I’ve never watched a whole episode of Murder, She Wrote before despite having grown up in the 80s. It was just one of a long list of network shows I thought were beneath my great intellect while happily watching Super Fuzz ad infinitum on HBO. But while I was in active cancer treatment, I got addicted to the Hallmark Channel and all its variants. That’s an inspiring story, or at least one that began with an inspiring encounter with another patient in the infusion center waiting room. But that’s a story better suited for Christmas.
Anyway, I found this on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, and it had “ghost” in the title, so I decided to give it a shot. I will no doubt watch more late at night for comfort TV purposes, just like I watch Matlock and Diagnosis Murder, but Lord, this show is kind of every bit as dumb as I thought it would be, even though I’m a hell of a lot dumber than I thought I was.
Although I’d never watched this show, it was impossible not to be aware of it. I remember when Angela Lansbury played the teapot in Beauty and the Beast and I told a friend of mine that Jessica Fletcher did a pretty good English accent; this friend, being one of those “actually” people way back then, informed me that she was actually English, and that she was just playing an American on Murder, She Wrote! Henceforth to be abbreviated as MSW for the purposes of this post. Well, if this episode is any indication, Dame Angela should have stayed in England and gotten on a better mystery show, because she certainly had the acting chops, but MSW is like watching Renegade minus the stunts. I’m not one of those people who thinks all American mystery shows are bad, but we do a better job with mysteries where there are aliens, angels, or time travelers, preferably including a horny cigar-smoking hologram.
This particular episode begins with a man chasing the ghost of his daughter, Nan, and finding her poor skeleton in a dungeon. Did I mention this is one of those beloved TV episodes where everyone goes on location vacation, in this case, to Ireland. Which gave a lot of actors who were either English or American the opportunity to tell the world someone was after me Lucky Charms, because that’s how bad most of the accents were. Nan had found a treasure that used to belong to Oliver Cromwell and then disappeared because she had been locked in a dungeon and died, and her ghost was being impersonated by one of the murderers who wanted those particular Unlucky Charms.
Also there was a cop whose job was not to figure out the mystery so Jessica could solve it, a castle/hotel owner he was in love with, a red herring whose husband was about to buy the castle when he too got murdered, her lover who I’m not sure did what other than steal Jessica’s wallet, a doctor who was the hotel owner’s daughter and who couldn’t decide whether to move back to town, a cop who was in love with her, an evil doctor who was a red herring, an evil writer with a crazy name who was a foil for Jessica, the son of the owner who didn’t want to sell, and even a butler who I thought didn’t but did but didn’t do it. It took me three days to get through this episode and I honestly got confused as to who was whom. There was a big reveal when the butler, also the guy making mysterious phone calls to the inspector, finally turned around to the camera and we could see his face, and I couldn’t remember who he was because there were so many suspects.
At one point Jessica wandered off to the dungeon and got trapped in a cliffhanger because this was a two part episode, and even though everyone knew she was investigating Nan’s murder, they looked everywhere else possible in Ireland until she threw something and broke a window and the cop could figure out while finally searching the castle grounds that the glass was broken from the inside and get her out. I knew a drunk person in college who kicked out their own car window from inside and then pretended someone broke into the car, and it took the campus police less time to solve that mystery based on the glass being on the outside than it did for this guy who was supposedly some big shot inspector from the city (I can’t remember which city and I don’t care) to find Jessica where anyone should have looked first, at the scene of the murder. And I assume the point of the show is that she’s smarter than the cops just like Miss Marple, but my God what a road to nowhere. Plus nobody but JF really seemed all that upset about the original victim either starving to death or dying of exposure, nor the evil rich dude’s death. The evil doctor did get killed with a pitchfork though, which was pretty gnarly for an old CBS show.
Also, the thing I hate most about corny TV shows, besides bad-quality rear screen projection when people are riding in a car, is actors hitting their marks with a sledgehammer. Nobody is ever standing in the living room having a Serious Conversation and then decides to walk from the couch over to the accent table, slowly, together, continuing to have the important discussion, and then stop and turn 22.5 degrees. It takes me right out of the story and I can’t care who dun it.
OK, what I hate even more than that is when the ghost isn’t a ghost. There should always be a twist at the end that reveals that even though someone was pretending to be a ghost, there was also a real ghost. If that had happened, all would be forgiven. Also, there should be a law that if someone gets trapped somewhere there should be someone they don’t like trapped with them, and embarrassing truths revealed through the inevitable time wasting conversations until they’re rescued, because I really like that trope. Oh, and they needed to remove some of the suspects and add some flashbacks, because it seemed like JF already knew the first victim and she deserved more screen time if she wasn’t going to get to haunt the castle. After all, her name was in the title.
Do you love MSW? Do you want to tell me I’m wrong on the internet? Leave me a comment and we’ll walk over from the dining room table to the kitchen door and talk while we walk.