Sunday, February 17, 2013

Day Forty-eight - Murder, She Wrote: Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2, or "Melodrama mystery for the retired set!"

I have a special place in my heart for Murder, She Wrote.

For one thing, it stars the incomparable Angela Lansbury in the lead role of part-time writer, part-time police consultant Jessica Fletcher, who, as we see in this two-parter pilot, is reluctant to be either.

For another, its a series about a writer who done good: published, bestseller, happy, active.

But, mostly, there's this one last thing. Murder, She Wrote was one of the few "adult" series that my parents allowed me to watch in the 80's. Jessica, along with Angus MacGyver, were the heroes I grew up with, fighting for truth, justice, and the sensible, intelligent way.

Now, that's not to say the series is excellent. It suffers horribly from obvious melodrama.

There's nothing really smart about it, to tell the truth, aside from Jessica's occasional one liners at the expense of someone looking down their nose at her. The two clues that were the key to the whole mystery were a single interaction between the victim and culprit, the reasoning for which was buried in post reveal dialogue, and a misspoken excuse, not actual clue-finding. The latter I can forgive, the former... not at all. 

Additionally, the supporting characters lack depth and serve only as possible suspects or victims. It would have been nice if her nephew Grady had his own ambitions, or one or two of the misdirects had cleverer explanations.

Still, as silly as it is, it's harmless.

Sure, it mentions sex in passing, but in that prim way of yesteryear, where the furthest a suitor got was first base and a fade out. It's certainly not Magnum, PI, with its skinny dipping Swedish tourists... nor is it anywhere close to Miami Vice with its bedrooms and onscreen strangulation.

One benefit to the pilot was Ned Beatty as the half-bumbling, half-competent chief of police for the small commuter community where Jessica's first murder takes place. I always love it when good stage and cinema actors take on supporting roles like this on television. It's gotten to be the norm, now, where producers mine the b and c-level casting lists for movie stars, perhaps on the decline, who want to move to television and pick up a steady paycheck. That's certainly the case with most procedurals. I'm making it sound negative, but it's actually a great thing and helped here.

Anyways, If you like your murder mysteries tame, then Murder, She Wrote is for you... in fact, I'd probably say that were its audience around today, they'd be watching NCIS.

But, I do love Jessica Fletcher. She's a smart, Agatha Christie-style investigator who always gets her killer, even at the expense of her own desires, muted though they may be. Plus, as I said before, she's an author... and I always have a soft spot for those in cinema and television (go Castle!).

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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