Murder She Wrote: Season 1

Murder She Wrote: Season 1

The enjoyment in Murder She Wrote: Season 1 is trying to figure out the murderer with the clues sprinkled throughout the episode

Murder She Wrote: Season 1

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While so many television networks pander to the all too often puerile tastes of the younger viewers, CBS saw fit to present several series geared towards the older members of the audience.

One of the most notable of these mystery series was Murder She Wrote. As many television shows moved towards the edge, frequently pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable this series started out always tasteful and remained such through out the almost dozen years it was on the air. This in itself was quite an accomplishment, quality television that lasted through the years. Now, in keeping to their commitment to provide classic television season boxed sets Universal Television has released the complete first season if this series.

On the surface there is nothing notable about Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury). She is an older widow who lives in Cabot Cove Maine, is a substitute English teacher at the local high school and enjoys riding around the town on her bicycle. To amuse herself and keep her mind occupied after the death of her husband Jessica wrote a murder mystery, ‘The Corpse Danced at Midnight’. During a visit one of her nephews reads the manuscript and since his girlfriend works for a publisher, gets a copy read by an editor. The book is published and all of a sudden Miss Jessica is a best selling author. To the frequent chagrin of Ms Fletcher she constantly finds herself in the midst of real life murder cases.

Most mystery series revolve around the central, crime solving character and Murder She Wrote is no exception. The hook in Murder She Wrote: Season 1 is the personality of Jessica Fletcher. She is mild mannered, kind, caring and out going. Jessica is also extremely keen of eye with a sharp mind that never forgets a detail. Criminals would tend to underestimate her thinking she is just a kindly grandmother type that happens to have written some mystery novels. This mistake is almost always their downfall. What lurks behind her constant friendly smile is a mind like a steel trap, ready to put together the most esoteric clues to reveal the truth. Having her as a successful author is an ingenious plot device, it gives an excellent rationale to have Jessica in many situations and explains why she would be in cities all over the world. Even with this travel many of the crimes take place in the sleep little seas side town of Cabot Cove. It would appear that this hamlet has a murder rate that exceeds Chicago during prohibition. Usually the crime is beyond the local Sheriff, Amos Tupper (Tom Bosley), but Jessica is always more than willing to lend a hand. It also seems that Jessica is related to approximately one quarter of the human population as week after week a new nice, nephew or some other relation is in dire need of exoneration from a crime they did not commit.

There is a classic gentleness to Murder She Wrote. No graphic scenes of bloodshed or violence are shown; the most you see is the body lying on the ground with a modicum of blood. Each episode is in the vein of the wonderful mystery novels such as Miss Marples or Agatha Christie. The enjoyment is in trying to figure out the murderer with the clues sprinkled throughout the episode. While there are frequent red herrings and surprise endings most of what is important to the solution of the crime is right there if you keep your eyes open. Jessica befriends almost everyone she encounters. Only Miss Fletcher can have a New York City cab driver take her all the way out to Long Island, wait for her and except only a recipe for a foot ointment as payment. It’s this low key manner that makes Jessica Fletcher so deadly to the guilty, people believe her.

Angela Lansbury is the absolute perfect choice to play this widowed author. She is one of the most multi-talented people ever to be on television. I saw her live in a Broadway performance of Sweeny Tood and her performance astounded me. In every film she is in, whether playing the young maid or the voice of a tea pot, Ms Lansbury gives her all to the performance. She took this high level of professionalism to Murder She Wrote: Season 1. While many actresses regret the roles afforded to older actresses Ms Lansbury embraces this role and made it her own. While the guest cast reflects the older audience they are all talented actors in their own rights. In Murder She Wrote: Season 1 look for such seventies film and television staples as Howard Duff, Samantha Eggar, Lynn Redgrave and James Coco, each brings a quirky performance that just adds to the overall enjoyment. If you have a real sharp eye you’ll even catch a very young Joaquin Phoenix and his sister Summer in one episode.

The production values of Murder She Wrote: Season 1 are among the best I have seen. The pacing of the episodes are almost graceful, never rushing into a forced resolution but letting the clues simmer before piecing it all together. For a series to hold your attention without endless gunfights or car chases is amazing but this show demonstrates that it is possible. The focus is on plot and character interaction instead of the buckets of gore so many shows depend on. While many younger viewers may hold Murder She Wrote in some distain they should strongly reconsider their opinion. Quality shows no matter what the target demographic may be and this show is excellent.

With what is becoming typical of Universal television season sets the presentation of Murder She Wrote: Season 1 is excellent. The full screen video is for the most part free of any defect or artifact. The Dolby two channel audio is full, without any tinny quality at all. The two hour pilot television movie is presented followed by all twenty one hour long episodes in the original airing order. Murder She Wrote: Season 1 is distributed on three double sided discs, each in its own snap case. There is a reason Murder She Wrote lasted so long on CBS and remains a favorite on cable, its enjoyable and something that the whole family can sit and enjoy together.

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