Murder She Wrote: Season 2


Reviewed by: Richard Mellor

There is something inherently wrong with putting a classic, venerable series like Murder She Wrote onto ultramodern DVDs. Just as letting The Beatles loose on CDs or transferring the story of Christ's Passion to celluloid seemed somehow improper and inappropriate, so Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) doesn't seem to obviously fit into a world of special features, top menus and deleted scenes.

It's hard to envisage Lansbury's Fletcher delightedly popping a new disc into the DVD drive, navigating the maze of menus and selecting a vintage episode to behold, presumably on a high-definition television. Equally it seems faintly unlikely that most of MSW's fans have grown used to the digital age quite yet. Ageist this unashamedly is, but it is also probably true. Can MSW really have many young, sprightly fans?

However, that's not to say it shouldn't have - here is a fundamentally excellent show that very rarely stints in quality, always presenting a deliciously difficult puzzle in a pleasant, but exciting manner. MSW is also marvellously interactive - the clues come at a perfect pace, providing the cleverer viewer a decent chance of solving the conundrum before Fletcher gets her ever-energetic mitts on the unsuspecting perpetrator.

Sure, Fletcher can be a highly annoying character - she is far too righteous, almost pompously so, too unflustered and too lacking in those flaws and imperfections - and thus wayward appeal - that elevate the great screen detectives from the pack. Morse, Taggart, even Poirot, all these sleuths had some terrible social inability or difficulty in dealing the world that allowed you to forgive them their irritating brilliance at identifying murders and consequent superior intellect to your own. Nice as Fletcher is, she is without an obvious fault and all the more deprived for this presumed perfection.

But still she remains a likeable, warm persona who ably carries the series episode after episode. Surrounding Fletcher at all times are a motley circus of blundering, ignorant policemen in tacky suits, guilty-looking innocents with strange habits and innocent-looking guilties who seem to verge on perfection until their unlikely mental problems are unveiled by the indefatigable murder-mystery novelist. All make for high entertainment.

This second series includes several exemplary episodes, with perhaps the best being Lady In The Lake, as Fletcher visits a remote country house resort to scope out a possible location for her next book. As is absolutely, solemnly traditional wherever a heroic detective goes, someone is murdered, providing the cue for Fletcher to lead stumbling Sheriff Amos (Tom Bosley) down a maze of twists and turns to the unpleasantly surprised hatchet man. Dead Heat, set in the tenacious, cutthroat world of horse-racing, is also top-class viewing.

MSW would have every chance of penetrating a 'modern' audience - it is certainly good enough, ticking all the required detective series boxes - were it not for the hundreds of other murder mystery shows that predated, accompanied or followed this one. Each of these many shows is so similar that they simply tend to cancel each other out. Of course, we all have our favourites - but it's pretty difficult to say with assurance that your, or any nominee, is better than the rest.

And with so many rivals to compete with, MSW must surely make do with its popular legacy and longstanding adoration. Plus, along with Miss Marple, Jessica Fletcher can reasonably lay claim to being the one of the very first female screen detectives - a spunky, independent and intelligent figure able to satisfy any feminist ideal. Maybe that's why she's so darned righteous...

Reviewed on: 27 Jul 2006
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Murder She Wrote: Season 2 packshot
The novelist-turned-sleuth returns for a second series.
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Director: Michael A Hoey, Peter Crane, Arthur Allan Seidelman, John Llewellyn Moxey, Philip Leacock, Seymour Robbie, Walter Grauman, Paul Lynch

Writer: Peter S Fisher, Tom Sawyer, Paul Savage, Robert E Swanson, Robert Van Scoyck, Steven Hensley, Carlton Eastlake, Mark Giles, Linda Shank, Maryann Kasica, Michael Scheff, Jerry Ross, Scott Shepherd, Philip Garson, Dick Nelson, J Miyoko, Steve Soliar, Gerels

Starring: Angela Lansbury, Tom Bosley, Vera Miles, Raymond St Jacques, John Astin, Meg Foster, William Atherton, Alice Krige, Roddy McDowall, John Vernon, Karen Black, Patrick Macnee, Robert Culp, Adrienne Barbeau, Robert Vaughn, Jerry Orbach

Year: 1985

Runtime: 1020 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US


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