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Trivia / Murder, She Wrote

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  • Acting for Two: Angela Lansbury played both main character Jessica Fletcher and her cousin Emma McGill in the episodes "It Runs in the Family" and "Sing a Song of Murder". She also plays her Antebellum South era ancestor, Sarah McCollough, in "The Last Free Man" TV movie.
  • California Doubling:
    • The exterior shots of Cabot Cove were filmed in the town of Mendocino (about halfway between San Francisco and the Oregon border).
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    • "Witness for the Defense" is supposedly set in Quebec, but some interior scenes are shown to have green-lettered exit signs (the norm in California). Virtually all Canadian exit signs in that style are red.
    • Unlike Levinson & Link's other famous creation, Jessica Fletcher's London visit took place on Universal Studios' backlot.
  • Defictionalization: An official series of Murder, She Wrote novels claiming to be written by Jessica Fletcher "with Donald Bain" started in 1989 and continues to this day. They're done in the style of the episodes though, rather than being based on the novels she's written in-series.
  • Fake Nationality:
    • Recurring character Dennis Stanton was never said to be British, but had a rather elegant British accent - Keith Michell was Australian.
    • Mark Lindsey Chapman did this at least twice: while he used his natural British accent in "A Death in the Family", he was a fake Irishman in "The Wind Around the Tower" and a fake Frenchman in "The Grand Old Lady".
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    • The very American Anthony Geary as a Russian cop in "From Russia, With Blood".
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  • Name's the Same: "Old Habits Die Hard" has a seemingly-Jerkass boyfriend character named Michael Phelps.
  • Real-Life Relative: In later seasons, Grady is Happily Married to his longtime sweetheart Donna. Grady and Donna are played by Michael Horton and Debbie Zipp, who are also married in Real Life and have been since before the show began.
    • One of the principal directors on the series was Anthony Shaw, one of Angela Lansbury's real-life sons. Angela's nephew, David Lansbury, and niece, Felicia Lansbury, have each guest-starred a couple of times on the series. After she had taken control of the production in 1991, Angela hired her brother, veteran TV producer Bruce Lansbury, as Supervising Producer, and also installed her husband and agent, Peter Shaw, as Executive In Charge of Production.
  • Screwed by the Network: Happened during the 12th and final season. The show had spent most of its run on Sunday nights and had gotten excellent ratings in the process. However, after Leslie Moonves became president of CBS Entertainment in 1995 before the 12th season began, he moved it to Thursday nights opposite Friends - a show that, ironically, he had previously helped to produce back when he was president of Warner Bros. Television. Many longtime fans of Murder, She Wrote angrily protested the scheduling change, and openly suspected Moonves of deliberately making the move in order to kill the show and, therefore, make room for new programs which he had greenlit.
    • This is why they made the episode "Murder Among Friends".
  • Technology Marches On: During the run of the show, Jessica goes from typing manuscripts on a typewriter to using a computer, as reflected in updated opening credits. The final movie shows that Jessica has even begun using a laptop.
    • The pilot episode, "The Murder of Sherlock Holmes," becomes an Unintentional Period Piece thanks to this trope. When Jessica encounters the two young thugs in the alley, she threatens to call the police, but one of the thugs points out that it would be impossible for her to do so because she couldn't possibly have a phone in her purse.
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    • The episode "Murder, She Spoke" has a series of audio mystery books for the blind, and Jessica is recording the last of them because the Asshole Victim doesn't think it's profitable. Even the main proponent of the audiobooks agrees with this assessment. This, of course, was before audio books became more common and the internet had sites like Audible, which boast hundreds of thousands of audio books to stream... some of which include the "official" J.B. Fletcher novels to boot!
  • You Look Familiar: It would be simpler to just link to the Wikipedia list as, given the show's incredible length and need for frequent one-off character parts, many actors that were active in television would do multiple appearances on this program as completely different characters. Several series regulars got their start as corpses, innocents, and killers:
    • Ron Masak, before joining the cast as Sheriff Mort Metzger, appeared in two earlier episodes (the first playing a cop in New York!).
    • William Windom played one of the guilty party in the season 1 finale "Funeral at Fifty-Mile" before appearing as Dr. Seth Hazlitt in the second season.
    • Before John Astin began a three-episode run as recurring shady real estate agent Harry Pierce in Season 2, he played a film director in Season 1's "Hooray for Homicide" and returned much later in Season 11's "Flim Flam" once again playing a completely new character, Fritz Randall.
    • Madlyn Rhue, before playing Cabot Cove's librarian in later seasons, appeared earlier as a victim's widow in "Seal of the Confessional".
    • Herb Edelman appeared on the show three times as different characters and at least once as a police lieutenant before eventually morphing into the semi-recurring character of Lieutenant Artie Gelbert after Jessica moved to New York.
    • Another interesting example is "Murder on Madison Avenue": Firstly, after having played Jonathan Quayle Higgins in the aforementioned Crossover with Magnum, P.I., 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 her assistant (played by Hallie Foote); but in an interesting possible Casting Gag, 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, as if nothing had ever happened.
    • Leslie Nielsen is another special case in that he appears in the first season as the captain of a cruise ship when Jessica gets involved with a murder aboard the ship. The episode ends indicating they'll have a dinner date. 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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