“I've Been Here One Year, This Is My Fifth Murder! What Is This, the Murder Capital of Maine? Now Perfect Strangers are Coming to Cabot Cove to Die."
Murder, She Wrote is a perfect example of the way TV shows used to be. Each week, we’d spend time with a character or characters we love, and each week was a new adventure. But very little changed for the characters from one week to the next. I can only think of two times that Jessica’s world changed over the course of the twelves seasons the show ran, and season 5 was one of them.
If you are new to the show, it features bestselling mystery author Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury). Everywhere she goes, she seems to stumble into a murder mystery. She travels quite a bit either researching or promoting her books or visiting family and friends, and those trips give her ample opportunity to encounter murders. She can’t even get away from it in Cabot Cove, her hometown in Maine, which isn’t as idyllic as it might seem.
The change I mentioned? This is the first season that Ron Masak recurs as Mort Metzger, the new sheriff in Cabot Cove. He is very resistant to Jessica’s help in the murders that occur in town this season before becoming more open to her help in later seasons. I always appreciated Mort more as a sheriff because he was competent unlike Amos Tupper, who was obviously supposed to just be comic relief.
So, just what kind of cases does Jessica solve this season? She finds herself in jail in San Francisco after running into her friend Michael Hagarty at the airport. When she is snowed in at a ski lodge with the US skiing team, she has to figure out who is trying to kill them. Jessica tries to figure out what happened years ago when her late husband Frank is accused of a murder that happened back when he was in the air force. We get the first appearance of Keith Michell as Dennis Stanton, here a gentleman thief who will become an insurance investigator in later seasons. Jessica’ nephew Grady gets married, but first Jessica has to figure out why his in-law’s housekeeper was killed. A trip to Montana to help with the final book by a famous author ends in murder.
And what about Cabot Cove? We get five mysteries set there this season. The first, with some major Arsenic and Old Lace vibes, involves strangers coming to town asking about a man who just moved there a year ago. Scandal seems to be the theme of three of the episodes as a divorcing and philandering husband is killed, a 300 year-old-witch returns to town, and a book filled with gossip about the members of the town leads to murder. Finally, in the two-hour season finale, a rival mystery writer comes to town and tries to steal Jessica’s thunder in solving a murder.
As I’m rewatching the show, I’m keeping track of the episodes set in Cabot Cove, trying to prove it isn’t quite as deadly as everyone makes it out to be. Jessica still travels so much of the time. Of the 21 murders Jessica solved this season, 5 took place in Cabot Cove, so just under a quarter. Of those, two involves people from outside of town and three involved residents of the community. Our totals after five seasons are 107 murders solved, twenty and a half having taken place in Cabot Cove. Of those, twelve have involved residents and eight and a half have involved people from out of town. Okay, so Cabot Cove is deadly, but there is plenty of murder taking place outside of town, too.
And yes, even though I still maintain that Cabot Cove isn't as deadly as it's reputation, I do love the quote from Mort I used as the title. Always gets a laugh from me.
I was surprised that I didn’t really remember many episodes from this season. Well, there were episodes where I’d remember the set up, but I couldn’t remember who done it. And yes, I still get fooled quite a bit. Jessica is just too observant, and I often miss the clue or what it means. But that’s the fun of the show.
As always, Angela Lansbury shines. She is kind, tough, and charming – somethings all in the same scene. The show was popular because we love her and want to spend time with her. I’d say we want to be friends with her, but considering how many of her friends have murder impact their lives, I’m not sure I’d really want to be friends with her in real life.
We can see that the show is trying to change up the formula to give Angela Lansbury a less demanding schedule. There are more scenes without Jessica in them, especially early in the episodes. Don’t worry, she is still in every episode this season, and she is still heavily involved in each episode.
Being a mystery show with the main character on the road, we have very little in the way of other characters. That means we have an impressive roster of guest stars each episode. I’ll admit, I don’t always know who they are since my knowledge of old Hollywood is limited, but I always have fun looking for stars I recognize. This season, we get appearances from John Rhys-Davies, Barbara Bain, Megan Mullally, Jared Rushton, Betsy Palmer, Stanley Kamel, Brad Dourif, Bill Maher, Dinah Shore, Mike Connors, and Jean Simmons along with many others I didn’t recognize.
Murder, She Wrote is still going strong in season 5. If you are a fan of the show, it’s always great to revisit. If you enjoy fun, light mysteries and haven’t watched this show yet, you need to fix that right away.