega-hit. They let MSW die a slow death on Wednesdays, and they barely promoted it. They wanted it off the air, because it wasn't attracting a youthful demographic. Appropriately the last weekly episode of MSW is called "Death by Demographics."

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I wouldnt say the last 3 seasons were bad, but I agree the casting changed. There were fewer "stars" and more tv actors were cast. There were still good episodes airing. The only ones I didn't care for were the ones where they tried to make Jessica more hip and surrounded by young actors in more "youthful" plots. Just didnt work for me. (Rock bands; Inner City youth; Web designers etc.)

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18 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

That was part of CBS' push for younger demographics. They thought that by having her become a college professor, she'd interact with a bunch of new fresh faces. And that would help attract younger viewers. The show was skewing to a middle-aged crowd (and older), which CBS didn't want because it affected ad revenues.

At the beginning of the last season, the network pulled it from its comfortable Sunday time slot and buried it on Wednesdays. They gave the plum Sunday slot to Touched by an Angel which became a mega-hit. They let MSW die a slow death on Wednesdays, and they barely promoted it. They wanted it off the air, because it wasn't attracting a youthful demographic. Appropriately the last weekly episode of MSW is called "Death by Demographics."

I think they moved it to Thursdays. It was Cybil that was first moved to the Sun night slot. When that petered out after a couple of seasons they moved Angel there (which was barely hanging on at that point) Moving Murder to a different night (opposite Friends, no less) caused ratings to plummet (even so, I think the show still managed to make the top 40 as whatever was on ABC did far worse). CBS offered to renew the show PROVIDING there were budget cuts. By that point Angela was fed up and quit (being furious with them moving the show from Sun. nights in the first place) DEATH BY DEMOGRAPHICS is right! :( It was Angela's decision to end the show, not CBS.

They did move the show back to Sun. nights for the last 5 (?) episodes. Too little, too late.

 

It just wasn't the same running on Thursdays. That was when I started missing episodes or recording them to watch later. Early Sun. night was the perfect time slot for it.

 

So what was the point??? They wound up moving another older viewer skewing show (Angel) to Murder's Sun. night time slot! (Granted a show with a lower budget). Totally pointless!

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1 minute ago, Hibi said:

I wouldnt say the last 3 seasons were bad, but I agree the casting changed. There were fewer "stars" and more tv actors were cast. There were still good episodes airing. The only ones I didn't care for were the ones where they tried to make Jessica more hip and surrounded by young actors in more "youthful" plots. Just didnt work for me. (Rock bands; Inner City youth; Web designers etc.)

The writing was still decent in those last seasons, but the acting took a nosedive, and some of the production values did look cheaper. They certainly cut back on outdoor filming in the last three seasons. More of those later episodes were filmed indoors on the Universal sound stages. So we have less exteriors of Cabot Cove...unless they are re-inserting old footage from previous episodes, which they would do. If she was supposed to be in some foreign location, they would scrimp on a lot of the outdoor stuff by creating scenes where she was in a car (usually a taxi), filming her inside the studio against a rear projection screen.

I thought the New York-based episodes were definitely the worst. They never went to New York to do any actual on-location filming. It was obvious that those were done entirely inside the sound stages at Universal City.

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5 minutes ago, Hibi said:

I think they moved it to Thursdays. It was Cybil that was first moved to the Sun night slot. When that petered out after a couple of seasons they moved Angel there (which was barely hanging on at that point) Moving Murder to a different night (opposite Friends, no less) caused ratings to plummet (even so, I think the show still managed to make the top 40 as whatever was on ABC did far worse). CBS offered to renew the show PROVIDING there were budget cuts. By that point Angela was fed up and quit (being justified in them moving the show from Sun. nights in the first place) DEATH BY DEMOGRAPHICS is right! :(

 

It just wasn't the same running on Thursdays. That was when I started missing episodes or recording them to watch later. Early Sun. night was the perfect time slot for it.

Did it go up against Friends...for awhile?

I just checked the show's wiki page. You're right. It got moved to Thursdays not Wednesdays. It was definitely on its last legs at that point. CBS wanted Friends to kill it. They needed the drop in ratings to justify axing it, because it was skewing too old.

A friend of mine, who was an ex-soap star, did a guest role in the last season. It was his second appearance. He had played another role in an episode at the end of the tenth season. He liked working with Angela, he said she was very nice and supportive during their scenes together.

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10 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

The writing was still decent in those last seasons, but the acting took a nosedive, and some of the production values did look cheaper. They certainly cut back on outdoor filming in the last three seasons. More of those later episodes were filmed indoors on the Universal sound stages. So we have less exteriors of Cabot Cove...unless they are re-inserting old footage from previous episodes, which they would do. If she was supposed to be in some foreign location, they would scrimp on a lot of the outdoor stuff by creating scenes where she was in a car (usually a taxi), filming her inside the studio against a rear projection screen.

I thought the New York-based episodes were definitely the worst. They never went to New York to do any actual on-location filming. It was obvious that those were done entirely inside the sound stages at Universal City.

Of course, all filmed on the Universal lot! Just some establishing shots, like most of tv. Even the outdoor scenes in Cabot Cove were on the Universal lot. I think some of the shoreline/harbor scenes were shot in Sausalito.

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10 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Did it go up against Friends...for awhile?

I just checked the show's wiki page. You're right. It got moved to Thursdays not Wednesdays. It was definitely on its last legs at that point. CBS wanted Friends to kill it. They needed the drop in ratings to justify axing it, because it was skewing too old.

A friend of mine, who was an ex-soap star, did a guest role in the last season. It was his second appearance. He had played another role in an episode at the end of the tenth season. He liked working with Angela, he said she was very nice and supportive during their scenes together.

It wasn't on its last legs ratings-wise. It was still a top 20 show until they moved it. Wasn't the audience CBS wanted.

Yes, many actors appeared in multi-episodes over the years. Not just ongoing characters like Harry McGraw etc.

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8 minutes ago, Hibi said:

Of course, all filmed on the Universal lot! Just some establishing shots, like most of tv. Even the outdoor scenes in Cabot Cove were on the Universal lot. I think some of the shoreline/harbor scenes were shot in Sausalito.

Yes, that's what I meant. In the earlier seasons, they'd travel up the coast and do some actual on-location filming. They weren't flying to Maine, but they did get off the Universal backlot sometimes. In the later seasons, there was none of that, or practically none. And she was supposed to be a woman who traveled all around the world and saw everything.

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7 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Appropriately the last weekly episode of MSW is called "Death by Demographics."

Funny, my favorite episode. David Ogden Stiers is a San Francisco classical music radio announcer who gets pushed out of the way for "new" music.

Matlock only went nine seasons. That was enough. In The Heat Of The Night, just eight seasons. Too many seasons. For me, the violence was over the top.

The four 2 hours movies for Murder, She Wrote are excellent. I think they are worth having on DVD. I believe they were all done in widescreen.

"South By Southwest" goes the direction you would expect.

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You all have made great points of things I never knew,  and I have definitely been informed .  You are all really the best!

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36 minutes ago, Hibi said:

It wasn't on its last legs ratings-wise. It was still a top 20 show until they moved it. Wasn't the audience CBS wanted.

Yes, many actors appeared in multi-episodes over the years. Not just ongoing characters like Harry McGraw etc.

I agree, its ratings were still respectable when they moved it. In fact its ratings had gone up during the 11th season, and it cracked the top 10 that year.

But at the beginning of season 12, CBS execs wanted it gone. Nobody in their right mind would move an established show that's been a hit for over 11 years (that had recently become a top 10 show again) to a new night and time where it would definitely get thrashed, unless that was the goal. And I think it was. They couldn't just drop a hit show they no longer wanted on the air, so they had to help it fall all the way to the #58 spot in the ratings, by putting it up against something that it couldn't succeed against...then say it was under-performing, then call it a day.

I just checked Cybil. Its ratings during the 1995-96 season were astonishingly poor. It ranked at #50, despite having most of its episodes air in MSW's former time slot on Sundays that season. Cybill went back to Monday the following season and rose in the ratings. Then Touched by an Angel took over the Sunday 8 p.m. slot.

Touched by an Angel would score in the top 10 for the next four seasons. At this point, TBAA had a huge budget...and it was now signing all the big name guest stars. 

But then, four years later in 2000, CBS did the same thing to TBAA that it did to MSW. They felt it was starting to skew an older audience, so they decreased some of Della Reese's screen time and brought Valerie Bertinelli in to attract a younger audience. That didn't really work...and in 2003, after nine seasons and 212 episodes, TBAA got the boot.

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YEP. Executives know how to kill a show they are tired of....

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14 minutes ago, Michael Rennie said:

Funny, my favorite episode. David Ogden Stiers is a San Francisco classical music radio announcer who gets pushed out of the way for "new" music.

Matlock only went nine seasons. That was enough. In The Heat Of The Night, just eight seasons. Too many seasons. For me, the violence was over the top.

The four 2 hours movies for Murder, She Wrote are excellent. I think they are worth having on DVD. I believe they were all done in widescreen.

"South By Southwest" goes the direction you would expect.

I did like In the Heat of the Night. But yeah, it was quite violent. The last season, with Carl Weathers, felt like it jumped the shark. It wasn't the same without Howard Rollins. However, the episodes from the last season were still intelligently written and well-performed.

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34 minutes ago, Terrence1 said:

You all have made great points of things I never knew,  and I have definitely been informed .  You are all really the best!

Many MSW aficionados on the boards! :D

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3 hours ago, Terrence1 said:

I also agree that the fun part of the show was the guest stars from old Hollywood.  It was always such a pleasure to see them again.  One of my favorites episodes was where Ruth Roman played Loretta, owner of the beauty salon, and her customers (Kathryn Grayson, Gloria DeHaven, and Julie Adams).  I didn't care for the series when she left Cabot Cove to teach in New York.  To me, it was never the same after that.

 it seems like Margaret O'Brien was under one of those hair dryers too.

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