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CinemaInternational

Murder, She Wrote Appreciation Thread

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Yes, seeing Bill Maher was funny (now. didn't know him then). I think he played a character during those years when she had "guest sleuths" as well (to give Angela a break). I remember Megan Mullally in one (Before Will and Grace). I'm sure there are many others. George's Costanza's boss was in at least one. (when he worked for the Yankees).

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Someone posted this review for the classic crime show Matt Houston on the IMDb. Since they mentioned Murder She Wrote, I thought it was worth sharing:

I never watched it in it's initial run, but I've quickly learned to appreciate it as a campy hoot filled with goofy situations, some fun stuntwork and most importantly of all....a potpourri of cheesy, "Murder She Wrote"-style guest stars. No lover of has been, quasi-stars can afford to miss an episode of this show. I don't know if the entire run of the series kept it up, but the ones I've watched so far had fun combinations like David Cassidy, Troy Donahue, Monte Markham and Jessica Walter in one show and Hugh O'Brian, Cesare Danova and Tina Louise in another and then Britt Ekland, Carol Lawrence and Christina Ferrare in another!! An added bonus is the occasional glimpse of Lee Horsley in a speedo or other skimpy attire. Check it out!

***

Matt Houston was an Aaron Spelling show, so that explains all the "big name" guest stars.

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5 hours ago, Hibi said:

And you could count on the host being accused of murder! Who'd want her coming for a visit???

The first few weren't too bad but after it became a regular plot gimmick it grew kind of tiresome.

Not only did she discover the host was the murderer, but Jessica never straightened out her guest

towels. 

  • Haha 1

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3 hours ago, Michael Rennie said:

That might be so. The show was based on current times. Guess things were pretty nasty in Sparta. Just like Murder, She Wrote, Sparta, Mississippi was not real.

I like Matlock but never got into Perry Mason.

And Sparta, Mississippi had a lot of racial problems which Cabot Cove, Maine didn't.

ITHOTN was more graphic in its violence than MSW for sure. I've seen most of the

episodes of Matlock multiple times and enjoyed them at the time, though I don't have a

desire to see them again any time soon. I enjoy the late 1950s episodes of Perry Mason.

They are kind of down and dirty in subject matter in that special 1950s way.

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Perry Mason is on FETV twice on week nights. I'm sure they cut at least 5 minutes if not more

from the originals. But the plots are so complicated I doubt if the originals would make things

much clearer. It takes a while just to figure out how everybody is related to one another. I

always get a kick out of Paul Drake and his wandering eye. I think that up and coming TV

stars were more common on Mason than old time movie stars, though they would show up

on occasion. I recall future star Robert Redford was in one episode.

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I know. Even unedited the plots were complicated and it took awhile to get all the relationships worked out.

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1 hour ago, yanceycravat said:
4 hours ago, Hibi said:

WOW! Could you tell us which episodes or is that being too nosy? You don't have to say which character you played!

The Survivor (1993)

THANKS! I remember Nest of Vipers, but not Survivor, though I'm sure I've seen it. I'll watch for them again!

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28 minutes ago, Vautrin said:

The first few weren't too bad but after it became a regular plot gimmick it grew kind of tiresome.

Not only did she discover the host was the murderer, but Jessica never straightened out her guest

towels. 

The host wasnt usually the murderer, but they were often accused of murder. Usually it was someone else.

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22 minutes ago, Vautrin said:

And Sparta, Mississippi had a lot of racial problems which Cabot Cove, Maine didn't.

ITHOTN was more graphic in its violence than MSW for sure. I've seen most of the

episodes of Matlock multiple times and enjoyed them at the time, though I don't have a

desire to see them again any time soon. I enjoy the late 1950s episodes of Perry Mason.

They are kind of down and dirty in subject matter in that special 1950s way.

Not sure Cabot Cove had any races besides white, but I'll look around for some extras in future shows.

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1 hour ago, Vautrin said:

The first few weren't too bad but after it became a regular plot gimmick it grew kind of tiresome.

This is one of the big problems I have with the show. To me, something like Columbo is much more believable, because it's his job to be snooping around for clues. His occupation brings him to various crime scenes. Same goes for other detective shows like Cannon and Barnaby Jones. But the fact that this woman, who's just an author that happens to write murder mysteries, suddenly finds her whole life surrounded by crime-- it is just really far-fetched. 

If she had been a retired copper, like a 65 year old Cagney or Lacey who couldn't get resist staying away and helping people, that would be one thing. Where she had lifelong skills in investigating, because it used to be her regular occupation, yes. But a gal in a sleepy New England hamlet, traveling the world and not being able to go one place without corpses turning up, no way. It's ludicrous and beggars belief!

Despite the wild improbability of it all, Lansbury made it work (most of the time). But I think the premise was ill-conceived.

Even Jane Marple never had so many dead bodies turning up in her presence. Agatha Christie wrote only 12 books and a few short stories featuring Jane Marple. That means the character only dealt with this sort of thing 14 or 15 times. But Jessica Fletcher dealt with this sort of thing 264 times plus four more times in the TV movies.

I don't know any amateur sleuth, especially one that age with limited police contacts overseas, who has been asked to solve a murder 268 times in her life! And she was solving cases that trained detectives couldn't figure out? Yeah, right! Plus she didn't start doing this until 1984 and she solved all these cases in a 15 year period? Oh, and she was also supposedly writing books during this time. The whole thing was implausible from the word go.

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It's called the willing SUSPENSION of DISBELIEF. Obviously many people were willing. Am sure most saw the implausible elements in the show, but didnt care. They enjoyed it and probably participated in guessing whodunit.

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18 minutes ago, Hibi said:

It's called the willing SUSPENSION of DISBELIEF. Obviously many people were willing. Am sure most saw the implausible elements in the show, but didnt care. They enjoyed it and probably participated in guessing whodunit.

The only episode that seemed totally plausible was the one where she became a juror, and as a regular citizen, she was legitimately involved in the process of proving or disproving a person's innocence in a murder.

But even that episode borrowed heavily from 12 ANGRY MEN. The entire series was not very original or fresh.

Like I said, it worked mainly because of Lansbury's charisma and acting ability...and the acting of the guest stars.

The scripts were routine at best. There were flashes of brilliance in some of the writing, but the writers were way too restricted by a specific formula. The first act, leading into the first big commercial break, always had to end with the murder. They seldom delayed the murder to the end of the second act, unless it was a two-part episode where they had more time. And the fourth act was always Jessica figuring it out ahead of the police and a reconstruction of the crime in flashbacks. So the actor or actress who played the murder victim would only appear in the first act and the fourth act. The structure was very predictable.

They also thought they were being clever by making the murderer someone the audience wouldn't expect by putting someone who had never played a villain before into that role. Like the episode where Gary Sandy was the killer. He had been a good guy all those years on WKRP in Cincinnati so the audience would not expect him to be the murderer. Priscilla Barnes, one of the roommates from Three's Company, was also in an episode where she was unmasked as the killer. She had never played a villain before. But this routine of casting against type soon became predictable too.

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TopBilled, I think Jessica started out by helping Sheriff Tupper solve a case. He got use to asking her for help. He frequently needed her assistance.

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4 minutes ago, Michael Rennie said:

TopBilled, I think Jessica started out by helping Sheriff Tupper solve a case. He got use to asking her for help. He frequently needed her assistance.

That's for SURE! LOL!

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2 hours ago, Hibi said:

I know. Even unedited the plots were complicated and it took awhile to get all the relationships worked out.

It was even worse when Perry had to solve two murders, one from years ago and the

current one. Yikes.

Of course the show was just following the demographics of Maine, which is very white.

I recall folks criticizing the lack of black people in The Andy Griffith Show, which was

set in NC, which is certainly not Maine.

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17 minutes ago, Michael Rennie said:

TopBilled, I think Jessica started out by helping Sheriff Tupper solve a case. He got use to asking her for help. He frequently needed her assistance.

Screen Shot 2019-05-30 at 3.22.27 PM.jpg

Thanks Michael. Yeah, Amos Tupper was the small town inept sheriff stereotype. I'm surprised he didn't need help crossing the street!

I hear he became a priest and changed his name to Father Dowling.

Screen Shot 2019-05-30 at 3.22.45 PM.jpg

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This is an APPRECIATION thread. It says that in the title. Some lighthearted criticism is ok. None of us said the show was perfect. But constant long negative posts about the show aren't appreciated here! (Sorry, but the word fit!)

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4 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

You've discussed a lot of the classic era performers who appeared on the show, but what about those that appeared early in their career? Can you think of anyone?

I recall one with a young Bryan Cranston of Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad fame.

There was one on the other night with Julianna Marguiles, who would go on to ER and The Good Wife.

And one features a young Bill Maher long before Politically Incorrect or Real Time.

George Clooney appeared in an episode in 1987 (one with Buddy Hackett and Sheree North). Jim Caviezel appeared (several years before The Thin Red Line) in an episode in 1995 (one with Kim Darby and John Astin) Joaquin Phoenix appeared as a child in a 1984 episode. Andy Garcia had a non-speaking part as a thug in the very first episode in 1984. Courtney Cox was in a two-parter in 1986. 

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4 hours ago, Hibi said:

Yes, seeing Bill Maher was funny (now. didn't know him then). I think he played a character during those years when she had "guest sleuths" as well (to give Angela a break). 

That's right. It was the one with Faith Ford of Murphy Brown fame (which was running on CBS concurrently)

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4 minutes ago, CinemaInternational said:

George Clooney appeared in an episode in 1987 (one with Buddy Hackett and Sheree North). Jim Caviezel appeared (several years before The Thin Red Line) in an episode in 1995 (one with Kim Darby and John Astin) Joaquin Phoenix appeared as a child in a 1984 episode. Andy Garcia had a non-speaking part as a thug in the very first episode in 1984. Courtney Cox was in a two-parter in 1986. 

Good job!

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29 minutes ago, CinemaInternational said:

George Clooney appeared in an episode in 1987 (one with Buddy Hackett and Sheree North). Jim Caviezel appeared (several years before The Thin Red Line) in an episode in 1995 (one with Kim Darby and John Astin) Joaquin Phoenix appeared as a child in a 1984 episode. Andy Garcia had a non-speaking part as a thug in the very first episode in 1984. Courtney Cox was in a two-parter in 1986. 

I haven't seen the Clooney one, or the one with Joaquin Phoenix. Now I have a reason to look in on the nightly reruns again!

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3 hours ago, TopBilled said:

This is one of the big problems I have with the show. To me, something like Columbo is much more believable, because it's his job to be snooping around for clues. His occupation brings him to various crime scenes. Same goes for other detective shows like Cannon and Barnaby Jones. But the fact that this woman, who's just an author that happens to write murder mysteries, suddenly finds her whole life surrounded by crime-- it is just really far-fetched. 

If she had been a retired copper, like a 65 year old Cagney or Lacey who couldn't get resist staying away and helping people, that would be one thing. Where she had lifelong skills in investigating, because it used to be her regular occupation, yes. But a gal in a sleepy New England hamlet, traveling the world and not being able to go one place without corpses turning up, no way. It's ludicrous and beggars belief!

Despite the wild improbability of it all, Lansbury made it work (most of the time). But I think the premise was ill-conceived.

Even Jane Marple never had so many dead bodies turning up in her presence. Agatha Christie wrote only 12 books and a few short stories featuring Jane Marple. That means the character only dealt with this sort of thing 14 or 15 times. But Jessica Fletcher dealt with this sort of thing 264 times plus four more times in the TV movies.

I don't know any amateur sleuth, especially one that age with limited police contacts overseas, who has been asked to solve a murder 268 times in her life! And she was solving cases that trained detectives couldn't figure out? Yeah, right! Plus she didn't start doing this until 1984 and she solved all these cases in a 15 year period? Oh, and she was also supposedly writing books during this time. The whole thing was implausible from the word go.

I agree that the premise of the show is pretty far-fetched, though no more so than a lot

of other TV shows and many studio era movies. I think the audience realizes that and

just goes with the flow for the most part and isn't bothered too much by the

implausibility of the whole thing, though it's fun to discuss some of the more improbable

aspects of this and other shows and movies. I think a big part of the appeal in the early

years of the program was the Maine small town setting and some of the eccentric

characters who lived there.  Jessica was definitely the brains before Tupper. I'm sure he

was well meaning and tried hard, but anything more complicated than a lost dog was

beyond his abilities. Uh oh, it's Perry Mason time.

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7 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

You've discussed a lot of the classic era performers who appeared on the show, but what about those that appeared early in their career? Can you think of anyone?

I recall one with a young Bryan Cranston of Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad fame.

There was one on the other night with Julianna Marguiles, who would go on to ER and The Good Wife.

And one features a young Bill Maher long before Politically Incorrect or Real Time.

Mariska Hargety appears in an episode of In the Heat of the Night where she plays the girlfriend of a pathological murderer. It seems to pop up on WGN about every other week. 

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17 hours ago, TopBilled said:

I hear he became a priest and changed his name to Father Dowling.

Father Dowling Mysteries was a good show too.

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