Murder, She Wrote was a phenomenally successful TV show, running for an unprecedented twelve seasons notching up two hundred and sixty three episodes and four TV movies, each containing at least one murder; that's a lot of dead people! Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) is an author-turned-amateur-detective; wherever she turns up inevitably a murdered body will also. Using her superior deductive skills, she manages to pin point the culprit before anyone else; this is the basic plot for every episode of the entire series run. Simplistic as that may be the show does make for surprising compelling viewing, whilst the plots may all be essentially the same their execution is vastly different. With plenty of different story lines, all centred around murder obviously, and a cast that believes in its material each episode plays out like a mini movie, beginning , middle and end, all nice and neat. A great deal of the success has to do with Lansbury's portrayal of the main character; she is completely endearing, she was made for the part. Of course being somewhat elderly does give the show a target that most TV ignores; whilst I don't mean to point that Murder, She Wrote was targeted solely at the elder generation, it was certainly targeted at an elder range then the likes of The A Team, or Miami Vice that proliferated at the same time. This slightly mature outlook boded well as this show lasted twice as long all of its peers.
This third season sees much of the same for our intrepid sleuth, and hits the road running. The writers and directors as well as the characters now had a full grasp of the show and were quick to highlight its strengths; villains were villains, supporting cast, including many up and coming new stars as well as steady character faces, asked just the right questions to give Jessica the room she needed to move around the show and solve the crime. Any stereotypical characterisation in the likes of the dumb cop, or mayor or whatever official happens to be in conflict with Jessica as she tries to open their eyes to the clues are quickly overlooked by the pace of each story. And each story has an endearing quality that makes it impossible to turn off once it has started, you simply have to know who the culprit is, and, more importantly, how Jessica deduces the various clues scattered throughout the episode. This third season is notable for a crossover between Magnum P.I. and Murder, She Wrote, each show getting a substantial portion of its peer, thankfully Universal have seen fit to include the Magnum episode (which should be watch first) in this set. In the end Murder, She Wrote is an intelligent well scripted slice of eighties TV drama, only the fashion has slightly dated, otherwise the show remains fresh and watchable as it was twenty years ago.
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