Over the course of twelve years, some of the best scripts came out of the final season of America’s most favorite whodunit, Murder She Wrote. However, during the twelfth year, the ratings nosedived into uncharted, dangerous waters.
The conundrum: CBS-TV wanted to recapture the young demographics for their Sunday night lineup. So they moved the weekly whodunit to Thursday nights, giving “Cybil” a time slot on Sunday nights at eight o’ clock. The move proved disastrous from the beginning. Murder She Wrote was up against the ever-popular twenty-something “Friends”. Lansbury was flabbergasted, to put it mildly, as was the devoted audience who had adjusted their Sunday nights around the show.
A major adjustment had been made to the show during season nine: Angela Lansbury, executive producer. At this juncture she had the wherewithal to hire female writers (for whom she fought in earlier seasons), and family members to help write, direct, and produce many of the final episodes. She plowed ahead in her typical professional way, committing herself to the show and the character of Jessica Beatrice Fletcher who had made the star a household name. Throughout the year, though, Murder She Wrote often ranked beneath the top fifty most watched TV shows. However, during the last four episodes of the final season, CBS-TV, for whatever reasons, repositioned the show back to its original Sunday night.
Frustrated, Lansbury fought tooth-and-nail to keep the show on track. By this time, most of the weekly audience had abandoned the show for other ventures. The production of Murder She Wrote ended on May 19, 1996. When the Emmy Awards were announced in September of that same year, Lansbury was left empty-handed.
However, in mid-1997 to the fan’s delight, the beginning of four made-for-TV Murder She Wrote movies would begin production: “South By Southwest”, “A Story to Die For”, “The Last Free Man”, and “The Celtic Riddle”.
To sustain a TV career for more than a decade is saying a hell of a lot to an actress who, in the end, got the last word. Her performance over the span of twelve years was nothing if not consistent and marvelous. Murder She Wrote has left a permanent impression on millions of people around the world. Not many TV shows have the sustainability and uniqueness as Murder She Wrote.
In this DVD box-set, highlights include: “Big Easy Murder”, “Nan’s Ghost Part 1 and 2″, “Shooting in Rome”, “Murder in Tempo”, “Track of a Solider”, “Mrs. Parker’s Revenge”, and “Southern Double-Cross”.
Other DVD recommendations: “Diagnosis Murder”, “The Rockford Files”, and “Columbo”.
1) “Nailed” (New York City)
2) “A Quaking in Aspen” (Aspen Colorado; Chicago, Illinois; Denver, Colorado)
3) “The Secret of Gila Junction” (Gila Junction, Arizona)
4) “Big Easy Murder” (New Orleans, Louisiana)
5) “Home Care” (Boston, Massachusetts; Cabot Cove, Maine)
6) “Nan’s Ghost: Part 1 and 2″ (County Cork, Ireland)
7) “Shooting in Rome” (Rome, Italy)
“Deadly Bidding” (New York City)
9) “Frozen Stiff” (Wisconsin)
10) “Unwilling Witness” (New York City)
11) “Kendo Kill”(Osaka, Japan)
12) “Death Goes Double Platinum” (New York City)
13) “Murder in Tempo” (Cabot Cove, Maine)
14) “The Dark Side of the Door” (New York City)
15) “Murder Among Friends” (Los Angeles, California)
16) “Something Foul in Flappieville” (Los Angeles, California)
17) “Track of a Solider” (Grand Tetons, Wyoming)
18) “Evidence of Malice” (Cabot Cove, Maine)
19) “Southern Double-Cross” (Kookaburra Downs, Queensland, Australia)
20) “Race to Death” (Cabot Cove, Maine)
21) “What You Don’t Know Can Kill You” (Cabot Cove, Maine)
22) “Mrs. Parker’s Revenge” (Atlanta Georgia)
23) “Death by Demographics” (San Francisco, California)
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This show abounded with literary allusions, well-researched lines, style, and love. Love of art, of entertaining, of mystery, and of drama. This is a wonderful series!
The last season of this was filled with the innuendo of management trouble at the season, so that even in a fitting send-off, it rose above the fray. I miss these Sunday shows! This was a fabulous and missed season that paid tribute to the hard work and comraderie of its peerless actors well-seasoned in their craft. Few shows can live up to the shoes this one filled!
I hope Universal presents its loyal and loving audience with the final extended movies.
I am VERY glad that the last season is finally coming out on DVD. It is the best mystery series because the characters and plot are well thought out. The actors are superb. Everyone who loves mysteries will love this DVD collection.