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YMMV / Murder, She Wrote

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  • Archive Panic: Going for a solid 12 seasons and about 265 episodes puts the show in this category, to say nothing of the four spinoff movies and the novel series, which hit fifty titles in 2019 and is still going at a rate of two new books a year.
  • Award Snub: Angela Lansbury: 12 Years, 12 Emmy nominations, not a single win.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Out of the recurring characters, Jessica's nephew Grady has quite the hatedom of people that get tired of his endless schtick of constantly being dumped by his new girlfriends, never having a steady job, failing at life in general, and taking up time in his episodes with unfunny comic relief. It feels like the writers kept wanting him to have his own show. That being said, there are those who feel he's a decently well-meaning Audience Surrogate who provides some welcome consistency amidst the mind-bogglingly large stream of one-time characters in Jessica's life.
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  • British Stuffiness: most of the upper-class characters in the 'Emma episodes'.
  • Crossover Ship: Nearly a canon example. The end of the Magnum, P.I. crossover, "Magnum on Ice", teased Jonathan Higgins and Jessica, although it never went past Higgins quite obviously crushing on Jessica, to her amusement. It was also added to at the end of the syndicated version of the first part, "Novel Connection".
  • Heartwarming Moments:
    • In "Simon Says, 'Color Me Dead'", Sheriff Tupper bonding with Tommy Rutledge and acting as a father figure is pretty sweet. He even contemplates adopting him if his mother gets convicted.
    • In "Benedict Arnold Slipped Here", Dr. Hazlitt finds an antique chess set among Mrs. Adams' effects and gushes over it, even implying to Jessica that they could "forget" to put it with the rest of the stuff Mr. Tibbles is inheriting. He attempts to buy it from the Tibbles, but gets turned down. At the end of the episode, he laments there being no treasure in Mrs. Adams' house. Jessica tells him treasure is relative and reveals she bought him the chess set. He even kisses her on the cheek.
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    • Any point in "Something Borrowed, Someone Blue" when Donna looks happy. The poor girl has had a very stressful life so far, so seeing her beam with pleasure when Jessica gives her a family wedding gift or when the wedding finally comes to its conclusion without a hitch warms the heart.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • "It's a Dog's Life": Cherie Currie's character is named Echo. Guess what brand of power tools Currie endorses as a chainsaw artist?
    • In "It Runs In the Family", Emma McGill, also played by Lansbury, laughs off returning to singing because her voice has "... more cracks than an old teapot."
    • Jessica's full name is Jessica Beatrice Fletcher. She's involved in murder mysteries. Guess who else is named Beatrice and involved in murder mysteries?
    • "The Corpse Flew First Class" had a thief hiding a stolen necklace in a can of shaving cream. Wonder is that where Lewis Dodgson got the idea for smuggling the embryos from.
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    • The episode Murder at the Electric Cathedral has Frank Bonner as a special guest star. The very next episode has a murderer named Frank Kelso and a victim named Ed Bonner.
    • In "The Murder of Sherlock Holmes", Jessica is accosted by a couple of would-be muggers and threatens to call the police. One of the muggers sarcastically asks if she's carrying the phone around in her purse. Carrying phones around on one's person was something that would become much more common in the years following the episode's airing. note 
    • In the episode A Killing in Vegas, the hotel owner Wes McSorley refers to Jerry Pappas, the Casino Manager, as "the King of the One-Armed bandits". Pappas is played by Andreas Katsulas who, aside from his appearances on Babylon 5 and Star Trek, is famous for being the One-Armed killer in The Fugitive.
  • Memetic Mutation: Jessica Fletcher is actually responsible for all the murders to happen on the show.
  • Narm: The infamous drive-by swording sequence from "The Celtic Riddle".
  • Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize: Many guest stars turned out to be allies of Jessica's or a Red Herring, while a character played by a much less famous person was the actual killer. A guest star has just as good a chance at being the Victim of the Week. In "Murder Digs Deep," the shifty Jerkass financing the episode's dig is played Robert Vaughn. He isn't the killer. It's his seemingly sweet wife played by Connie Stevens. In "A Very Good Year for Murder", where the family patriarch played by Eli Wallach was the murderer.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The episode "Murder, Plain and Simple" does a good job of utilizing Nothing Is Scarier when Jessica finds the body of the Victim of the Week, despite the scene taking place in broad daylight. Jessica is walking through a field early in the morning when she notices something strange about a nearby scarecrow in the distance, and gets closer when she realizes it's actually a dead body. There's no dialog and the use of Jessica completely alone while the background music heightens the sense of something being off makes the sequence totally unsettling.
  • Older Than They Think: The 1959 film version of The Bat shares many elements with Murder, She Wrote, such as mystery writer going to a small town while writing her next novel and getting wrapped up in a real murder mystery.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Jessica's English cousin Emma cannot seem to decide whether she is a Londoner or a Yorkshirewoman.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • Kathryn Morris was in one of the TV movies three years before Cold Case premiered.
    • George Clooney and Julianna Marguiles both appeared in episodes (separately) eons before ER made them famous.
    • A young Courteney Cox played Jessica's husband Frank's great-niece, whose wedding sparks the plot of the two-parter "Death Stalks the Big Top."
    • Joaquin Phoenix appeared in the Season 1 episode "We're Off to Kill The Wizard" when he was only 10 years old. At the time he was so unknown he didn't even appear in the "Special Guest Stars" credits at the start of the episode.
    • Bryan Cranston plays a tennis player named Brian East, who is the Victim of the Week in Season 2's "Menace Anyone". A decade later, he would return to the show as another one-off character for the Season 12 episode "Something Foul in Flappieville". By this point he was a far more established actor in television and film but this was still before his star-making role in Malcolm in the Middle.
    • A young Andy García is the mugger in the first episode "The Murder of Sherlock Holmes".
  • She Really Can Act: Lois Chiles, considered by critics to be a rather flat presence in films like Moonraker and Death on the Nile, improves considerably in "The Return of Preston Giles" - so much so that when she fatally shoots Giles at the episode's end, she's almost chilling.
  • The Scrappy:
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • Plenty of fans wish that Cabot Cove Deputy Marigold Feeny (who comes across a bit gung ho and unprepared but turns out to be a decent Action Girl) had been in more than one episode.
    • Considering the hatedom Grady gets compared to some of Jessica's lesser appearing relatives (like Carol Bannister Vicky and Howard and Howard Griffin and Nita Cochran) the producers might have missed a trick giving some of his episodes to them.
    • Of the "Wasted in a single episode" characters, Ellsworth Buffum from "Joshua Peabody Died Here, Possily" might stand out, getting a nice introduction as a historical society member who has a slightly comedic interaction with Amos and then a Big Damn Heroes moment getting an injunction to stop a bulldozing, only to completely vanish for the rest of the episode, not being treated as a suspect, or being apparently involved in the further developments of the construction/burial site when he would have had reason to be interested in them.
    • Dennis Stanton is a complicated example. He got plenty of episodes of his own, when Angela Lansbury was taking a break from the show, but there are those who regret the limited number of episodes he got to share with Jessica.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: A running gag in season 2 is the debate about whether local revolutionary war legend Joshua Peabody even existed, while by season 11 it's been proven off-screen that he has. It could have been interesting if the show had incorporated uncovering the proof of his existence into one of the episodes in between rather than just springing it so suddenly.
  • The Woobie:
    • Kimberly, the granddaughter of the wealthy Henry in "Test of Wills." She's the only one who is truly upset when her grandfather is murdered, because she's arguably the only member of the family who really loves him, and then her fiancé is also murdered. Her fiancé is exposed post-mortem as having been blackmailing her aunt, and meanwhile, her grandfather turns out to have faked his own murder just to see how the family would react. Not to mention the cruel words her grandfather had to share in his fake will alongside having to deal with a domineering bitch of a mother who doesn't give a shit about what she wants and is using her to get the grandfather's money. It's hard to blame her for the way she ends the episode. She essentially becomes a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds when it turns out she accidentally shot her fiancé when she was trying to kill herself and tried to pin the blame on her grandfather and later her aunt. When she comes forward to Jessica with the truth she breaks down in tears over what happened, and is prepared to face whatever consequences there might be when she goes with Jessica to the police. At the very least, she's officially turned her back on her family and might have a chance for real happiness now that she's out of such a toxic home life.
    • Donna in "Just Another Fish Story;" she's a very shy, easily hurt young lady who gets caught up in a murder investigation against her will. She's scared of disappointing everyone. She's the killer in the episode, only it had been in self-defense. It gets worse in "Something Borrowed, Someone Blue" when we see how stressful her home life has been. Later episodes do give her a happy ending, with her being happily married to Grady.
    • George in "Shear Madness", a quiet, sweet man who goes through most of the episode with the accusation of murdering his sister's fiances over his head. After the first one's death, he spent years of his life in a mental hospital and just after being released, a second gets murdered the same way, panicking him with the thought that he'll get locked up for life. It's made worse by the fact that he only killed the first fiance accidentally in self-defense when the fiance tried to stab him for knowing too much, and blanked everything out from the trauma.
  • Values Dissonance: Given that this was made in the 1980s and 1990s, some elements that may have been considered Fair for Its Day may come across as insensitive and tone-deaf today, notably "Indian Giver." (Starting with the title, for one thing.) An Algonquin Native American (played by a Sri Lankan actor)note  dresses in a war bonnet and paintnote  and rides into town to lay claim to Cabot Cove under the terms of an old treaty. (Having him reveal he's also a Harvard Law School graduate is a kinder and truer type: many Native men and women have studied law in order to work for land restoration.) He's referred to as "the Indian" even after his name, George Longbow, is known. Turns out his land grant is real but he's a fraud; he's Algonquian, but not really a descendant of the old chiefs, and he just wants to levy tribute from Cabot Cove residents so he can start an education fund for "deserving" Native youth. When the townspeople find out that's what he's up to, they decide to start such a fund anyway. Well gee, that's mighty white of you, ma'am.


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