Universal // 1992 // 1018 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // March 4th, 2009
America's favorite sleuth is back in 22 more episodes!
A Sunday night staple from 1984-96, Murder, She Wrote continues to hold on to a solid batch of devoted fans since its initial run. Some will be silent in their love of J.B. Fletcher, but not yours truly. Yes, I did watch the show during primetime with my parents every night after 60 Minutes...hey, it was a school night, so sue me!
What new twists and surprises does The Complete Ninth Season contain? Errr, none, but that doesn't mean watching this show is as warm and filling as a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows on top. Watch as Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury, Bedknobs & Broomsticks) sniffs out the clues to 22 mysteries. Aside from spending a fair amount of time in Cabot Cove, Maine (population 3500, but for some reason has a murder once a month), Jessica also travels to Milan, L.A., Florida, and Amsterdam, of all places. Her list of suspects includes David Soul (Starsky & Hutch), Cesar Romero (Batman), Sally Kellerman (M*A*S*H), and Margot Kidder (Superman). Her time is to nab the killer in 51 minutes, or else...she could be the next victim! Thankfully, Jessica always survives, with a small shake of the head when the deadly climax is over and a smile to let us know she's alright, ready to write another novel.
As someone who's spent many hours watching Murder, She Wrote, I'll be the first one to admit it's easy to make fun of this show. Does it cheat its audience? Yes...on occasion. Is it implausible? For the most part. Is Jessica's life too fantastic to be true? Well, friggin' duh! Does her tiny hamlet have more murders than one section of Pittsburgh? I truly cannot explain that. Is the show little more than a female version of Matlock or Columbo? In many ways. Does Murder, She Wrote deliver in terms of entertainment? Damn right.
The formula is rehashed over and over again, there's no denying this. However, the well remained open for 12 seasons and four made-for-TV movies, so you can't say the formula never worked. In fact, the ninth season was the highest in terms of ratings, signaling Murder, She Wrote's dominance on Sunday nights. The stories had enough intrigue and drama to keep viewers glued to their seats, wondering how Jessica was going to figure everything out. Sometimes the clues were all too obvious, others were so difficult to catch that re-watching the episode twice may not help much. I was only able to guess the killer about a quarter of time, although I fared much better with who exactly was going to get knocked off. Sometimes there was the odd spice added by the writers (multiple deaths, an integration of the JFK assassination), but mostly it remained faithful to the formula. With that, I have few complaints.
What makes Murder, She Wrote so addictively watchable is the class and professionalism exhibited by the one and only Ms. Lansbury. By now, she had become an executive producer, with some creative control behind the scenes, and no doubt had final approval of all scripts. When most actresses her age would be retired as mothers or grandmothers, Ms. Lansbury tirelessly worked into her 60s and 70s, creating and developing a genuinely appealing character. She's also aided by some fine recurring co-stars who also lived in Cabot Cove, including Sheriff Metzger (Ron Mazak, Harper Valley P.T.A.) and Dr. Hazlitt (William Windom, Sommersby).
Universal's DVD treatment of the ninth season is pretty much on par with their previous releases. The full frame prints are clean, with sharp colors and details, although scratches and grain are occasional. All of the episodes are presented uncut, with the original title sequences and end credits. The DD 2.0 mono tracks are excellent and serve the show well, with dialogue easily heard in every scene. Optional English subtitles are provided. As far as extras...there are unfortunately none once again. You would think after nine releases Universal would have given us a featurette or Lansbury interview at least, but no dice.
Review content copyright © 2009 Christopher Kulik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 1018 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Not Rated