Thursday, May 14, 2020

TV Show Review: Murder, She Wrote - Season 4

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun mysteries, Jessica herself
Cons: No cons, he wrote
The Bottom Line:
Murders around her
Jessica investigates
Episodes still fun

“So You Admit That You Are a Writer.”  “Well, I’ve Never Felt the Need to Deny It.  At Least Not So Far.”

This has been a strange season in the world, and that is being reflected on TV.  Normally, April would be filled with new episodes of my TV shows as they build up to May sweeps and season finales.  Instead, it was very quiet with very little on since most shows had to end their production schedules early and networks were spreading out new episodes.  So what did I do?  I decided to jump into season 4 of Murder, She Wrote to fill the TV gap instead of waiting until mid-May like I normally would.  It was a welcome escape.

If you have somehow missed this 1980’s classic, it follows Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury).  While trying to get over her grief of losing her husband, she decided to write a mystery.  It became a best seller, and her second career was born.  However, she also finds herself involved in real life murders, wherever she goes.  Fortunately, she is able to notice the little things and solve the cases, clearing her friends and family in the process.

Over the course of the twenty-two episodes that make up this season, Jessica finds murder at a fashion show in Paris, she gets a lesson in TV writing when the plot of one is her books is stolen for an episode of a TV show, Jessica’s cousin Emma (also Angela Lansbury) finds herself solving a murder after reconnecting with an old flame, Jessica must clear her niece and nephew-in-law of murder that could spell trouble for their marriage, a visit with a playwright friend in Georgia leads to murder, and a visit to meet her nephew Grady’s fiancée (Michael Horton and Michael’s real life wife Debbie Zipp) ends in murder at a restaurant.

Of course, fans of the show live for the episodes set in Jessica’s hometown of Cabot Cove, Maine.  It’s there that we get the closest things we have to recurring characters in the form of Sherriff Amos Tupper (Tom Bosley) and Dr. Seth Hazlitt (William Windom).  We get five cases set in Cabot Cove this year.  A hitchhiker dredges up an old murder case.  When the deputy’s wife is murder one night, all kinds of secrets in town come to light.  The annual Founder’s Day celebration is interrupted when a Native American shows up claiming to own the land where the town has been built.  Amos’s sister arrives for an unannounced visit, and her in-laws are right behind her.  Finally, the death (by natural causes!) of a citizen sparks rumors of a treasure possibly connected to Benedict Arnold.  Seth gets an extra episode as he and Jessica travel to DC and reconnect with his brother along the way.

I’ve been keeping track of the Cabot Cove episodes as I rewatch the show, and this year was not kind to my stats.  Of the 86 murders that Jessica has solved over the course of four seasons, we now have fifteen and a half that took place in Cabot Cove.  That’s five new ones this year.  Making things worse, four of them involved residents of town, and only one involved people from out of town.  That brings those totals to nine murder involving residents and six and a half involved people from out of town.  The numbers were pretty even until this year.

On the other hand, Cabot Cove started to be fleshed out this year.  For the first time, we see the beauty parlor.  This is also the first season we meet realtor Eve Simpson (Julie Adams).  While it wasn’t acknowledged this season, this would be the final season with Tom Bosley as Amos Tupper since he’d go on to star in his own TV mystery show – the Father Dowling Mysteries.

In case you couldn’t tell by how I’ve rambled on about it, I love this show.  The mysteries are always top notch.  Yes, it is often obvious when they are showing us the clues, but I still don’t always remember what those moments means.  Although I did find a string of episodes where I did remember things as I was watching them.  I wouldn’t remember an episode as I got started, but we’d hit a certain scene, and I’d know exactly how the rest of the plot was going to play out, including the important clue that had just happened.  Since it’s been years since I watched these episodes, that amazed me.

And it’s fun just to watch Jessica in action.  Angela Lansbury is excellent here.  She can make Jessica be as sweet and innocent as could be or tough, depending on what the situation calls for.  She does it without missing a beat.  And the character is always sharp.  People dismiss her at their own peril, which I love.  It’s also fun to see who will pop up as guest stars in any given episode.  This season, we get Robert Reed, Janet Leigh, Dean Jones, Dean Stockwell, Frank Gorshin, and Shirley Jones.  Those are at least the names that meant something to me.

The twenty-two episodes of this season are collected on DVD on five discs in their native full frame picture and stereo sound.  This isn’t a show that will challenge your system at all, but it is a TV show from the 80’s, so this is just how it originally aired.  The only extra is a bonus episode from season five.  I’m not sure why this particular one was included, and it seems rather silly now since all seasons of the show are available on DVD.

Whether I remember the plot of an episode or not, it is always a pleasure to be in Jessica’s presence, so I enjoyed every minute of season 4 of Murder, She Wrote again.  This is a light, fun mystery show that will keep you entertained for every episode.

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