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''Murder, She Wrote'' is a popular, [[LongRunners long-running]] television mystery series created by Peter S. Fischer and the team of LevinsonAndLink, starring Creator/AngelaLansbury as mystery writer and amateur detective Jessica Fletcher. The series aired for 12 seasons, from 1984 to 1996.

[[StrictlyFormula Ruthlessly formulaic]], most of its episodes follow a standard format: a murder is discovered, Jessica [[AmateurSleuth starts snooping around]], the police tell her to let professionals handle things, [[PoliceAreUseless she ignores them]], deduces the murderer's identity in a EurekaMoment, and then [[EngineeredPublicConfession engineers a public confession]], frequently by tricking the murderer into a JustBetweenYouAndMe. And then [[EverybodyLaughsEnding everybody laughs]]. Later seasons did mess with the formula a bit, changing the mysteries from [[Creator/AgathaChristie Christie-style]] whodunnits to [[Series/{{Columbo}} Columbo-style]] [[ReverseWhodunnit howcatchums]]. All three of the show's creators were tied to ''Columbo''.

The series was followed by a series of four made-for-TV films, aired from 1997 to 2003, and also led to a short-lived SpinOff, ''The Law and Harry [=McGraw=]''. Angela Lansbury has said she'd like to take one more swing at Jessica Fletcher, but no one else has shown interest. Additionally, rumors began in late 2013 that a possible reboot was in the works, with Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer as a "hospital administrator and amateur sleuth who self-publishes her first mystery novel." After a lukewarm reception from fans and Lansbury herself, the idea was shelved.

An [[EpilepticTrees amusing interpretation]], [[LampshadeHanging lampshaded in the show, no less]], is that there is no better explanation for [[MysteryMagnet the sheer number of murders the lead character encounters]] throughout the long run of the series than [[TheKillerInMe her involvement in all of them]]. Indeed, if Cabot Cove alone were really to have suffered that many murders, it would top the FBI national crime statistics by several orders of magnitude (as mentioned below, Cabot Cove has an estimated murder rate '''eighty-six times''' that of the most murderous city in the real world.) Also, if you're Jessica Fletcher's friend in any capacity but not [[PlotArmor an episode regular]], you're pretty much [[DoomMagnet doomed either to kill someone or be killed, or be wrongly arrested for being a killer]].

-> [[LampshadeHanging “What is this, the death capital of Maine!? On a per capita basis this place makes the South Bronx look like Sunnybrook Farm!”]] — [[OnlySaneMan new Sheriff Mort Metzger on Cabot Cove]].

In an interesting cross-media spin-off, Donald Bain wrote several mystery novels inspired by the series, all of which credited Lansbury's character Jessica Fletcher as a co-writer.

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!!This series provides examples of:

* TenMinuteRetirement: Sheriff Tupper attempts this in one episode, but reclaims his job after his successor Harry Pierce (played by John Astin) proves to be utterly incompetent. [[spoiler: The fact that Pierce turns out to be the Killer of the Week didn't help.]]
* AllJustADream: [[spoiler: "The Petrified Florist"]]
* AlwaysMurder: Enforced by the show's format, with three notable exceptions:
** "Just Another Fish Story": Self-defense.
** "To The Last Will I Grapple With Thee": Suicide made to look like murder to implicate someone else.
** "The Christmas Mystery": Attempted murder; the victim survives.
** Inverted in one episode where the victim's death is thought to be the result of medical malpractice and her doctor is about to be either sued for this or arrested for manslaughter/negligent homicide. Further investigation, however, determines that she was poisoned, meaning it ''is'' a murder after all.
** "Jessica Behind Bars" subverts this and then plays it straight. [[spoiler: The first victim was a GuiltRiddenAccomplice who actually committed suicide, but the second victim was in fact killed because she was a loose thread that may have led to the reveal behind why the first victim took her life.]]
* AmateurSleuth: Jessica has no formal law enforcement or investigation training, and never acquires any throughout the series; her skills are chiefly based on her career as an English teacher who has a deep understanding of the mystery genre, and applies her understanding of it to RealLife. Once, though, when a witness is unwilling to be questioned with Jessica present, the sheriff says he'll deputize her if necessary.
* AntiVillain:
** One murder victim turns out to have been blackmailing the more prominent men of her small town, but then it's implied she was using the money to anonymously support charities for orphans and widows.
** The killer in the first episode is being blackmailed over a crime for which he was framed originally, and he kills his blackmailer.
* AssholeVictim: The vast majority of the murder victims, with a few exceptions. Rarely is the murderer some brutal and heartless killer; he or she is almost always someone who the victim has wronged in some way, even if the killer themselves turns out to be a jerk. At least one noteworthy exception is an episode about a woman being poisoned to death by her husband, who wants to collect her insurance money and run off with his mistress. At no time is she ever made out to be someone who got what was coming to her, nor is he made out to be sympathetic.
* BluffingTheMurderer: Jessica typically finds some way to bluff the murderer into seeking her out, thinking her to be alone and thus defenseless.
* BurnTheWitch: The killing of a woman for witchcraft in the 17th century sets up some of the plot in "Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble," as Seth sees her "ghost." In the present day, there's a WitchHunter priest who of course is the first suspect when one of the witch's descendants, Irene Terhume, ends up dead. [[RedHerring He didn't do it]].
* BusmansHoliday: Jessica takes a lot of vacations, and death always follows her. It's entirely possible they started having her travel because Cabot Cove would have eventually run out of people.
* ByTheBookCop:
** Cabot Cove's first sheriff is Amos Tupper, an honest cop and a close friend of Jessica. He retires after the fourth season.
** Tupper is replaced by Sheriff Mort Metzger, a former NYPD detective who takes the job in the mistaken belief that the town is a peaceful place.
* CatchPhrase: Jessica has one just prior to getting neck deep in the current investigation:
---> '''Jessica:''' [to current investigating officer] I know it's none of my business, but... [Insert recommendation of next investigative move].
** She also has a variation of her OncePerEpisode disagreement when the current officer in charge makes the first accusation:
---> '''Jessica:''' ''*shakes head*'' I'm not so sure, [officer name]...
** Also upon having her EurekaMoment she has a variation of the same basic quote:
---> '''Jessica:''' [EurekaMoment] I believe I know what happened. Excuse me... [cut to catching the culprit and getting a confession]
* TheCharmer: Michael Hagarty, Jessica's friend in MI6, often invokes this as part of his undercover operations or other crime-fighting activities. Jessica is more often seen to be exasperated by it than anything, since he frequently uses it on ''her'' to hide his true motives for doing something.
* ChekhovsGun: Inevitably, at some point in an episode, the camera focuses just a little longer than necessary on something utterly random and mundane that turns out to be significant regarding the identity of the killer. Occasionally, this happens even before the actual murder does.
* ChuckCunninghamSyndrome: Ethan Cragg (Claude Akins), who appears often enough in the first season to be considered a recurring character, disappears without explanation at the start of season two. His role as Cabot Cove's resident lovable curmudgeon is filled by Dr. Seth Hazlitt for the rest of the series.
* ClearMyName: Naturally, this happens in a lot of episodes, where an innocent man is the prime suspect of the murder (although it's usually not an intentional FrameUp on the real killer's part) making Jessica's task twice as hard.
* ContrivedCoincidence: One episode revolved around Jessica getting sued when the plot of her latest novel is staggeringly similar to a real life murder case. Jessica is shocked when she reads the reports from the actual case and realizes it ''is'' similar, even though she's never heard of it. In fact, the book is so similar that the guy who is suing her [[spoiler: uses it to discover who actually murdered his wife and subsequently gets killed by the same culprit: his former secretary/second wife.]]
* CreatorBreakdown: Reversed, in-universe. The reason Jessica started writing her mysteries in the first place was to give herself an outlet to work through her grief over her husband's death. In a later episode, Seth expresses concern that she's investing too much of her time in her books and missing out on life.
* {{Crossover}}: With ''MagnumPI''. The crossover episode is a two-parter, with the first part on ''Magnum, P.I.'' and the second part on the subsequent episode of ''Murder, She Wrote.'' Luckily, the appropriate crossover episodes are included on the corresponding season [=DVDs=].
* DeadManWriting: "Truck Stop"
* DeathInTheClouds: "The Corpse Flew First Class"
* DirtyCop: A few episodes have them as the culprit.
* DoomMagnet: Is Jessica Fletcher visiting your town or home? One of three things is going to happen. You'll either be killed, accused of killing, or be revealed as a killer. Being accused is your best bet, as Jessica will invariably prove you innocent when she reveals the real killer.
** Lampshaded more than once.
* DudeMagnet: Jessica gets a lot of attention from older gentlemen, and in one episode a college-age CakeEater flat-out propositions her.
* EagleEyeDetection: Jessica's ability to pay attention to minute details is usually what reveals the killer. In one example, Jessica notices that one character has been hiding his hand in his pocket since the murder because [[spoiler: a dog bit him after he committed it]].
* ElectrifiedBathtub: "Sticks and Stones" and "Unauthorized Obituary"
* EngineeredPublicConfession: [[OnceAnEpisode The standard format]] has Jessica BluffingTheMurderer into confessing in the mistaken belief that it is JustBetweenYouAndMe, when she's arranged for a police officer or other responsible person to be in the next room.
* EurekaMoment: OncePerEpisode with some minor detail that ties all the other evidence together, and leads into the confession scene. Seth and Mort [[LampshadeHanging lampshade]] it in later seasons with exasperation as they see her staring off into space, realizing she's figured it all out. Subverted in one episode when she does this... and then announces she's worked out the ending to her latest book.
* EverybodyLaughsEnding: The show rolls the end credits on Jessica's laugh in roughly 99% of the episodes. The few which ''don't'' end with her laughing (such as the pilot) end instead with a freeze shot of her astonished face as she realizes something important or is taken by surprise in some way.
* FairPlayWhodunnit
%% Zero Context Example: * FashionDissonance: Especially in earlier seasons. It ''was'' TheEighties, after all.
* FictionalDocument: Jessica's novels; several of the titles are named in the series, such as her first book, ''The Corpse Danced at Midnight''. Some of the actual crimes are also solved with these providing key evidence.
* FriendOnTheForce: Jessica acquires a large number of friendly detectives as the seasons go on, not to mention her friendships with the Cabot Cove sheriffs.
* FullyAbsorbedFinale: The "bookend episode" ''The Grand Old Lady'' was actually an unfilmed series finale script from a previously-produced and cut short ''Ellery Queen'' series, albeit with the characters [[SerialNumbersFiledOff slightly changed]] to dance around rights issues. Both series were produced by Levinson and Link, and they apparently [[http://legendsrevealed.com/entertainment/2013/05/23/was-the-last-episode-of-ellery-queen-aired-as-an-episode-of-murder-she-wrote-instead/ decided]] not to let a good script go to waste.
* GenderFlip: ElleryQueen as a middle-aged female.
* GenreBlindness: There's no other possible explanation for why people continue to want to be Jessica's friends and neighbors.
* HappilyAdopted: Grady, Frank and Jessica's nephew, was orphaned young and raised by his loving childless aunt and uncle. Grady is absolutely devoted to Jessica.
* HeadlessHorseman: Relocated to a prep school, and tied it in with the required murder.
* HeroOfAnotherStory: A good chunk of episodes follow someone other than Jessica, solving murders their own way, but still keeping in with the show's formula. They range from characters seen in previous episodes to [[AndNowForSomeoneCompletelyDifferent someone totally different who's never been seen before.]] Sometimes they're even the characters from Jessica's books.
* HeWhoMustNotBeSeen[=/=]DeadToBeginWith: Frank Fletcher, Jessica's late husband, who passed away prior to the series. Throughout the series, Jessica interacts with her multiple nieces and nephews, some which belong to Frank's side of the family. At one point, she even reunites with her brother-in-law and other relatives connected to the family. The only thing the viewers have as far as a description on Frank is that he and his brother looked alike and they brought in an actor to provide his voice.
* HiddenWire: Jessica does this several times as part of her {{Engineered Public Confession}}s.
* [[IdenticalGrandson Identical Cousin]]: Jessica has a British cousin named Emma, also played by Angela Lansbury. In the episode "Runs in the Family", only Emma was featured, with Jessica not appearing at all, and Emma proved to be a rather good sleuth herself.
* INeverSaidItWasPoison: Frequently used by Jessica and other characters.
* InstrumentOfMurder: "Death to a Jazz Beat" offered an inversion; a jazz clarinetist, who was planning on firing his back-up band before signing a huge recording contract was murdered by a poisoned clarinet reed. In another episode, a ballerina was murdered by touching a poisoned prop.
* JustBetweenYouAndMe: Some of the not-so-nice killers always confess to Jessica or someone else in the belief that they are alone, just before trying to kill them.
* LawOfInverseFertility: Jessica and her husband Frank were childless; in a first-season episode, when speaking to a new acquaintance [[spoiler:(who later turns out to be the murder victim)]], she explains that they "were never blessed that way," suggesting that they wanted children but couldn't have them for whatever reason.
* LittleOldLadyInvestigates
* LoveMakesYouCrazy: Many of the murders are done for loved ones, but there are a few where the affections made the culprit quite loopy.
* MagazineDecay: InUniverse example: a publishing magnate buys up a literary magazine called ''Literary Lines'' and adds ''Maxim''-esque pictorals of bikini-clad ladies. This doesn't sit well with Jessica, who is under contract to have her first short story published in the magazine.
* [[MysteryMagnet Murder Mystery Magnet]]: People drop dead around Jessica everywhere she goes. Everywhere. It's creepy.
** It's been calculated that Cabot Cove has a murder rate of 86 per 1000; by comparison, the most murderous city in the world, Caracas, has a murder rate of 1.1 per 1000. That's not counting the murders that happen outside Cabot Cove...
** In some years, more people were murdered in Cabot Cove on the show than were murdered in the entire state of Maine in RealLife.
** Lampshaded in one episode when another character tells Jessica, "If murder were a disease, you'd be contagious."
** Lampshaded again by Sheriff Metzger, a former New York cop who, after a year as the sheriff of Cabot Cove, asks Jessica, "Just what the hell's wrong with this town?"
* MysteryWriterDetective
* {{Nephewism}}: Jessica had no children, but many nieces and nephews. Grady Fletcher was the main repeater among them. As noted above, it's explained in a few episodes that Grady was orphaned as a little boy and was [[HappilyAdopted raised by Jessica and Frank]]; as their surrogate son, he had good reason to be a repeater.
** Jessica's other repeating relatives were a niece and nephew-in-law, played by Genie Francis and Jeff Conaway, who had a continuing thread about him wanting to be in the entertainment business.
* NewNeighboursAsThePlotDemands
* ObfuscatingStupidity: Jessica doesn't hesitate to play up her "little old lady" image to get information out of people. In a few instances she even [[PlayingDrunk plays a drunken floozy]] with surprising skill, which may be justified since Jessica has a history of theater in her background.
* {{Oireland}}: "The Celtic Riddle", "Nan's Ghost", "A Killing in Cork", "Another Killing in Cork", "To the Last Will I Grapple With Thee" (set in New York but involving an Irish blood feud)...
* OtherMeAnnoysMe
* PacManFever: Surprisingly averted for a show focused on murders and generally populated by adults who are focused on anything but video games (save one episode where the murder occurred at a virtual reality game developer). In one early episode, Jessica's friend Ethan is playing a ''SpyHunter'' arcade game. When footage of the game is shown it is perfectly accurate, complete with the player's hands making movements and the vehicle on screen matching them.
* PlatonicLifePartners: Jessica and Seth have this dynamic. They obviously care about each other, but there's little to no indication of anything romantic between them.
* PlayingDrunk: Jessica, in a few episodes, as noted above.
* PoliceAreUseless: Often, but not always. Generally, if a police officer/federal agent/other law official is willing to listen to Jessica, they're portrayed as sensible and helpful. The useless ones are those who tell her to stay out of their way.
* PoorlyDisguisedPilot: In everything but intent. When Angela Lansbury started to tire of the pace of a weekly network show, a strategy was devised that would allow the network to do a full season without Lansbury having to do a full season. Slightly more than half of the episodes of the season would be full adventures of Jessica Fletcher. The remainder would be Poorly Disguised Pilots, for which Lansbury, as Fletcher, would film bookend sequences, explaining the new character we'd be seeing for the next hour. Sometimes these were Jessica's own fictional characters, but other times they were friends or relations of Jessica's, such as Dennis Stanton. They weren't really intended to spin-off any of the characters - although if any were exceptionally successful, why not?
* PrettyInMink: Some furs show up.
* PutOnABus: The original sheriff retired when Tom Bosley left the show.
* RedHerring: Usually OncePerEpisode there will be someone who seems all too obviously the killer. They hated the victim, they are likely angry individuals, they have a shady record, they certainly have means and motive, they made some kind of threat to the victim, and/or they're likely the first one implicated by evidence (which incidentally is almost a guarantee for Jessica to prove their innocence, or have them end up murdered by the true culprit).
** Played with once with [[spoiler:Kate Mulgrew in her third appearance. The killer actually speaks during the murders and sounds like a disguised version of Kate's distinct breathy voice. Kate played the killer in two previous episodes, so it seemed likely that she'd be it again.]]
* RightBehindMe
* Retool: The eighth season began with Jessica moving to New York City to take up a teaching position. J. Michael Straczynski (of Babylon 5 fame) had taken over as head writer for the series alongside a new producer so the decision was made to move away from Cabot Cove (which would also allow for more varied storylines and less Cabot Cove Death Syndrome, which was starting to get a little absurd). Episodes set in Cabot Cove were still produced but not to the same extent as the first seven seasons.
* ScoundrelCode: Dennis Stanton was a GentlemanThief who, after going straight, became a recurring character. During his burgling years, he maintained his own strict code of conduct: never steal anything his victims couldn't afford to lose, never steal anything of sentimental value to the victim, and only steal items insured by a specific insurance company. The last one is for personal revenge, as the company in question refused to pay for a treatment that could have saved his wife's life.
* ScriptSwap: Done in one episode with an aging actor whose memory is so bad he has to rely on the teleprompter. While this looks like an EngineeredPublicConfession, it is actually a ploy on Jessica's part to trick the real killer into exposing themselves.
* SherlockHolmes: In the pilot, a man dressed as the Great Detective is the murder victim.
* ShoutOut:
** In "Tough Guys Don't Die", the victim is a P.I. named [[Film/TheMalteseFalcon Archie Miles]].
** "Prediction: Murder" has a housekeeper character named [[MurderOnTheOrientExpress Greta Olsson]].
* StrictlyFormula: Mostly played straight, though it should be noted that this was [[SubvertedTrope subverted]] from time to time. Earlier seasons, strangely enough, played with the formula more than later ones.
* SummationGathering: Often.
* SwissArmyWeapon: [[HeroOfAnotherStory Dennis Stanton]]'s umbrella. It has, among other things, a dart launcher in the tip, and the handle seems to have both a blade attachment and a lock pick. That's not including Stanton's own expertise with it as a weapon on its own.
* SympatheticMurderer: Frequently killing the AssholeVictim. Sometimes it's self-defense or accidental; in one case of the latter, Jessica agrees to keep quiet about solving the murder because revealing the "killers" would cause harm to an innocent person. However, some of the murderers lose their sympathy when they try to frame someone else or try to kill Jessica to cover it up.
* TakeThat:
** One of the show's final episodes, "Murder Among Friends," features a murder taking place among the cast and crew of a show, titled ''Buds,'' about six young people trying to make it in the big city. Sound familiar? The show got slotted against ''Series/{{Friends}}'' as part of a plan to kill it off.
** The final episode, "Death by Demographics", similarly knocks on the reason for the show being death-slotted: its lack of appeal to the 18-39 demographic. The episode itself is about a radio station manager who fires every employee over a certain age and changes the station's classical music format to more contemporary hard rock.
* TransAtlanticEquivalent: More than a few people have mentioned that Jessica Fletcher could be considered an American Miss Marple. This is especially hilarious because Angela Lansbury has played both. In fact, the opening of "The Murder of Sherlock Holmes" is practically a direct lift from the opening of ''The Mirror Crack'd'', the film in which Lansbury played Miss Marple.
* UnfortunateImplications: {{Invoked}} by the high rate at which murders happen around Jessica.
* UngratefulBastard: The two part season finale ''Mirror Mirror on the Wall'' focused on Eudora McVeigh, a rival mystery author who tried to be friends with Jessica so she could steal from her latest manuscript, and the murder investigation that springs up around her, her husband, and her stepson. Jessica clears Eudora's name, but she continues to act coldly towards her before leaving Cabot Cove. [[spoiler: Just before the end credits, Eudora shows up at Jessica's doorstep and makes a heartfelt apology over everything that happened and how she treated Jessica. After everything that happened, Eudora has finally decided to divorce her second husband, take a break from her writing, and spend some time with her sister and her children.]]
* VillainousBreakdown: Some of the murderers suffer from this. [[spoiler:Preston]] in "Death Stalks the Big Top" is possibly the most notable example.
* YouLookFamiliar: Oh so often in this series. Repeat offenders include (but aren't limited to) [[Series/ArrestedDevelopment Jessica Walter]], Gregg Henry, [[Franchise/IndianaJones Jonathan Rhys-Davies]], and Eugene Roche.
** This even happens with recurring guest stars. Ron Masak, before joining the cast as Sheriff Mort Metzger, appeared in two earlier episodes (the first playing [[HilariousInHindsight a cop in New York]]!).
** William Windom played one of the guilty party in "Funeral at Fifty-Mile" before appearing as Dr. Seth Hazlitt in the second season.
** Madlyn Rhue, before playing Cabot Cove's librarian in later seasons, appeared earlier as a victim's widow in "Seal of the Confessional".
** Another interesting example is "Murder on Madison Avenue": Firstly, after having played [[MagnumPI Jonathan Quayle Higgins]] in the aforementioned CrossOver with ''MagnumPI'', John Hillerman appears in this episode as a completely different character, to the likely confusion of longtime viewers. Secondly, Barbara Babcock's character (her fourth on ''MSW'', fifth if you count ''The Law and Harry [=McGraw=]'') is murdered by [[spoiler: her assistant (played by Hallie Foote), but in an interesting possible CastingGag, the next season episode "For Whom the Ball Tolls" sees Babcock and Foote together again (playing completely different characters, of course), working together on a historic preservation committee, [[NegativeContinuity as if nothing had ever happened]].]]
** Leslie Nielsen appears in the first season as the captain of a cruise ship when Jessica gets involved with a murder aboard the ship. He turns up again in season three as an old admirer of Jessica's who spots her on the street, plants a huge kiss on her lips, then shortly after gets accused of murder.
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