❉ Amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher was an unlikely feminist icon, writes Tanya Jones, and here she is with 22 episodes, rendered in HD quality.
“At a time of her life where many people experience loneliness, and in an industry keen to ignore women once they get past middle age, Angela Lansbury’s Jessica Fletcher is an unlikely feminist icon: A strong, honest, open older woman who is living life on her own terms, and solving murder cases as a bonus.”
Even in today’s multi-channel age, a US series first aired in 1984 still having a near-permanent repeat slot on UK television is pretty impressive. Despite its star, Dame Angela Lansbury, earning 12 consecutive Emmy and 10 Golden Globe nominations for the role of writer and amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher, Murder She Wrote doesn’t have a lot of cachet in the Cult community. This might possibly be because of this success. After all, it was pulling in 40 million viewers in the US at its peak, with Jessica Fletcher becoming a household name in the UK. Murder She Wrote‘s 12 seasons between 1984 and 1996 means that it’s a perfect schedule filler for digital channels dependent on repeats.
However, this ubiquity shouldn’t lead viewers to underestimate the show. In an industry keen to ignore women once they get past middle age, the widowed Fletcher is something of a unlikely feminist icon. This release of Series 1 includes the fun pilot movie, The Murder of Sherlock Holmes where her nephew encourages her to follow her dream of writing detective fiction. Her success leads to Fletcher being in demand in not only the US, but much of the English-speaking world.
At a time of her life where many people experience loneliness, she has a large extended family and many friends, as well as many strangers wanting to welcome her into their lives.
Naturally, the people who patronise this seemingly harmless old lady live to regret their mistake, but Fletcher isn’t a crowing figure; rather, the viewer warms to her honesty, as she isn’t afraid to say if she was initially fooled by a scheming killer. She is an unusual example of a strong, honest, open older woman who is living life on her own terms, and solving murder cases as a bonus.
In an often tough, unfair world, the escapism of wrong-doing always being punished can serve as a welcome balm, and this release gives you 22 episodes of it, rendered in a decent HD quality for the age of the material. Interestingly, the feature-length pilot also has differing versions of the theme tune and incidental music for the nerdier viewers to spot, but sadly, the vanilla nature of the release means this is the only thrill for Cult fans. You’ll just have to bathe in the full period WASP splendour instead.
❉ ‘Murder, She Wrote: The Complete First Season’ released by Fabulous Films Ltd/Fremantle Media Enterprises on Blu-Ray, October 8th 2018. Certificate: PG. Running Time: 1108 mins. Price: £39.99.
❉ Tanya Jones is a contributor of Ganymede & Titan, the premier Red Dwarf fan-site, and also runs the Gypsy Creams blog.